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Thread: Cattle (Bull) behavior - territorial?? Aggressive??

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW BarbaraKE's Avatar
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    Cattle (Bull) behavior - territorial?? Aggressive??

    My book is set in very rural Germany around 1860 in mid-February.

    I need to know if it's conceivable that a bull would attack a human (on foot) that innocently enters the bull's pasture?

    Also, can anyone can point me to information on general farming in that era? I have several books but they're not specific enough. For example, would the farmer keep the bull quartered separately from the cows or would he let them stay together? Would it depend on the season? Things like that. I'm particularly interested in cows, horses, geese and pigs.

    I've tried to find information on the internet but I must not be using the right search words.

    Thanks in advance!!

  2. #2
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    Can't say from personal experience, but a neighbor who raises beef cattle mentioned a counter-intuitive generalization: although dairy breed cows are extremely placid and docile, dairy breed bulls are notably agressive and dangerous -- considerably more so than beef breed bulls. He uses bulls in addition to AI, and one reason he's in beef, not dairy, is that the dairy bulls are too dangerous for him. A friend of his was killed recently by a dairy breed bull: entered the bull's pasture and was killed for doing so.

    Hope this sidelight on your question is of some help.

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    Bulls.

    Yes, you can never trust the male of the species!

    Bulls are unpredictable. They are dangerous and it is not wise to walk in a field where one is grazing, particular if cows are present.

  4. #4
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    Yes most bulls will attack unpredictably, and they would be kept on their own or with other bulls most of the time because the farmer generally wants calves to come out together at certain times of the year.

  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW Fenika's Avatar
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    To clarify/expand what veinglory said: In certain operations the bulls are put with the cows for x amount of time at y time of year. They are then separated, and cows which are not pregnant are usually culled. Thus, when calving season comes, all your calves are born at z range of days and will all be a similar age- which has benefits on labor, marketing, etc...

    So, in this situation the bull would not be with the cows in February (gestation is 9 or 10 months or w/e, and calves are born typically in the spring)

    As for 19th century germany, you will have to pester your librarian for historical farming books or try emailing an english speaking ag professor in Germany with time to point you in the right direction or otherwise assist you.

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    Baby plot bunneh sniffs out a clue Snowstorm's Avatar
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    It is conceivable. But it's not an absolute.

    My sister, a rancher, had a bull and she could not enter where-ever he was because he'd try to attack her. Now, with her husband, it was the opposite. The bull became like a puppy whenever Jim was around! Jim would drag a tire with him and get that full grown bull to hop and play like a puppy! Funkiest thing I've ever seen.

    Now here, we get many cattle roaming around in our free range region. They'll come across our cattle guards. I'll walk out there and chase them out. Occasionally, there's a bull and I'll still walk up to them to chase them out. (Yes, it's spooky.) But, they've never come after me. Perhaps because they are free roaming, they have no "territory" to protect and don't chase after me? Don't know.


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  7. #7
    ever seeking GeorgeK's Avatar
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    Wow, very difficult to say because animals are just as variable as people as personality goes. In general, males of a species, when deprived of the ability to mate will, get rather testy...(pun intended). The easiest way to calm a boar, bull, ram, gander, whatever, is to present a female of the species in heat. Of course that won't necessarily calm her and so that can lead to all sorts of troubles...Suffice it to say, that you could say just about anything and there'd probably be more people to support your story as those who oppose it. Farma-cologically speaking.

  8. #8
    ever seeking GeorgeK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdr View Post
    Yes, you can never trust the male of the species!

    Bulls are unpredictable. They are dangerous and it is not wise to walk in a field where one is grazing, particular if cows are present.

    That is so true, and it isn't limited to cattle.

  9. #9
    Somewhere in the hills.... Appalachian Writer's Avatar
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    The most vicious bull I ever knew was a huge Holstein. (the dairy cattle thing). He was kept separated from the cows until, well...and then after a while making hay (if you know what I mean) then he got put back into what we called "the bull lot." He was kept inside the enclosure by an electric fence with relatively high voltage, and even with that, he would sometimes try to hurt workers on the outside of the fence. One rainy afternoon, he made an attempt to get at a passer by, hit the fence while his hooves were firmly planted in a puddle, and voila! crispy critter. I've never known an angus or hereford to be mean, although it's always best to respect their power and strength, but a Charolais will come after you, contrary to the other beef cattle. Even some cows can be dangerous, especially if they have a new calf.
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  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW BarbaraKE's Avatar
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    Rep points all around!!

    Thanks to everyone. I don't know if I'll use the 'bull attacking someone' bit but it sounds like it could at least be a possibility.

  11. #11
    Not so new, really dirtsider's Avatar
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    I'm a little late for this but here's a link to a website you might be interested in: www.howellfarm.com. It's in New Jersey here in the US and the timeperiod is only a few decades later than what you're suggesting. But they should have info you need. You might be able to contact them directly. They do use oxen and farm according to the technology of the timeperiod.

  12. #12
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    Absolutely, a bull will attack you if you enter his territory. Even if they've been dehorned they'll still use their heads to try and knock you down. They will then trample or continue to try and gore you, even if they don't have horns.

