At some time, you will come across cows on your ride, off to the side of the road, or maybe in the middle of the road. Now, what to do??

Not this!

Facebook post about cow stomping wheel

Encountered a cow that did not want us to pass. I got off my bike and head-butted her with my front tire. She charged me and I backed off the trail. The cow then went after my friend. She dropped her bike, and ol’ Bessy stomped the front wheel. Broke three spokes, bent the disk rotor, and flattened the tire. We regrouped with the others and managed to get back to the vehicles.

What to do:

  1. Slow down, give the cows some space, and have a calm demeanor (do not whoop and shout). Give the cows a chance to move along with no conflict.
  2. If this doesn’t work. Stop and evaluate. Pay attention to what the cattle are telling you. Lifted heads and ears signal awareness. The cows are evaluating, “is this person a threat?” In general, cows won’t move forward toward you. However, stress and fear may provoke a cow to defend itself, and it’s calf by behaving aggressively toward you. Do not get between a mamma cow and her calf!
  3. Now what? To get by safely, try dismounting your bike and taking your helmet and sunglasses off. Now you look more normal to a cow. Something they have seen before. As such, you may be able to walk past, pushing your bike. Walk in a group, and talk in a normal voice to the cows. Do not yell and whoop! If this doesn’t work, you may need to exit the road and get out of sight of the cattle.
  4. With bulls, watch for these signs. A lifted head, ears pinned back, grunting and pawing at the dirt. These are signs that you need to back off and give distance. Find an alternative way around. This may involve a bit of hike-a-bike off-road. Captain O of Dirty Freehub has been backed off by a bull several times. Be aware and use caution.

If a cow is running away from you, you have stressed it (Smith 1998). Stress is not good! It causes them to expend more energy, maybe trip or step into a hole, breaking a leg, or possibly getting tangled up in fencing.

Some other things to consider with cows:

  1. Keep dogs on a leash. Cows perceive your dog as a predator.
  2. Leave gates open that are open, … and close gates behind you if you find them closed. If you close gates that should be open, you might be cutting off access to water for livestock. If you open up gates that should be closed, you are probably creating hours of work for a rancher. You also might be impacting the resource. Grazing on the National Forest and BLM lands is managed for specific goals with regards to the vegetation. If cattle have already moved off a pasture, and you leave a gate open, you may risk them going back into that pasture, leading to possible overgrazing.

Republished with permission of Colorado State University.

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