Panic In A Pasture

Earlier today I had a conversation with Ally Bean, via the comments section of her blog post on The Spectacled Bean, about an encounter between some cows and a turtle.  Spoiler Alert – the turtle was a total badass.

This inspired me to share a story of my own which involves a herd of cows while I was hiking the Bruce Trail in 2013 with my good friend, Helen.  For the tiny handful of people who followed my original blog, this story will look very familiar.  The incident happened when we had completed approximately 80% of this 900 km trek.

I should mention that on this particular day we were about half way through a 21km hike on a hot day through terrain that looked mostly like this:


and this …


I had stopped worrying that it was going to eventually happen …. and then it did.

We got lost.

First, let me say that getting lost was the single biggest concern I had (not counting snakes) in undertaking this adventure to hike the entire Bruce Trail.  The thought of being lost strikes terror in my heart.

Helen and I have ‘agreed to disagree’ on what constitutes ‘being lost’.  To me, being lost means you aren’t where you are supposed to be, and you don’t really know where you are.

Just because there is a road ‘close by’, it doesn’t mean it is going to be easy to get to that road, that you will know confidently what road it is, or which direction you should now take.  We were lost.

After several hours of plodding through a particularly difficult section of rocky forest, we approached a stile leading into a farmer’s pasture with a sign that warned there might be a bull in the field and to use caution.

We decided to move forward anyway … mistake #1.

Upon crossing the stile into the field, we realized there wasn’t a trail blaze in sight, so we decided to proceed anyway and follow what appeared to be “the path” … mistake #2.

After following this path for some time and still not seeing a trail blaze, we continued ahead in the belief it would eventually take us to where we wanted to be … mistake #3.

Then I noticed that things were about to get much worse.  Behind us was a herd of cows stampeding excitedly in our direction.  I’m not sure, but I think my heart might have stopped for a moment at this point.


I resisted the urge to break out into a sprint (apparently running is not a good idea since it excites cows even more), and I scurried as quickly as I could to the nearest fence with Helen shouting behind me ‘they’re only cows’.

To my horror, when we got to the fence, we discovered that it was an electric fence – quite common on farms in this area.

At this point, I should note that people have different thresholds for stress.  I admit that my stress bucket tends to be rather small and, at that point, it was overflowing.

If not being able to find a trail blaze had been agitating me earlier, being sandwiched between cows thundering towards us, and an electric fence, now threw me into a full-blown anxiety attack.

In my mind, I had to make a choice between a close encounter with many very large excited animals, or the electric fence.  I chose the fence.

To my extreme relief, it was not electrified and a rather calm, and somewhat amused, Helen followed me.

I mentally apologized to the people whose property we had to trespass to get the nearby road (by the way, their pool area was stunning!).

On the road, we then had to figure out where we had likely ended up and which direction to go in.  It took a while, but I eventually stopped hyperventilating and could find humour in the mishap.

I took a lot of ribbing over this incident by people who insisted that cows are not dangerous.  I beg to differ.

I had visions of being trampled by a dozen, 1,500lb moo-sters who were clearly highly excited, and don’t have a reputation for being particularly smart. If you don’t believe me about the intelligence part, I refer you back to the video in Ally’s post.

This bunch doesn’t look so scary when I’m on the road and there is a fence between us.

So, what choice would you have made?



  1. Joanne, I would have probably stood still! I am less afraid of cows, since they are domesticated and usually have owners who feed them. I would trust them to think I were one of the owner’s family. I use a sweet toned voice towards menacing dogs, wild (feral) cats and all zoo animals. They seem to calm down and become more docile when spoken in “sotto voice” or “baby talk.”


    • Sounds like a good strategy. When it comes to strange animals like dogs – whether on leash or not – I usually freeze and let them go by.
      I’ve had enough close encounters with dogs to give them a wide berth if I can.


  2. Oh my goodness. I haven’t hiked far enough into the wilderness to fear getting lost, but I would be really stressed out! I think if I had cows stampeding at me, I would have visions of that horrible scene in The Lion King where the father is trampled, but I don’t know if that would be enough to have me clamp on to an electric fence. Glad it all ended well!


