Mad Cows if you please.

Stupid things, yes? Useful for milk, steak, looking English in Landscape pictures, but essentially the magnolia wallpaper of the countryside.

Yes, and indeed no. The Hound Of Smell’s evening walk perambulates through a field full of long grass, many sniffable trees and the badgers’ back passage*. From about now until September, this rather idyllic footpath also includes a herd of cows or, and you will see why this is important shortly, more accurately bulls.

Murf doesn’t quite know what to make of them, so I generally attach the sledding lead and ski behind while he investigates interesting animal turds, served up with a side order of buzzy flies. The cows aren’t sure what to make of us either, which became obvious as they began to track us at a similar pace.

This apparent stalking made for one nervous dog and one slightly apprehensive Al. But – I told myself – they’re way more scared of us than we of them, at least one of us has higher brain functions**, and that fence looks jump-able.

I refused to panic because – well – they were cows, not elephants or lions and land-going sharks, and I was a man who’d faced down puffed-up commuters, people who have referred themselves in the third person, and small children pleading for ice scream.

And then they started running. Well one did at which point the horror of “herd mentality” became visually apparent. And this was not some unfocussed stampeding either – no these horny buggers were heading for us with the kind of intent that screams restraining order.

I loosed the dog believing he would play to the masters loyal hound stereotype, only for him to give it the full “see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya” before running off into the long grass, where a huge, scary black dog then went with the cowering in fear option.

Fortified by a couple of pre-walk sharpeners, I chose to stand my ground, arms folded, knees shaking and in receipt of about eighty mad eyes shaking about in tossing heads. Have you ever looked into the eyes of a cow? I have, and – having come out the other side – can authoritatively declare there is nothing going on at all back there.

Clearly juggling the chemical imbalance of four stomachs is more than enough for their knuckle head brains, leaving just enough to be stoke up the properly intimidating gland. I will say at this point I was mildly perturbed and not overburdened with good ideas. But as grisly visions of being butted to death began to play in my minds eye, the long grass – currently rustling with apparently unconcerned Man’s SortofBest Friend – offered a way out.

Hay fever, l pollen and my bent snozzle can have only one outcome, and that’s a sneeze so violent I’m always happy not to have popped both my eyes out. A path to freedom opened up as the cows unclustered in the blast radius, leaving both me and my dignity to exit in a brisk trot.

The remainder of the walk passed in a blissful non event and it wasn’t until I was encouraging the chickens to bed***, it occurred to me this may be a conspiracy. That last chicken was giving me the mad eye, and a bit of beak attitude to go with it. I used to think I’m in charge of this menagerie of beasts but I’ve read Animal Farm, and now I’m not so sure.

I am sure of one thing though – those chickens have been talking to the cows.

* An animal trail that the dumb mutt never fails to nasily mine every evening. And one I never tire of pointing the name out to the kids, much to Carol’s irritation.

** That’ll be me in case you were in any doubt.

*** “WIll you PLEASE stop fucking about and get into the hutch? Otherwise tomorrow there shall be one less of you, and chicken salad for everyone else

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