"Suddenly I was attacked by an aggressive cow"...

The above title was the description I received when a dairy farmer called me for advice.

Have you ever had such an experience yourself with a cow or bull?

If so, you know from experience that it is an unequal battle: "man versus cattle".

Although some "cowboys" in the cattle business have a different opinion about that.


I myself have the experience with both cows and bulls, that they do not just spontaneously and out of the blue attack people.

It is always a consequence of "something", and before the animal attacks, it has already warned you several times with clear body language.

Of course, we must be able (and willing) to recognize these signals as warnings. Also, we must be willing and/or able to react appropriately.



As a result of centuries of selection and intensive contact with humans, a number of behavioral characteristics in cattle have changed significantly. Despite intensive selection on general behavioral traits, cattle can individually differ greatly in temperament.


People who know me, know that in my opinion environmental factors play a much bigger role in the behavior of animals, than their hereditary component.


A good indicator of behavior in cattle is how they behave (repeatedly) in a treatment pen.


Easily handled and docile cattle stand quietly and move slowly during a treatment.

After treatment they leave the treatment box calmly.


The more restless and nervous cattle try to back away from the treatment box and are also more difficult to treat.

The tail movements are much more active, and when the treatment box is opened they are quickly gone.


Nervous and impatient cattle clearly resist with many tail movements.

Such animals repeatedly push against the front of the box because they want to get out.

When leaving the treatment box they immediately flee.


Wild and very nervous cattle resist violently.

They twitch and jump, sometimes with foam on their mouths.

Fierce tail movements take place, often along with urination and fattening.

The animals remain wild when they leave the treatment pen.


Nervous cattle not only behave wildly, they also resist "aggressively".

This "aggression" is amplified if the treatment is done by one person.

For this reason and for safety reasons, these types of cattle should always be treated in the presence of a second person.

When leaving the treatment box, these animals remain wild and nervous.



Finally, the real problem cases: "highly aggressive" cattle

These animals are already extremely nervous and wild when herded into a smaller pen.

Head up, whites of the eyes clearly visible, sniffing, these are typical characteristics.

These features serve as a warning, an alarm and precursor to jumping up and fleeing behavior.

The subsequent signal is tense shoulders and head down.

Horned cattle stand menacingly with the horns horizontal to slightly downward.

A clear signal of attacking behavior.


This brief description shows that recognizing body language before catching and restraining cattle can prevent accidents

Fearful and nervous cattle clearly behave differently than normal. 

Mainly the attitude of the head clearly reflects the mood and intentions of the cattle.

The more the head is pointed towards the ground, and the more the horns are raised, the more irritated the animal will react.


Cattle with their heads up are very tense

They appear "frozen," but are ready to either flee immediately or attack immediately.

The upward facing head gives the bovine a panoramic view of about 330º.


"Temperamental" cattle are quickly classified as aggressive by people who cannot or will not recognize their signals.

These animals then go to slaughter because they are supposedly "unmanageable". 

This is understandable, safety for humans and animals is a priority. 

It is best to keep those cattle that work for you and your farm!


However, you can bring temperamental cattle back under control with a focused and professional approach.

Despite the opinion of some cowboys and cattle owners who stubbornly claim otherwise.


Source text Ronald Rongen, photo Gert van den Boschphoto (Blog): Marga Fogt