    • Getting trampled was exactly my fear … not to mention the fact that I’m just uncomfortable around large animals 🙂
      It was a very stressful hike, but as I always like to say ‘yesterday’s disaster is today’s great story’ 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember this section of the trail well – very poorly marked as you go through keeping an eye out for bulls😳. Cheryl and I made it through however I had explained to her that if we should come across the bull the best plan – -as with bears – would be to stay close together and we’d look larger…needless to say when we came across a cow(1!) she took off running… the goddess help me if we do meet a bear!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s good advice!
      Helen is very experienced with bear encounters because of her camp in the Haliburton Forest. Apparently the best approach is to make lots of noise so if they’re in the area, they will move and hide.
      When we’ve hiked through known bear company, Helen will frequently shout out to ‘let the bears know we’re coming’ so they’ll avoid us. It’s worked because although we’ve seen fresh bear tracks, we’ve never seen a bear.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh Joanne I was laughing like mad. Well I grew up on a cattle farm so I’m at a bit of an advantage. Often cows come running because they think you are going to feed them. Having almost being electrocuted as a child by an electric fence I would have had to be pretty sure of being trampled prior to scaling one. That really was a fun read. Easy for me to say right?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This brought back such memories thanks for sharing it again. As you know I’m hiking the Bruce Trail end to end with Carol and she must be like Helen – not afraid of big animals and much more like you – would choose an electric fence over a cow. At one point on the trail last summer we rain into a herd of cows and if that wasn’t scary enough, for me, they had a guard lama who hissed at us and looked more than menacing. I took off over a ridge while Carol fed him part of her granola bar!

    Liked by 1 person

    • HAHAHAHA!!! omg …. even our hiking partners provide balance in the universe 🙂
      Thanks for this hilarious story. I would be running away from the llama too!!
      I’m not surprised that Carol isn’t afraid of big animals … being around horses would do it (although horses make me nervous too!)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You’re in form with that story Joanne. I can relate a similar experience but we weren’t lost. My friend and I were walking near my sister’s place on the outskirts of Melbourne. Her property bordered a National park with a zig zagging fenceline. My brother in law suggested a short cut but warned us of the notorious biting donkeys, two of them, that loved to guard this neighbouring property. When we arrived at the crossing there was not a donkey to be seen. The land was hilly; we could see quite a distance. So we went for it. Well about half way across the paddock we heard the galloping hooves. My friend high tailed for the fence, about 50 metres away. I was weighed down with a medium format camera and did not make it to the fence in time. So there was me, a large gum tree, two donkeys playing ‘I see’ with me on the other side of the tree + my friend, who had cleared the fence. I managed to get my camera over to him, then a bit more cat and mouse at the tree. Then I ran for it, flew over the fence in one leap, with both donkeys in quick pursuit. Phew.
    I never get lost, but I did get lost in Hanoi, back in 2013. I went for walk through the city without a map, thinking I would of course be able to backtrack. I became disoriented (what me?) Some French tourists saved my arse. Phew.


    • LOL – love your donkey story 🙂 These kinds of stories are only funny in hindsight. At the time they are high drama!! I’m pretty sure that getting bitten by a donkey would not have been anything to laugh at.

      I don’t know why I have such a phobia about being lost … it’s not like there’s ever been a traumatic event in my childhood or anything.
      … but just the thought makes me a bit panicky. I even carry a map in my car in case my GPS fails.


  7. Oh gosh this had me chuckling and tense at the same time…totally relating to what you went through. I once had a water buffalo charge me…VERY scary. Apparently I was too close to her little one and she was not happy. I am inclined to think that animals perceiving they may be in trouble can react in unpredictable ways. Therefore I think you definitely made the right decision. Oysh!!



    • Domestic animals are unpredictable enough… so it’s no surprise that wild ones would be even more so!

      Just the same, I like my odds with cows much better than your’s with a water buffalo! 🙂


  8. That’s one hell of a cow based adventure. And at no point did the idea to try and tip one of them come to mind? As for my personal decision, I think I’d too risked the fence then be run over by my future would be steak dinner.


  9. I smiled at Mistake #2. I laughed as you ‘scurried’ but I totally cracked up at the electric fence. Call my sense of humor perverse, but this was a riot, Joanne. And I wondered the same thing as another commenter: No pool photos??!! Awesome post.


  10. This was so funny! You write a good tale…nd I pictured your dilemma quite clearly. BTW, I’m with you, you were lost! I just want to know why you stopped to take a picture of cows charging towards you?


