Keep your distance. Avoid eye contact. And even if it looks cute, never hug a Swiss cow.
Responding to numerous “reports of unpleasant meetings between hikers and cattle” along Switzerland’s picture-perfect Alpine trails this summer, the Swiss Hiking Federation has laid down a few ground rules.
“Leave the animals in peace and do not touch them. Never caress a calf,” according to the group’s guidance, posted on the Web site www.swisshiking.ch.
“Do not scare the animals or look them directly in the eye. Do not wave sticks. Give a precise blow to the muzzle of the cow in the event of absolute need,” it advises.
Evelyne Zaugg of the Swiss Hiking Federation said that while there were no precise statistics on incidents involving cows, walkers are reporting more run-ins than a few years ago.
She said new rearing practices, where the animals spend less time around farmers and wander in pastures with little human interaction, were partly to blame for the anti-social behavior.
How to react?
Many walkers also panic when confronted by cattle.
“Hikers lose reality about the cows. They don’t know how to react when a cow appears,” Zaugg said.
If approached by a cow, the hiking association recommends that walkers remain calm and slowly leave the area without turning their backs on the animal.
Michel Darbellay of the Service for the Prevention of Agricultural Accidents, a private group that helped produce the Swiss Hiking Federation’s lowdown, said walkers had little to fear if they stayed 20 to 50 yards from any cow.
But dogs attract cow trouble, he warned.
Mother cows consider dogs a threat to their calves and tend to respond aggressively to their presence. It is when the dogs retreat towards their owners that walkers are most likely to face a charging cow, Darbellay said.
“The best practice is to maintain a fair distance and keep dogs on a leash,” he said.