Bulls in Fields crossed by Public Paths?

Q. Can a farmer keep a bull in a field crossed by a public path?

Stewart Smith, Corby

A. I walked part of the Cornish coastal path and came across a large bull in full mating season. I was scared but could not turn back. The bull with cows was mounting and very active on the line of the path. I was not the only walker that took evasive action to climb along an unsafe path to keep out of it's way.

Janet Smith, Devon

A. Everybody wants to do the right thing when they’re out enjoying a walk in the countryside but why can’t farmers make it easier by positioning any electric fence used to give enough space for walkers to keep on the other side away from the animals. Too often electric fences are put so close to the stile or the hedge you have to go into the field with the animals after vaulting a stile with your dog! Farmers try to keep people out of their fields by making it extremely difficult for people to use them but if they gave a clear, safe route, people would not be such an inconvenience and would stick to the path. It’s not easy to just turn back if you’re on a long walk and why should you have to. The rules regarding bulls are confusing and even a group of young bulls are big and can trample you without meaning to. Cooperation between farmer and walker please not confrontation.

Angela Coley, Glastonbury

A. Ignorant farmers who got their farm off daddy for nothing deliberately put dangerous bulls in fields in an attempt to kill walkers who they begrudge enjoying the countryside which philistine farmers take for granted.

I know all this because I am a farmer but one of the few with a social conscience. We have a path through our land and walkers are welcome, but a bit further up some old sociopath has a dangerous bull on his farm that almost killed me tonight, this was after the paranoid old nutcase drove after me and demanded "what you after?" while I was on common ground.

I love farming but most farmers are hateful bigots. On average 4 people a year in the UK are killed by bulls, every farmer should be tried for manslaughter when this happens without exception. Then we'll see how many deaths there are a year.

Gooders Gooders, Macclesfield

A. I walk my dogs along bridleways all the time and have come across young bulls in fields too, i usually avoid them, but today i had a very scary experience with them.

The bullocks were no where to be seen when i passed through the field on the way up the hill, however they were all there when i returned. i was unable to see an alternative route so I waited until they had walked across the field, but the one right at the back kept looking at me and the dogs.

I got about half way across the field when the one keeping his eye on me started to walk towards me, at that point they all looked around at us and started to run towards us.

I was so scared i just ran as fast as i could towards the gate. Dogs were off the lead. I had the whole herd running up behind me, i only just got to the gate.

They are big animals and i really don't want to be in a situation like that again, i don't know what they would do but you do hear about being trampled by these beasts.

S Carpenter, Market Harborough

A. As a farmer it is extremely annoying when some walkers start whittling on trying to tell farmers what to do with their animals (how DARE cattle 'roam' in fields? What do you want them to do, live in a concrete shed all their lives?)

And for the ill-informed, there is a difference between a BULL which is entire and used for breeding and bullocks which have been castrated and are much less likely to demonstrate aggressive behaviour as their testosterone levels are much lower and there are no restrictions in keeping bullocks in fields with a public right of way.

One of the main reasons they are castrated is that farmers work with these animals and don't want to get killed!)

It is almost unheard of for a GROUP of BULLS to be in a field as they would fight too much. If it has large dangly bits and a really well built neck it is a bull. If it has little dangly bits it is a bullock.

Jenny Horrell, Melton Mowbray

A. I do not agree that you are a guest on farmland if using a public footpath that is a right of way. Some might say a farmer having a potentially dangerous bull should, to meet health and safety requirements, separate it from the footpath by fencing.

Agree you are to some extent a "guest" if going alongside but not crossing a field - it's accepted you are not a trespasser.

Agree with comments about dogs and hope others agree people without dogs may be deterred from using a public footpath that crosses the path of a loose bull - especially if there is a warning notice stating the farmer is aware of a potentially dangerous situation.

The field with the bull is a continuation of a footpath over recreational land owned by the Parish Council and I have copied my comments and the link to this webpage to the relevant Parish Council.

Special thanks for the valuable and helpful information!

Vic Sullivan, Storrington, West Sussex

A. Wth there being a 10 month how do I tell if the bull is 9 months or 11?

S Beer

A. Views and my twopence worth from a walker who lives in the countryside.

1. Cattle belong in the field, it's their home, workplace and favourite food. You are the intruder.

2. To the cattle a dog is a wolf and a threat.

3. The farmer has a right to use his land as much as you have a right to walk over it. You are the guest. If you have to divert, hard luck. My wife is terrified of cattle and we often have to walk miles further than intended. That's what the countryside is like and should be part of the fun. If you need to stick to a schedule, get a bus (OK then - maybe not).

4. Animals don't understand the Country Code or the Ramblers Association.

If there are two or more of you, one stay back and hold the dog, first person cross and then call the dog. The second can then release it and cross the field. Close control doesn't mean on a lead all the time, and the attention of lots of cattle worried whether this small wolf is going to try to eat them can be very dangerous for two legged predators that can't run as fast as they can. The dog can outrun them and has better survival instincts than the owner.

Usually just walking positively and assertively through them will cause cattle to either ignore you or move away. A bit like walking through a gang of youths on the way home from the pub at night. Don't start waving arms around and looking like an attacker, but make yourself look bigger by raising arms above your head, holding your backpack or jacket over your head etc. Cattle are thick and have crap eyesight, so if you look taller than them they won't look at your bulk and you should get away with the deception.

