When the manic teaching and marking periods hit my posting schedule falls apart, and even when it goes quiet, because I haven’t built up a backlog of posts, there’s less on the blog. I’m sorry about that, and I hope to have a proper sciencey post up soon before taking a short summer break.
But in the meantime there has been in a story in the news I wanted to talk about.
The Glasgow Herald reports on the inquest into the death of a professor in a field of cows. This is a sad and all-too frequent story. Cows are often put on ‘world’s most dangerous animals‘ lists, particularly used to juxtapose sharks and animals we think we should be afraid of.
The reasons for the number and severity of cattle-related deaths are fairly self explanatory. They are big, powerful animals with high economic impact and who often come into close contact with humans because of how we keep them (Watts et al 2013). Bulls tend to trample and cows tend to kick, both of which cause huge trauma to the human body, sometimes not survivable (Norwood et al, 2000).
Generally these accidents happen when people come into close contact with beef suckler herds, these are the cows we use to raise our beef meat, the calves you see with them in the fields. In Britain at least, if you forced me to be choose which production animal to be reincarnated as, I’d take a beef suckler cow. They have a pretty relaxed and natural life, left to raise their babies, and that’s part of why they become so aggressive when they’re with their calves. They’re simply trying to protect their babies against a perceived threat, because they’re not in regular contact with humans.
By contrast, dairy breeds are more likely to be dangerous because they are so used to contact with humans, and a bolshy dairy cow with no fear is a very frightening thing indeed. I remember taking a pressure washer through a pen one day instead of around it and being chased the whole way by a very angry girl. That’s not a mistake you make twice.
When dealing with cows, even when posing with cows, I always know how I’m going to get out of the pen. I watch them carefully for any warning signs, aggressive behaviours, foot stamping, head tossing, head swinging, vocalisations, and I definitely don’t ever trust them.
If you’re taking advantage of the warm weather this summer, be careful around cows. These girls don’t take no bullshit.