We were left widowed, paralysed & lost pets after unprovoked attacks by killer cows… they're terrorising our countryside | The Sun

STROLLING through the countryside with his faithful border collie, the last thing David Clarke expected was to be set upon by a herd of angry cows.

It may sound comical, but as he faced down the 25 charging beasts, he knew his life hung in the balance.

Speaking to The Sun, David, 67, said the harrowing ordeal in 2014 happened so quickly he didn't have much time to think.

"I saw a herd of cattle at the other end of the field. I didn't think too much of it and I tried to avoid them by going at the back of them," he recalled.

"They were all very calm and they suddenly got up, snorted a bit and just came for me. I was stampeded.

"I was caught underneath one group, while my dog Merlin was underneath another.


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"I picked my dog up and tried to get out of the field and they attacked me again. There were 25 limousin cows and their big brothers.

"They were 750kg to a tonne, plus their calves. And they weren't baby calves – these were big ones. There was quite a bit of tonnage going on top of me.

"When I noticed that the cows were coming into me, I thought they would stop. They didn't. Before I realised it was too late. All thoughts go into your head.

"You think of death but you don't want to. You just wonder, when is this going to stop and how will I get out?"

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David co-founded the Killer Cows blog and has received over 350 reports this year aloneCredit: Getty

David was rushed to hospital with internal bleeding and had to have emergency surgery for a lacerated liver. He also suffered severe bruising all over his body.

Tragically, Merlin died from his injuries.

According to the latest available figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 32 people were killed by cows between April 2017 and March 2022 – 23 of whom were farm workers and nine members of the public.

Between 2020 and 2021, 11 people were killed by cows – five of whom were members of the public – while 31 people suffered non-fatal injuries.

The shocking death toll led David and two other victims to start the Killer Cows blog, where people with similar experiences can share their harrowing tales.

The blog has received over 350 stories this year alone, and David is campaigning for more enforcement of rules that force farmers to do more to protect the public from attacks.

David, who is "seeking justice" for himself and his dog, is concerned the public is largely ignorant about the risks cows pose, and doesn't feel the HSE is doing enough to prevent these incidents from happening.

Some campaigners allege the HSE doesn't collect data on the extent of injuries sustained in cow attacks and only logs the most serious cases.

Ruth Livingstone, who co-founded the Killer Cows blog, has collected 580 reports of cow attacks or near-misses on members of the public in the past six years.

Fatal encounters

Cows can run at an average speed of 17mph, but can hit 25mph over a short distance. Male limousin cattle – one of the UK's most popular breeds – can weigh up to a tonne.

While David survived, others haven't been so lucky. Just this week it emerged a woman was killed on September 1 while walking her dogs through a field of 40 cows near Guilsfield in Wales.

In September 2020, Teresa Holmes and her husband of 34 years, Michael, were walking in Netherton with their two dogs when they crossed a field of cattle with calves and were set upon.

CCTV shown to an inquest jury showed how at least 25 cows charged at them.

Michael suffered 35 rib fractures and lacerations to his heart. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Teresa was airlifted to a hospital and lay unconscious for a week.

When she woke up her daughters and hospital staff had to break the devastating news of Michael's death.

She was left paralysed, having suffered spinal cord damage, spinal fractures and fractured ribs, and is now wheelchair-bound and had to leave her job in children's services at Leeds City Council.

Former deputy head teacher David Clark, 59, also died following an attack in 2020 involving 20 cows with calves near a public footpath.

A postmortem revealed the father-of-two suffered a fatal haemorrhage alongside fractures to his ribs.

'Lucky to be alive'

Sharon Eley, then 51, was walking her dog when she was attacked by a rampaging herd in Lancashire last year.

The group of 20 cows was led by a frenzied leader which Sharon says yanked her to the ground twice before headbutting her with force.

She was nearly strangled to death when the strap of the bag she was carrying became entangled around her throat, leaving a painful ligature mark and bruising.

Sharon sustained 15 broken ribs, a punctured lung, a dislocated and shattered ankle and a broken clavicle.

