Longhorn bull in England

Our encounter with killer cows in England

by Michael on August 11, 2015

We were staying for two weeks in the bucolic Devon countryside, nestled in a remote cottage perched on the edge of Dartmoor. This legendary, perhaps haunted, bog was made famous in works such as The Hound of the Baskervilles. Our visions of long walks down sun-dappled country lanes were washed out by two weeks of rain during the wettest spring on record; which, for England, is saying something. Determined to “keep calm and carry on,” we donned our raincoats and stiff upper lips, and explored the soggy countryside. What we didn’t know was that we were about to encounter killer cows in England.

The moors of Devonshire, home of the "Killer Cows"

Maps in England highlight public rights-of-way where anyone can take a stroll. We brought along such a map and assumed that with it we wouldn’t get lost. That was our first mistake.

Larissa killer cow in England

Larissa rethinks her choice of jacket color when trying not to be noticed by a bull in England.

After an hour we found ourselves somehow in a farmer’s pasture sinking ankle-deep in mud (and whatever other mud-like substance might be deposited in a cow pasture). We stared up a rise at a herd of longhorn bulls none too happy about our presence. That’s when we realized we were on the wrong side of the fence and the only way out was through an electrified gate. Oh, and there was a bull with horns six feet long (okay, maybe three feet long) blocking it and staring at us ominously, as bulls so often do.

A "Killer Cow" blocks the gate in England

Like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, the bulls started pawing the ground and glaring at us. We froze, not wanting to antagonize our new friends. After 20 minutes of playing statue in the drenching rain and sinking deeper into the muck  (Michael sank quicker, weighed down by his discovery, earlier in the week, of donuts pumped full with Devonshire cream), he heroically told Larissa to run for it while he distracted the bulls with his umbrella. (Hey, it’s all he had.)

England electric fence for "Killer Cows"

Larissa thwacked across the muddy field in her hiking sandals while Michael charged up the hill, his souvenir umbrella from the Louvre in Paris leading the way. Unfortunately it didn’t open since he had forgotten to undo the strap. Once that was all sorted out he charged again, counting on the enigmatic smile of Mona Lisa to frighten the bulls.

 Our only protection from the "Killer Cows" of EnglandSomehow the bulls weren’t scared of this choice of weapon.

While Michael held the confused bulls at bay, Larissa employed the dexterity of a bomb squad engineer to unhook the electric fence from the car battery that powered it. We scrambled over the fence, proud that just one of us tore their pants, only to run into the neighboring farm’s tenacious sheep dogs who promptly started biting Michael in the ankle.

If this is a bucolic walk in the English countryside you can keep it.

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Suzanne Fluhr August 13, 2015 at 10:45 am

We had pretty much the same experience in Cornwall minus the car battery and it was only one bull. (My, what big horns you have). It definitely wasn’t Ferdinand ( remember that bull who didn’t want to hurt anybody and just wanted to sit in the field and smell flowers?) We also weren’t armed with a Mona Lisa umbrella— or any umbrella for that matter— even though it was intermittently pouring. As you know, it seems comical—- but maybe only in retrospect. At the time, I recall terror being the main emotion.

Michael August 13, 2015 at 10:49 am

It was pretty scary. There were about a dozen bulls atop a ravine staring down at us as we were trying not to provoke a stampede. I guess the Brits are used to it.

Lynne August 27, 2015 at 8:12 am

I live in Devon and Dartmoor can be exceptionally beautiful. In bad weather it is potentially a very dangerous place to be. The thought of you walking on Dartmoor in the mist, wearing sandals rather than walking boots and with no map or compass fills me with horror. Please advise your readers not to follow your example.

Michael August 27, 2015 at 8:32 am

Hi Lynne,

They were Keen hiking sandals, not flip flops but your other comments are duly noted. We had a compass and detailed ordnance survey map and were on the public hiking trail noted on the map. It was unclear if it went through the field with the bulls, not something we had seen before in our travels. Maybe locals are more used to it than than some city slickers like us. It is a beautiful area.


Lynne August 27, 2015 at 8:42 am

Hi Michael,
That’s a relief!

Why not visit Devon (and Cornwall) in May or June next time? Generally there is more sunshine and less rain then and the vegetation is stunning, especially rhododendrons and magnolia trees.

Michael August 27, 2015 at 10:25 am

It’s a deal. Thanks.

Izy Berry September 8, 2015 at 11:31 am

Different experience!!! but everybody learn something new!! we are not friends of the animals

Brock September 23, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Hhaha, I’ve seen this cow for the first time only a few years ago. I busted out laughing. Craziest cow I have ever seen lol.

Crazy-big horns you must watch out for, incase he decides to get too friendly lol

Andrew October 12, 2015 at 10:16 pm

well you lived to tell the tale! what an amazing cow!

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