A HERD of New Forest cows was slaughtered after launching an attack which put a dog walker in hospital with serious injuries and killed his pet, the A&T understands.
The victim was visiting a site in the north-west of the New Forest and had let his two pets run loose near a herd of grazing cows.
The cattle, which were believed to have been previously worried by dogs, attacked the animals, killing one of them before turning on the man as he tried to save them. He was said to have been “badly hurt” and was rushed to hospital.
Following the incident, the commoner who owned the cows removed them from the Forest due to the risk they posed to other walkers.
The herd was subsequently believed to have been slaughtered as the commoner could not return them to open grazing because of fears they could attack again, several well-placed sources told the A&T.
A spokesperson for the verderers confirmed the incident, describing it as “an extremely sad situation”.
She said: “The cows had to be taken off the Forest as, even if it seems a dog has not done any apparent damage to cattle, they can be worried by them and become aggressive, subsequently targeting any dogs that come near them.
“It appeared in this incident that the cows may well have previously been worried by dogs and that’s why, on this day, they acted the way they did. It is sad for the dog walker and the commoner – but the message really needs to be: do not let your dogs near livestock.
“It was not the cattle’s fault, they were doing what they normally do in the Forest. You would not let your dog go up to cows or ponies in a field and it should be no different in the Forest.
“The commoner who owns the cattle has been very upset by what happened.”
The dog walker was treated in hospital but has now been released and is recovering. The verderers’ spokesperson said there are fears of more incidents in the Forest involving aggressive cows attacking both dogs and people.
“We had a problem with people feeding New Forest ponies which was making them become aggressive, and it looks as if we now have a similar situation with cows – a different problem but equally serious,” she said. “It is getting rather out of hand.
“In the past, cows in the Forest were absolutely fine with dogs but they seem to be getting more intolerant towards them as they have been more and more bothered by them.
“People need to stay away from the animals. Cows become particularly upset about dogs. People want to take their dogs into the Forest off the lead but they need to be responsible and avoid areas where there are livestock.
“Commoners want to let their livestock out in the Forest and they should have the right to do that without their animals being bothered.
“Dog owners need to respect that, and if they see a herd of cows or ponies they need to keep their distance.”
New Forest district councillor Anne Sevier, who is also a commoner, said she had heard about the incident.
She said: “It is very, very sad. I believe the herd had to be sent off for slaughter, which is just tragic.”
She added: “I am always stopping to warn people not to approach animals in the New Forest. Recently I had to stop a family who had four dogs off the lead and a toddler with them and were walking straight towards a herd of cows. There were about 35 cows and calves.
“As I pointed out, the adults and the dogs could make a run for it but the toddler couldn’t. It is very worrying when you see people acting like this.
“I’ve seen visitors trying to put their children on the backs of ponies – these are wild animals, they are feral. You wouldn’t let your child approach a stray dog so why is it alright to let them pet and stroke wild animals that have large teeth and hooves? To put children at such risk is just madness.”
The incident involving the dog walker and the cattle was brought up at a recent meeting of the New Forest National Park Authority, when the extension of car parks in the Forest to cope with the influx of visitors was being discussed.
Cllr Sevier, who represents Fordingbridge, said: “As I pointed out, they need to be sited away from where cattle and ponies gather in the summer seeking respite from biting flies.
“They congregate near some of the car parks and what happens is dog walkers open their car doors and their animals bound out straight towards the livestock.
“Also, visitors see the ponies and cows and make a beeline for them without realising the dangers.
“The message really has to get out loud and clear – stay away from the livestock, they are wild animals. Leave them in peace.”