She told MailOnline: "I was wearing a hard leather backpack handbag and they were hitting it. The next minute they'd snapped the arm off my backpack, that had gone round my neck and it was choking me."

She added: "When I managed to stand up and I went to put my foot down, it wasn't attached to my leg. I had really good hiking boots on and I went to put my foot down it just went to the side."

She was rushed to Royal Preston Hospital and had surgery to keep her foot in place before another operation a week later.

Sharon spent five days in ICU and two weeks in the major trauma unit, and said she's "very lucky to be alive".

'No escape'

Stella Collins and her husband Geoff were set upon by a herd of cows while out walking in the Yorkshire Dales in 2021.

The Kent-based couple paused in a field 35 metres from a herd while Geoff took a picture, at which point a huge red and white beast emerged from the pack and charged towards them, unprovoked.

She told The Times: "There was no escape. I was too far away to try and climb over the walls, and if I’d not made it up I’d have had serious crush injuries."

Geoff was taken down first, before the menacing beast charged "like a demon" and launched a fresh attack on Stella.

"I could hear my husband screaming in such anguish I thought, ‘I’m going to die.' He sounded so frightened," she said.

"It was stamping and stamping on me. I remember being under the cow with my arms up to protect my head and the cow snorting and pawing.

"Its nose was a foot above my head — it was a powerful image that stayed with me."

Stella was airlifted to hospital where it was revealed she had four broken ribs, a pulmonary embolism, lesions on her left lung, torn gluteal muscles and extensive soft tissue damage.

Two years on from the attack Stella has been diagnosed with PTSD and is still awaiting two operations and physiotherapy sessions.

Horrific injuries

Many surviving victims who have been trampled by cows have spoken about how they were completely taken by surprise by the attacks.

Janicke Tvedt was targeted while walking her dog with her partner in Masham, North Yorkshire last year.

The cows stamped on her legs and abdomen and she had to be airlifted to hospital for treatment.

Janicke suffered catastrophic injuries to her colon, leaving her needing a colostomy bag, and sustained seven broken ribs. She was left with hoof-shaped scars all over her body.

Another victim, 38-year-old Adam Delves, was charged by a herd in Worsall, Cheshire in 2018 while out walking his dog.

He came in contact with 14 cows and bullocks with their suckling calves, and within moments he was shoved to the ground and had his clothes "torn off".

The taxi driver suffered horrific injuries to his arms, back and legs and had to go into hospital. He told Chester Standard: "Luckily I was a fit lad, but if it had been a young family then that young kid could've been dead."

Agricultural consultant Andrew Marshall told the Times that the herd mentality or "fight or flight" response is what leads to most injuries by accidental crushing.

“Cattle are territorial and [their demeanour] is like that of human teenagers — they are always pushing the boundaries," he said.

"They can learn that if they run up to humans, the humans will run out of their field. Then they can become more confident and more determined to remove what they perceive as a threat.

"This confidence is built up over time — it may take years — and the farmer wouldn’t necessarily know anything about it."

In Britain, thousands of public footpaths run across private farmland – classed as a workplace. A farmer who fails to implement safety measures, such as signage, can be liable for prosecution by the HSE.

But campaigners have suggested that, as a quango which regulates a wide remit of workplaces, the HSE doesn't have the resources to properly address the threat posed by livestock in open fields.

Guidance released by the HSE about what to do when around a herd of cows with calves states: "Give livestock plenty of space.

"Their behaviour can be unpredictable, especially when they are with their young.

"Keep your dog under effective control to make sure it stays away from livestock. It is good practice wherever you are to keep your dog on a lead around livestock.

"Let your dog off the lead if you feel threatened by livestock. Releasing your dog will make it easier for you both to reach safety."

The HSE said it takes incidents “very seriously" and "will not hesitate to take action when appropriate".


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HSE inspector Wayne Owen told cattle owners in March this year: "Farmers should carefully consider the risk before putting cattle into fields with footpaths… Cows and calves are best kept in alternative fields.

“Even docile cattle, when under stress, perhaps because of the weather, illness, unusual disturbance or when maternal or other instincts are aroused, can become aggressive."

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