  11. Great story which made me laugh!! I’m not bothered by cows but I can imagine your concerns. photos are lovely and I’m glad you survived to tell the story 🙂


  12. Those are not dairy cows, they are what we would call beefies (for beef), some Hereford and a few Hereford cross maybe. Cows are basically extremely curious creatures. They get excited and like some and see what’s going on. Doubt they would’ve been aggressive…this made me giggle. As for the electric fence having been booted two times by a faulty handle I’d choose cows over the fence! I’m having a big giggle but so glad you lived to tell the tale and found your way back. That track looked so much like Australian bush I had to look up the Bruce Trail to find where it was! And now I feel really ignorant because it’s obviously world famous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was actually thinking about you when I was putting this post together. I figured you would get a giggle out of this city girl and her experience with a dozen cows.

      I wasn’t worried about them being aggressive … more worried about getting trampled in their clumsy excitement.

      So I’m curious … how bad is the shock from an electrified fence?

      Liked by 1 person

  13. LMAO great story Joanne 🙂 It could have been a lot worse even if they just knocked you both over. In situations like that I always think of what Jeremy Clarkson (of Top Gear and The Grand Tour fame) would say. “Oh No some Poo’s come out” 🙂


  14. I am much more afraid of electricity than cows. I have more experience with cows than electricity. Now, had they been bulls… But still, a stampede, that’s scary stuff! It doesn’t matter how you got found, just that you did 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeaaaah … sure you are 😉

      Isn’t that funny? It never occurred to me to take a photo of the pool. I was just so rattled by the cow experience and embarrassed about trespassing through the backyard of this home. I was just hoping no one was home to witness it.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I think any animal is dangerous if it’s stampeding! Remember all those harmless crows in The Birds! I almost stepped on a rattlesnake down in Sedona which led me to the profound insight that wearing sunglasses while walking through a dark canyon – even midday – is an extremely bad idea!


    • I do remember The Birds and I still give large flocks of birds a careful eye when I’m passing by.

      Snake encounters are in a horror story category of their own. A rattlesnake?! You are sooo lucky … or unlucky, depending on how you want to look at it 😉


  16. Haha! When I was in grad school in England, one of the quickest ways to get from the university campus into town was through a cow pasture. It took some getting used to, I’ll admit, especially when they were crowding the main path, but I never had a problem. I don’t think they could be bothered to make any trouble as long as you didn’t do anything stupid like walk up behind them to within kicking distance and yell “BOO!”


  17. So, all you had to do is curl up in a little ball, stay very still, and pretend that you are a turtle. When the cows started to poke their curious noses at you, jut move really suddenly… works every time. Btw, how did you determine that the fence wasn’t electrified? Hopefully there is a way to so that that doesn’t require you to touch it first.


    • I can tell you would not be even remotely perturbed by the cows. So, much like Helen, you would have simply been amused by my meltdown 😉

      Helen is doing very well. Unfortunately (for me) she is in Portugal right now until the end of February.
      Last year was not a good year (again, for me) and she was away a lot, so we didn’t get together very much. Earlier in January we started talking about a new adventure … hiking/cycling the TransCanada Trail. It’s over 21,000 km from coast to coast to coast and we figure it’ll take the rest of our lives – at our ages, not much of an exaggeration!
      Hopefully when she gets back in a month, we’ll be able to start working on it.
      Our challenge right now is finding good, reliable maps. Remember – I don’t do *lost* very well 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Excellent tale Joanne! As someone who has been squeezed against the wall of a milking shed by the combined force of a dozen — barely moving — cows, I totally get where you are coming from. They are just too big not to be a bit scary. I’ve also found myself in a field with a bunch of excited bovines and was surprised at just how fast they actually move. I’d choose the fence, though to be honest, I would probably have not chosen the hike and am more likely to be agonising over whether to have ginger crunch or lemon slice with my coffee in a cafe somewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So, it’s not just me!! A dozen highly excited cows rushing at full speed towards you is REALLY scary!

      … and a lemon slice would be really nice right now 🙂
      Thanks for the laugh. I’m confident that I’m more likely to find you in a decadent cafe than on a hiking trail 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Ha ha. I, too, probably would choose the fence. But I wouldn’t get onto the path anyway, not because of cows, but guns. Maybe I have watched too many of those movies. 😉
    Have a wonderful day.