In the cattle's brain is a little genetic memory chart with silhouettes of predators (a bit like those used by U boat commanders to recognise enemy warships). A slender (to the cow) creature, with two legs on the ground and two legs up in the air moving fast looks like a cheetah about to jump on them. What would you do if something was about to eat you?

Carlo Gilmour, Owslebury

A. Further to this - terrifying incident last weekend walking with my (well behaved) Dalmatian dog, Frodo. Having literally torn ourselves to shreds getting over 2 public stiles which the farmer had thoughtfully reinforced with barbed wire, we were confronted by a huge field with cattle at far end, not fenced off, just left to roam at will in a way we walkers aren't allowed to.

I tentatively struck out for opposite side, Frodo on short lead, and they started taking an interest, which I wasn't scared of - it's happened before. HOWEVER, suddenly one large black bull cantered away and over to us. They looked like dairy cattle, and his behaviour marked him as the bull in charge of the field. He came right up to us, acted very aggressively, making movements to head-butt me and so on. I screamed and let go the lead, making eye contact reversed back to the fence, calling my dog who was also scared but didn't bark or act anti-social in any way.

End result was 2/3 of the way round a circular, well planned walk in which public rights of way were used the whole time, we had to turn back. I tried to go down the track to the farm but came up against a huge secure gate, barbed-wired off so we couldn't climb over. This farmer had absolutely NO warning notices up ANYWHERE about this. The path couldn't even be made out, it was so unused - evidently there's the reason. I doubt if I'd have made it across in one piece with or without the dog, and I, for one, am going to Dorking Police about it. This happened at Buckland, in Surrey, near the Pilgrim's Way.

Suzanne C., Horley

A. I agree with Nick. Some months ago I was walking on a public right of way near to me with my dog on a lead. There were perhaps 15 large bullocks in the field about 75 yards away unaccompanied as far as I could see, by cows.

When I was halfway across the field, the bullocks, all of which seemed to be quite large and over 10 months old (although I am no expert) started to gather together and then run towards me. As per advice, I let the dog go, with lead attached because there was no time to take it off. i was trapped halfway up the field and the only solution was to run towards them shouting and clapping my hands.

They stopped about 5 yards away.

My heartrate bythis time was off the scale! I managed to walk slowly to the nearest gate and close it behind me. The bullocks all clustered round the gate and seemed at that time very friendly towads the dog and myself but too late of course.

I met a neighbour of mine aweek or two back who told me that in the same field he had had to sprint at top speed to the nearest stile when these animals did the same to him. He was also walking his dog.

I have not done anything about this because I did not know the law until now. However, I will not now go into the 3 fields occupied by these animals unless they are at the other end of it. How is one supposed to know if bulls are going to be friendly or not when one goes into a field. Discretion, I think, is the better part of valour in these circumstances. nigel

Nigel Duckworth, Sheffield

A. I have had another experience with a bull in a field. In July 2010, when doing the second stage (8 in total) of the Rotary Way around Bolton, I encountered a bull in a field at Little Lever.

Although he was with cows and seemed quiet, I never trust a bull and I had to backtrack to another path which led to a road. Therefore I had to omit a short section of the walk. I would rather do that than get the wrong side of a bull.

I sent an email to someone from the Bolton Ramblers about that incident and other problems with path maintenance, but had no response.

David Dawber, Lytham St Annes

A. I nearly walked into that problem myself just a couple of weeks ago as i walked across Riggs Moor between Wharfedale & Nidderdale.

I came off the moor along the Public Footpath & eventualy arrived at a gate & cattle grid, Although i could see cattle down at the bottom of the long field i thought nothing of it as there were no warning signs anywhere. I opened & closed the gate behind me & started to walk into the field - just happened to look back at the gate for some reason & only then noticed the sign "Beware of the Bull" on the back of the gate!!

On closer inspection i could see the beast in with the cows & gave it a very wide berth.

Steven Gill, Guiseley

A. I have found bulls in fields crossed by paths on several occasions, mostly when walking with the Fylde Naturalists group. However, they have been with cows, and nothing has happened, but we always keep our eyes on them and give them as wide a berth as possible.

However, there was one occasion, in July 1987, when I was walking a section of the Offa's Dyke Path with a CHA group between Redbrook and St. Briavels, when we walked along the top edge of a field (the correct route for the Dyke path) and a large Hereford Bull was at the bottom of the field.

The leader shouted "everybody over the wall", and we had to scramble over a wall with (I seem to remember) some barbed wire!

One lady slipped as she was climbing over and suffered a nasty gash to her leg. The bull was at the top of the field in seconds, and glared at us as we walked through the field on the other side of the wall.

Once we were past another wall or fence, and well clear of him, the leader instructed us to return to the other side of the wall.

I believe he was going to report the incident.

David Dawber, Lytham St Annes

A. in my view and experience Accompanied by cows the bull is calm and generally to pre-occupied to be bothered with walkers, although with a dog you may attract unwanted attention.

The Dairy Bull Alone or in small groups tend to be rather more shirty and 'spiteful' in their attitude. some being extremely dangerous in thier nature.


A. What difference does the 10 months threshold make to the danger a bull in a field may pose to walkers, and is his being in a herd of cows supposed to mollify the brute?

Ruston Bucyrus, Gloucester

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