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Meeting cattle in the countryside

Advice about what to do when you come across cattle in the countryside.

Incidents of people being attacked by cattle while walking in the countryside are few and far between. However, the British countryside is working land in which farmers earn their living and where animals graze in close proximity to walkers. This adds to the pleasure of walking in the countryside.

As with any working environment there are certain risks and it is not possible to remove them all. Walkers are urged not to let the very low risk of cattle attacks put them off enjoying the countryside.  

Here are some tips from the National Farmers' Union (NFU) and Ramblers' Association about what to do if you come across cattle in the countryside through which you are walking:


  • Be prepared for cattle to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you and if there are calves around
  • Move quickly and quietly, and if possible walk around the herd
  • Keep your dog close and under effective control on a lead


  • Get between cows and their calves - make as wide a detour as you need to
  • Hang on to your dog.  If you are threatened by cattle, let it go, as the cattle will chase the dog and your dog is more nimble than you
  • Put yourself at risk.  Find another way around the cattle and rejoin the path as soon as possible
  • Panic or run.  Most cattle will stop before they reach you.  If they follow just walk on quietly

The NFU and The Ramblers' Association are providing new signs to help walkers to enjoy the countryside safely. Walkers will see new yellow and black signs reminding them that dogs can harm or scare farm animals. The signs, which have been produced by the NFU for its farmer members, read: ‘Your dog can scare or harm farm animals – Keep it on a lead around livestock, but let go if chased by cattle.’

For more information about managing your dog in the countryside, see our recommendations for dog owners as well as following the Countryside Code.