Cows look benign, don’t they? When you’re drunk, they let you push them over. They literally piss milk. They have kind faces that say “Really? I did not know that - please, tell me more.” This is a fortunate boon of evolution, for otherwise human/cow conversation would be severely lacking, as they only know one word, moo, which is, let’s be honest, ambiguous.
Don’t be fooled. These are dangerous beasts. In recent years there has been a spate of attacks on ramblers and walkers, mercilessly taken out by violent hooligan cows.
There are a variety of reasons you want to avoid death By cow: you’ll never bear witness to the final calcification of Simon Cowell’s increasingly immobile face; being chased to your grave by an ambling, benign cud-chewer is a dishonourable death that prevents you receiving the warrior’s funeral you surely deserve; there is a significant chance your gravestone will contain the words “cow botherer”.
So, I’m going to tell you a few things that may save you tossing your life away at the hooves of these superficially harmless milk and steak containers. But first, let me tell you a little story…
Today, I took Buddy (our dog) for a walk, and we nearly got killed. We reached the mythical second field, the one just past the first field, the one that most people don’t reach, the one they talk of in whispers.
“Oh”, they say, eyes narrowing, “you’re going to the second field.”
There is a good reason for this. In the first field are lots of cows. In the second field are - and I did not know this prior to today - a herd of young bullocks. It turns out that possession of inchoate testes causes a direct increase in clumsy, curious confidence when present in our bovine friends.
We reached the second field and, scattered all over, were about 30 young bullocks - standing up, lying down - the unknowing antagonists in our story.
As Buddy and I jogged through the long grass and buttercups like a couple of gay lovers in spring, all around, cows started to look at us.
Then they started to turn toward us.
The ones sitting down rose.
The ones chewing cud paused, and fixed us in their gaze.
They started to walk toward us.
ALL OF THEM.
This alarmed me somewhat - I don’t know whether you are supposed to run from cows, or pet them gently on the nose, or threaten them with extreme violence, or what. I do know that I saw this story in the news recently.
Remembering this did not fill me with confidence. I edged my way past a couple of the closest cows when Buddy decided to bark at them. In the first field, Buddy had learned that when he barks, the skittish cows leap backward as though offended by an uncouth youth. In the second field, in this moment, Buddy learned something new - when he barks, the cow will mock-charge him.
I learned something new too; when a cow mock-charges me, I shit my pants.
Suddenly I was a soldier under fire - I crouched and moved quickly between the cows, shouting “Move! Move! Move!”, dragging Buddy on the lead, heading for a bit of open ground where we could pass the herd.
Then Buddy slipped his noose.
Free of his lead, and being a slow learner, he reverted to type and began running in circles round the cows, treating them like large, stupid dogs.
What followed is very surreal. In what seemed like an instant, all the cows formed a phalanx like the Spartans of Greece and charged him. It comes as a shock to learn that cows have mastered basic field warfare - I glanced around, checking for Lord Voldemort casting spells before concluding that this was not magic, and that instead they had surely evolved and would no doubt soon establish a rudimentary civilisation like Planet of the Apes, except, obviously, it would be called Planet of the Cows.
I tried communicating.
I mean you no harm. Nor does Buddy. In fact, it’s reasonable to say that, to an extent, he worships you, as he drinks water out of your cow-pats? Do you mind the term “cow”? What is your preferred nomenclature?
Oh well. Worth a shot.
Buddy initially soiled his pants at the oncoming phalanx, then resumed running around it in circles.
At this point I was genuinely concerned and shouted frantically.
Buddy, come here you little shit!
Eventually he heeded my call, and headed for the open ground - where I was standing - as the cows chase behind him. Just as I bent to grab him, he sprinted straight past me, laughing, and gave me the finger. The bastard.
I realised the cows were now heading directly for me.
I ran after him screaming.
Finally, I caught him, lifted him up and turned around.
There was a stand-off.
There were 30 bullocks - every single one in the whole, massive field had joined the formation - about 20 yards away - blocking all possible avenues of escape.
They were in a concave crescent, bodies all fanning out from my centre - as if I were the sun, the centre of their gravity, and they were drawn to me like bovine moons.
I looked around and realised we were trapped; Buddy and I had no choice but to cross the river. I realised I hated Buddy, and I told him so. I made an angry face and said, “Buddy, I hate you.”
He licked my face.
It was like something out of a Hitchcock film - like The Birds, but with cows.
I shouted at the cows:
For fuck’s sake, cows!
Then turned and waded into the river. It came up to mid-ball-level and I gasped. It was quite deep, and I hadn’t expected that.
We reached the other side.
I realised we were stranded on a tiny island, and in order to get off, I had to go back to the cows.
I shouted again:
For fuck’s sake, cows!
The cows were unmoved and stared at me like prey. As if to rub salt in the wound, Buddy started to lick his balls. I contemplated the beauty in his simplistic life and considered trying to lick my own balls.
I could not reach them.
I remembered I was supposed to be a Man, and Men stare fear in the face.
I charged in the opposite direction. The trajectory of my spur-of-the-moment flee took us back into the river at top speed.
The river was far deeper than I thought, again, and I forgot I had a lead in my hand to which Buddy was attached. I felt a strong yank, followed by a sudden drop in tension, then Buddy slingshot past me and hit the water like a skipping stone.
Wet, and free at last, we returned to the first field.
How to avoid death by cow
So, I hope I’ve made a strong case that walking through a field of cows is not always straightforward, especially if you have a dog, and you should be on your guard.
I was once told by a farmer to treat cows as if they are stoned Rastafarians: approach (or move around them) slowly, calmly and quietly. While this is useful advice if you’re alone, it’s not really practical with a dog. If you do find yourself in trouble (as I did), the best thing to do is to let go of your dog’s lead - the dog will outrun the cows and it will also outrun you. In hindsight, I was lucky that Buddy is Houdini, as otherwise I may have tried to hold onto him.
If the cows have calves, do not enter the field, or if you must, traverse as far away as possible, do not panic and do not make sudden noises.