  20. I had to laugh at the electric fence. Can’t really just grab it and vault over, can you? If you had athletic shoes with rubber soles, you probably wouldn’t get much of a shock, but then you’d already had enough shocks. 🙂 I don’t worry about cows, although I’m a bit more careful if they have calves. Moms can always be a bit unpredictable. But I would stay well away from a bull or steer. Cows may not be the smartest animals in the world, but they’re big and can do damage even if they didn’t intend to. In retrospect, this is one of those things that, although not fun at the time, turns out fine and makes a great story.



    • Janet, you hit the nail on the head. “Cows may not be the smartest animals in the world, but they’re big and can do damage even if they didn’t intend to.”

      I’ve always thought that today’s disaster makes for tomorrow’s great story, so even when the going gets rough, at some point I can usually remind myself of that.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Who says there isn’t a god? The fact that the fence wasn’t electrified must have felt like divine intervention. Because that would be my choice.

    When I lived in Elgin County, our house was next door to pasture land that was rented out to a cow-calf operation. The fact that we could see the little bubulas all up close and cutie-pie on the OTHER side of the fence, was a bonus to living in the country. The fact that the fence was not well maintained by the landlord was the downside. One morning I stepped into the yard to meet face-to -snout with the largest white expanse of bovine I had ever seen. Then I realized that I was between the cow and her calf. I just about died.

    Here’s something to keep in the back of your mind should you ever find yourself in the same pasture again – my white Bessie cow jumped the fence. No problem.


  22. Susan won’t go anywhere near cows and I’ve become a willing convert to her view. Too many farmers have been hurt and killed by their cows over the years not to be wary of them.
    A cracking story, though Joanne, and an inspiring adventure.


  23. Hmm . . . what choice would I have made? Probably not to be wandering around the wilderness on poorly marked trails in the first place. 😀

    Great telling about a scary tale with a good ending.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. I’m sure I don’t know… Until the age of 8 I grew up in the country and found cows to be very gentle animals chewing non-stop. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to run away from them. Then one day I got lost when cycling in rural Cornwall, because the path ended in the middle of nowhere. I climbed over the first fence, a second one, looking for a way out. Suddenly I heard a woman shouting, “The bull! The bull!” I shouted back. “Don’t worry, he’s safe with me!” When she had reached me, she explained that she wasn’t worried about the bull at all… One lives and learns! I had only ever encountered peaceful bulls.


  25. I’m afraid of cows too. They’re so BIG! Some owners are allowed grazing rights in many of the county parks I hike in so, I’ve come across them many times. I have two girl-friends who are terrified of them. One grew up on a farm and calls them MAD cows, and the other is just terrified, and once had me climb a hill with her to avoid them rather than stray off the trail a bit to give them some space which is what I normally do. I give wider berths to Mama cows with a calf nearby.

    A stampeding herd…I’d probably head for the fence too though.

    Your hike sounds epic and the terrain challenging and beautiful.


  26. Forgive me but I must admit, I chuckled when I pictured you against the electric fence, quickly weighing your options about which choice to make! Thanks for bringing a smile to my face today!


  27. Hi Joanne – love your cow story…but I’m not one to answer the which choice question…I’m the one, after recently moving out West from NYC, who asked why don’t people ride cows??? Cows can certainly handle the weight of a rider, right? Silly, I know. 🙂


    • Nope … I’m a city girl. Seems like a perfectly reasonable question to me.
      On the other hand, horses are also very large and scary animals in my opinion. I question why people want to ride them all the time 😉


  28. Haha. I think I would have also chosen the fence. My sister and I often used to go walking through cow pastures when we were children. The worst thing that happened to me was that I stood in a cow pat. 😅


  29. Ohh, a couple of easy answers. I’d NEVER hike a 900-km trail. I’d never walk 21+ km in one day on such a terrain. At this point I pick up my eye-balls, dust them and insert them again. Not that I’m against hiking, I hiked with my father and sister over half of my country in a week (well, it’s a small country) and climbed the highest mountain (2.864 m). But enough is enough. And then you’re afraid of cows. 🙂 (I’d be afraid too and would stare between their legs very rudely.)


    • It’s been a few years now and I still miss the adventures of the trail, although there are certain bits I’d rather forget about … getting eaten alive by bugs, snake encounters, the heat and humidity … hmmm, maybe you’re on to something here …

      Liked by 1 person

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