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Dogs present in two thirds of cattle attacks on walkers, study finds

Cows are more likely to attack humans if they are walking with a dog, researchers have found.


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Many rights of way run through farmland, putting walkers at risk
Many rights of way run through farmland, putting walkers at risk

The University of Liverpool study revealed out of 54 cattle attacks reported in the UK between 1993 and 2013, dog walkers made up more than two-thirds of victims.

 

Dr Carri Westgarth, a dog behaviour expert at the University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, said: "We found that walking with dogs among cows, particularly with calves present, was a common factor for an attack.

 

“One theory for this is that the cows may feel particularly threatened by dogs, especially if they have young to protect. People then try to protect their dogs, which can lead to a tragic incident occurring.”

 

The review of published literature, newspaper articles and web pages also highlighted injuries from cattle were a significant and under-reported public health risk.

 

Dr Marie McIntyre, who co-authored the review, added: “There is currently no official system in place for reporting attacks, so it is highly likely that there have been far more incidents than we know about. Further work is needed to fully assess the public health impact of this issue.”

 

The report highlighted the abundance of rights of way which run through farmland, meaning walkers often come into contact with livestock.

 

Dr Westgarth added: “The countryside is a great place to exercise dogs, but it’s every owner’s duty to make sure that their dog is not a danger or nuisance to farm animals, wildlife or other people.

 

“Considering our findings, the best advice if cattle approach would be to let your dog off the lead, as then it can escape, and the cows are also likely to remove their focus from you.”

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