How to Escape a Cattle Stampede

Good fences make good neighbors, especially when the neighbors are cows

By Elizabeth Rushe

Illustrations by Koren Shadmi

March 4, 2019

When I moved to County Leitrim, in the northwest of Ireland, I rented a 100-year-old cottage surrounded by fields. A neighboring farmer leased these fields for his cranky cows.

How to Escape a Cattle Stampede

The cows would wander onto the path between my cottage and the road. They made it clear that they didn't fancy sharing it with either me or my dog, Pip.

How to Escape a Cattle Stampede

It was calving season. The farmer suggested that Pip and I step into the field to get the cows used to us. "Really?" I kept asking. But we lifted the wire and slid through.

How to Escape a Cattle Stampede

Before I could say "Well, isn't this grand?" a dozen cows began to stampede toward us.

How to Escape a Cattle Stampede

Pip and I scrambled back under the wire, bloodying ourselves in the process. Before I was fully out, I felt the thud of a large cow head butting my behind.

How to Escape a Cattle Stampede

I reeled off the names of every member of the holy family, with a signature expletive for each one. The farmer was shaken as well. "Jesus, I'd never expect that," he said.

This article appeared in the March/April 2019 edition with the headline "Bovine Menace." 

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Ask the Expert
Bob Schildgen (a.k.a. Mr. Green) grew up on a cattle farm in Wisconsin.

"Cattle will often run toward a person out of curiosity, but if there is a bull in the group, he could be an aggressor. (Two of my cousins were killed by bulls.) If the cows have calves, they could become menacing trying to defend their offspring. Whatever the case, it's a good idea to get on the other side of the fence."