My attention has just been drawn to this article from the British Mountaineering Council website. As a committed fellrunner myself I’d never come across anything like this before whilst running a race or even training and I was inclined to believe that the British public and particularly my missus were guilty of over-dramatising the situation. However, a couple of years ago while walking a section of the Weardale Way, Diane (the missus) and I were caught up in a little situation that led me to review my opinion of our bovine friends.
On entering one of the many fields crossed that day we immediately noticed a group of cows, some with calves, towards the other end of the field and a good way off the track. Diane was keen to put the dog on the lead but she’s well trained (the dog) and is rock-solid at heel (I’ve run hundreds of miles with her over her 12 years, over fells and through city centres and I trust her absolutely). I argued that in the unlikely event that the cows were interested it would be easier to just send her away.
Anyway, the cows (no bulls here) WERE interested and even I was slightly disturbed at the seemingly malevolent way they began to gather, focusing intently then slowly walking across the field towards us. Determined to win the psychological battle and against Diane’s protestations we carried on heading for the stile over the wall at the end of the track. As the distance grew shorter so the cows picked up the pace until it was pretty obvious we were going to be slightly short of our objective when contact was made.
I was still unsure as to whether or not the cows were just curious, perhaps they thought it was feeding time? But as they closed there seemed to be a lot of snorting going on and the vibe was not a good one. Then they started to trot – and I cracked: I ordered the dog away but she was sensing the pressure and seemed reluctant to go. Now the cows took over: as one they began to charge, heading for the dog. On the face of it this would seem to be a good thing, the dog would lead them away from us, then nimbly outrun them and return to us at the stile.
Unfortunately with the cows at a full, thunderous gallop the dog visibly panicked and, like a rogue missile (one with twenty cows in tow), started heading back to US! With few options, my tactic was to hold my arms up making what I believed to be farmer-like noises while Diane scarpered, making for the stile that was thankfully by now only about 20m away, faster than I’d ever seen her move before and closely followed by a shrieking dog.
I certainly wouldn’t want to recommend either of our solutions as a universal one for cattle confrontations but they worked for us: unthinkingly we might have been behaving like sardines (not the tinned ones) and the cows just couldn’t decide who to eat first. Most of the action is a blur but I do graphically recall a wild eye staring at me from about 2 or 3 feet away as this snorting beast skidded in front of me.
With legs turning to jelly and trying desperately to hold my rapidly fraying nerve I somehow managed to locate the stile using the eyes in the back of my head. I don’t actually remember climbing the stile but I quickly found myself standing on top of the wall looking down onto the backs of several tons of agitated beef all milling around trying to work out how they had let their prey slip through their cloven hooves.
But of course it wasn’t over yet: there were still several miles and at least an hour of hostile recriminations to endure from my thoroughly unimpressed wife while the dog, for her part, was pottering about like the previous 60 seconds had never happened. So what do YOU think? Are our cows going rogue or are we just imagining it?