    Steers and for that matter cows can be equally dangerous. There was a steer I'd have to carry a buggy whip (and use it!) just to keep it away while I threw hay out for the assortment of horses and steers kept in a common pasture.

    Farming is one of the most dangerous industries. Besides unpredictable animals the equipment such as balers, mowers, etc. are extremely dangerous.

  13. #13
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    Oh, certainly possible. In fact when I was in Scotland where walkers have right to cross a lot of rural land it still happens rather a lot.

  14. #14
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    Yep. Bulls are evil.

    Rule of thumb with all livestock is that if is male and has testicles, don't trust it. If is female and has babies, don't trust it. If it's a pig or a rooster, never, ever trust it, period. All others, view with considerable caution until thoroughly proven otherwise, and be aware even well-meaning friendly livestock can hurt you by accident.

    I suspect the reason why dairy cattle bulls tend to be so obnoxious is that they're bottle fed. Range cows aren't. Range cows therefore have more respect (fear) of people.

    Though this isn't absolute -- I got charged by an angus STEER last summer. He was with some ladies and was blocking a road. Steers may not have any huevos, but they still know they're boys. I was on a quad (ATV). He wasn't real serious about it, and pulled up after about fifty feet as I peeled out in reverse, but let's just say he got to stay in the road, and I took the long route around.

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  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by veinglory View Post
    Oh, certainly possible. In fact when I was in Scotland where walkers have right to cross a lot of rural land it still happens rather a lot.
    I was just going to say... I was walking in rural northern England a couple of years back when I blundered into a field of cattle, don't know what sex they were. But as soon as I stepped into that field, every big brown eye was fastened on me. I walked through them... very slowly... they followed me... made some unhappy noises... started to walk in my direction...

    Yeah, I got out of there fast.
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  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW Fenika's Avatar
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    Since we are all painting such an extreme picture of cattle, there are ones that can be trained to harness (just like the 'oxen' of the old days before tractors), led like show lambs (and may be shown regularly by their owner- the lady down the street from me does this), and some that are ridden! (lady down the street again)
    You can google for any examples of those...
    But as others are saying, it depends on the breeding, how the animal was raised, and individual personality.


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  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW Tsu Dho Nimh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BarbaraKE View Post
    My book is set in very rural Germany around 1860 in mid-February.

    I need to know if it's conceivable that a bull would attack a human (on foot) that innocently enters the bull's pasture?
    If your plot needs it to, yes. Behavior varies widely with bulls, but they are territorial and will charge.

    And they would be pastured separately, except during breeding season, because they annoy the cows with their persistent attempts to breed. Either the cow will put a stop to it by damaging the bull or they bull can damage the cow.

    Also, can anyone can point me to information on general farming in that era? I have several books but they're not specific enough. For example, would the farmer keep the bull quartered separately from the cows or would he let them stay together? Would it depend on the season? Things like that. I'm particularly interested in cows, horses, geese and pigs.
    Try Google Book search and limit yourself to books published before 1870 where there is a full view. You end up with amazing PDFs.

    Pigs are just as dangerous as a bull, have fangs like a guard dog, and are amazingly agile.

    Look up "historic ___ breeds" and ther eis a good site at a university that shows them.

  18. #18
    Not so new, really dirtsider's Avatar
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    Oxen are cattle. They're just trained to accept the yokes and do various jobs around the farm.

  19. #19
    Somewhere in the hills.... Appalachian Writer's Avatar
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    Just a note about cattle breeding. Especially in the case of purebred herds, most cattle these days are artificially inseminated. Bulls of any size can sometimes break a cow's back by virtue of their bulk. "Good" bulls are often kept for the value of their semen more than to actually engage in contact fertilzation. The semen from a champion bull is a highly sort after commodity and one more source of income to farmers. As I said before, bulls do charge, are sometimes territorial or they simply have a nasty disposition. The disposition thing is most prominent in two breeds of dairy cattle primarily: Holsteins and Jerseys. All bulls are usually dehorned through a traumatic process involving some very nasty smelling disinfectant. The absence of horns does not render the animal harmless. They still have size, speed, hooves, and heads which can do an equal amount of damage when they come in contact with the human body.
    Last edited by Appalachian Writer; 04-18-2008 at 05:14 PM.
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  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW BarbaraKE's Avatar
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    Wow! More cattle experts than I expected!! Thanks for all the help.

    I live quite close to a farm where they breed registered Jerseys. I know they have a bull but I never really paid attention as to when he was with the ladies or when he was in a separate pasture. I do know that when he's by himself, he tends to stand by the fence and continuously moo at the ladies across the road. (I've been known to stop the car and just admire him. He's magnificent.)

  21. #21
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    There was a big red bull at a ranch where I used to board my horse, and you couldn't pay anyone enough to go into his pasture! Especially after the day he locked horns with a big ol' tractor tire and tossed it pretty high.
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  22. #22
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    Just to add...

    in New Zealand, where there are many agricultural shows, I have often watched the parade of champions. The Champion Hereford bull would be led by farmer's young son, Dad along side. The dairy bulls, particularly Jersey and Gurnsey, had nose rings, ties on headcollars and five strapping great men sweating and straining to constrain them as they were led. Seems a safe general rule that the little bulls were feisty, the big beef breeds were quieter.

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