What you should be aware of walking in the countryside

Posted by Julia Prior on
Walking in the countryside

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This caught my eye because in the past I have dealt with a claim for a walker attacked by cow in a field with a public footpath running through it.

When I dealt with that claim I learned a lot about cow behaviour from an animal behaviour expert. He explained that dairy cows are much more docile and less likely to attack because they are used to regular human contact. Cows bred for meat on the other hand tend to be breeds chosen for their strong maternal instincts and when they have young calves with them they can be aggressive to what they see as a threat to their calf. This will include dogs and bicycles in particular but can also include people.  I liken that to horses.

I often visit the New Forest and the ponies there, particularly in popular picnic areas such as Lyndhurst, can be aggressive around food. The situation is made worse when people are tempted to feed the ponies even though that is prohibited. I remember one particular occasion when a hungry pony trampled and stole our whole picnic! I am used to dealing with horses myself, but those are horses which have been handled and ridden and so have a respect for people. They can normally be 'shooed' away by an assertive and confident person standing their ground.

The wild ponies of the New Forest on the other hand have no respect for people, and all they will see is the free lunch! The comments following the article in the Farmers Guardian are interesting, looking as they do from the farmers' point of view. A farmer does have a duty to warn walkers if they are passing through a field containing cows, which might not be obvious at first in a large field. Walkers then make an informed decision as to whether to enter the field or not. Many people won't understand the dangers though.

Does that mean that walkers should not be allowed the freedom to enjoy the countryside? In this country with such limited space and countryside there will be occasions when the rights of the public will conflict with the farmers' attempt to make a living. 

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About the Author

Photograph of Julia Prior

Julia is an Associate within our Personal Injury team dealing with all types of personal injury claims mainly on behalf of claimants.

Julia Prior
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023 8085 7316

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