small gathering of cows between Mission and Monument Peaks, above Fremont and Milpitias, CA, earlier this week
Many of the East Bay Regional Parks, in which I do most of my running, are open for cattle grazing, so I am often running by cows. I've learned to slow down and talk to cows when I pass them; sometimes this works to keep them calm, but too many are too skittish.
Today, I startled a lone grazing cow and despite slowing my pace to a walk and trying to act like a friendly Hindu, she freaked out and fled down the winding fire road I was running. After about a mile, she finally veered off the trail. But after I crested a small hill, I saw her ahead running back onto the fire road.
Cows are one of the few animals I know who will let you chase them for miles on a trail. Skunks will let you chase them but even they aren't so stupid as to get back in front of you on the trail you are running. (See the final third of my Rio del Lago 2008 report for my experience chasing skunks.) Even the lowly fish knows to veer to the side when pursued. But cows? Idiotic!
To make things worse, the heifer caught up to a large herd of her friends, and so I found myself chasing not just one but about 30-40.
This situation always makes me nervous. Several years ago, early in my explorations of Bay Area trails, I chased a herd of cattle until the trail dead-ended into an impassible barbed-wire fence. Even before the trail ended, a few of the alpha cows (bulls?) were starting to moo angrily, occasionally giving me the evil bovine stare. When I was forced to turn around and head back, several of the angrier larger ones took this as a sign of weakness and fear and soon started chasing me, at which point I actually did become filled with fear, as I wondered how long it would take for some rancher to find my gored, trampled body.
To avoid riling up today's mob, I veered to the sloped side to try to bypass them, and had to go up and down several steep inclines, but as often happens, the herd continued to run parallel with me, which always pisses me off because this is so obviously a stupid maneuver. Luckily I was able to lose them when the trail split. Turning to look, I saw at least one bona-find steer with the really long, sharp horns, that could've easily impaled me had the stupid creature figured things out.
I try to keep my consumption of red meat down mainly for ecological reasons, and then we'll pay extra to eat either organic or free-range cattle. But in terms of killing a sentient creature, I will feel just as guilty about eating crabs than cows.
For what it's worth (I know this stuff, but it doesn't always work), safety tips for cows.