How to walk through a field of animals

Find out how to stay safe when walking across a field of cattle or other animals

Our footpath network stretches across the entire country, giving us amazing access to the countryside. This means that many paths run through farms and across fields of cows, sheep, horses and other animals.  

For many of us a field of animals can be an intimidating sight, and for some this could mean the end of a walk. However, whilst it may be a bit worrying at first, by following a few simple tips you will soon get used to walking near animals.


How to walk through a field with cattle and other farm animals

Whatever animals may be in the field, follow our top tips and you’ll be unlikely to run into any issues. 

  • Have a look when you reach the edge of the field. Are there any cattle in the field, any cows with calves, horses, or sheep?  Cows with calves are the most common cause of problems for walkers.
  • Keep a good distance from the animals. If they are on the path, then you’re allowed to go off path to walk around them.  If you are on open access land, then you can walk across the field to give the animals space.
  • Walk quickly and quietly. Animals in a field may approach you, especially groups of cows which can be quite intimidating. If you panic, or run from them, they may also start running.  
  • Do not approach any animals, do not feed them, or touch them. Animals on a farm will have strict diets, especially horses, and feeding them can be bad for them.  
  • Leave any gates as you find them. Close any gates that you open, and if any gates are open, then leave them that way. 


Walking with a dog near cattle and other farm animals 

The biggest risk when walking near animals is when walking with a dog. Always keep your dog close and on a lead around other animals.  

It is an offence to not keep your dog under control when in a field with animals. This is especially an issue with sheep, as dogs may chase, worry or even attack sheep. The law gives farmers the right to shoot a dog that is causing issues with their animals.  

If cattle are running towards you, or you feel in any way in danger, then let your dog off the lead. Your dog will be able to get to safety and removing the dog from the situation will calm the cattle.  


What to do if you do experience a problem  

Whilst you can minimise your risk of experiencing a problem when walking near animals, if an incident does occur, once you are safe at home, you should report the incident to: 

  • the relevant local authority 
  • the Health and Safety Executive if you have an incident with cattle 

To report an incident, you will need to share the following information: 

  • Location – A grid reference, path number, name of farm etc 
  • Details of the farmer or land manager, if you know this  
  • Description of what has happened 
  • Photographs to illustrate the incident, if you have them
  • Details of anyone else you’ve reported the incident to
  • Your personal details for ongoing communication


More information 

The Countryside Code is your guide to walking safely in the countryside.  It contains further advice on how to walk safely and responsibly through farms. 

We also have more information for walkers on the rules around keeping animals in fields with paths should you encounter a situation you believe to be dangerous.

Three horses walking along a hill top

Rules around keeping animals in fields with paths

When walking, you may encounter animals in a field that you consider to be dangerous. Read our summary of the rules to see if you should take action.

A group of people walking across and open field of wildflowers

Where you can walk in England and Wales

Helping you understand your rights, where you’re allowed to walk, and how to find new places to explore.

The summit of a big hill with some walkers a long way in the distance


If you walk on private land without permission to do so you may be trespassing. Read our guide to yours and the landowner’s rights.