Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lesson of the week - how to deal with difficult cattle

There are a few sections on the West Highland Way where cows regularly block the route, such as the section above Crianlarich before Bogle Glen. Up until a few years ago I wasn't sure how to deal with this, but I was taught one day when out running with my WHW backup man, George McGregor. It was an invaluable lesson which I have put to good use on many occasions since then. George is the perfect man for advice of this nature - as a McGregor he is a distant relative of the famous cattle thief, Rob Roy McGregor, and moving cattle is clearly an old skill which has been passed down through the generations of McGregors.

I have many friends who find these cows frightening, and are not sure what to do when faced with this situation. If you are in this category I suggest you read the following carefully, and hopefully you will never have problems with cattle again. Ellen and Fiona, take note, and remember the advice comes from the master himself, George. Good luck...

Moving cows out of your way - George's top tips

1. Approach the cows in a confident manner. Do not stop running - the cows will sense you are frightened, which is not good. They need to understand who is in charge, and it's not them.

2. Do not deviate from your route. Run directly along the path, whether the cows are in your way or not. Just keep going.

3. As you get close to the cows move your arms to either side and shout 'Shoo, shoo'. Keep running towards them. If necessary, shout 'Shoo, shoo' again and keep waving your arms.

4. The cows will move to the side and let you past. Run past, maintaining a confident appearance at all times. If they are a bit slow, tell them to 'get a f*cking move-on' and wave your arms some more. That should do the trick.

5. Once successfully past the cows, pass on your knowledge of moving cows to any frightened walkers you happen to meet. It will save them taking a massive detour back the way they have come, down to Crianlarich, then along the busy A82 road.

There are only 2 occasions where I have found these tactics to be unsuccessful. The first is when one of the cows turns out to be a bull. Bulls are not as receptive to cries of 'Shoo, shoo' as cows. Instead of moving out the way they tend to stand there looking aggressive and hard. At that stage a decision needs to be made and taking a detour may be the best option, depending on the hardness of the bull. The second difficult situation is when you are out running with a dog. Cows like to chase dogs and can run surprisingly fast, considering their size. In these situations I have found that the best answer is to run like hell towards the nearest wall or gate, lift your dog and throw it over the wall or gate, then make sure you get yourself over before the cows arrive. Following this course of action may be embarrassing, but you are much less likely to be trampled to death by a herd of rampaging beasts if you are in a different field. For that reason I have never taken my dog on the Crianlarich section of the WHW, and have no plans to do so.


Subversive Runner said...

Thanks for the advice mate. Brian MacIntosh told me that the hardest cows of all live by him in Milton Keynes.....they're made of concrete.

Happy birthday.

Andy Cole said...

Thanks for the advice Ian! I'm happy enough with most animals (bears, etc) but those long horns still make me nervous - I tend to walk as purposefully as I can through them but always chicken out of running unless there's someone else there - just a wimp I guess....

Brian Mc said...

Yep, I've tried shoo-shooing the MK cows away but they are not for moving. Unusual, given the normal softness of things down here. ;-)

Fiona Rennie said...

Cheers Ian, from now on I'll remember to go forth with confidence unless it's a big ass bull!

kate said...

haha, brilliant. thanks for the top tips.
.....are they bulls on the route, not sure i'll be in a fit state to tell ;)

John Kynaston said...

Thanks Ian

The advice you share with us is top class.

I just want to make sure I have my video camera ready when you face a bull shouting shoo shoo.


Debbie Martin-Consani said...

Oh man, I'm scared just thinking about the evil demons. Last time I hid behind Sharon...all six stone of her :-) I would always opt for the detour, with lots of squealing involved.

They all look like bulls to me!