Cows grazing on an Alpine meadow are a quintessential element of life in the Alps. As a hiker in the Alps, you’re likely to have one or more encounters with cows along or near the trail. And if that encounter is accompanied by a chorus of cowbells, it’s even better.
Generally, dairy cows are gentle, non-aggressive, and not likely to do you any harm. But they are big. The average weight of a dairy cow in the Alps is 800-900 pounds. And just the flick of their head could easily knock you down. And if that head comes with a set of horns, it could do some major damage.
Just like you and me, cows have their own personal space. A cow might be threatened if that personal space is invaded. Cow attacks on humans tend to occur for a reason, and most commonly happen when the animal is trying to protect itself or the herd—and particularly their young.
Mother cows will protect their calves. They don’t like strangers touching their young. Cows always keep an eye on their calves and might react aggressively if they feel that their young are being threatened. That threat could be as simple as you walking between a cow and her calf. To be safe, never approach or touch a calf or a heifer.
If a cow is standing on the trail, keep your distance. You may try to safely step off the trail and walk around the cow. Slow down a bit and move quietly and carefully around the cow. If you’re walking with a dog, keep the dog on a leash.