Over the years while out hiking or camping with friends we have encountered cattle numerous times. Inevitably, if there is a bull with them, people’s eyes grow round and they get all nervous. Watch out for that bull, they say. It might charge.
After all, charging is what bulls do best. We all know that, right?
I would like to go on the record and state that unless you’re in a bullfighting ring in Spain, facing a bull specially trained to try and gore people, you have very little to fear from bulls. Half-wild cows with small calves, yes, but bulls no. And yes, I am somewhat knowledgeable on the subject.
(As I mentioned before in a previous blog, I grew up on a ranch in the Arizona desert. Date Creek Ranch, about 75 miles west and somewhat north of Phoenix.)
I am well aware that bulls can look pretty intimidating. On the ranch we ran various Brahma crossbreeds, the kind with the hump of muscle over the shoulders. They were big walking slabs of muscle. But it was lazy muscle. They were definitely not afraid of us gnats buzzing around us, but they had no special interest in chasing us. Chasing would mean effort and those big guys are lazy, I’m telling you.
The cows and calves feared the scary two-legged creatures who moved among them. The bulls mostly ignored them. Their preferred tactic when confronted by an annoying human on a horse was to simply walk into the middle of a big patch of mesquite or catclaw brush and just stand there, hoping we’d go away.
The only time a bull was truly scary was when two of them got in a fight. Weighing in at a couple thousand pounds each and standing about six foot tall at the shoulder, it was best to get out of the way when they went at it. A person could get crushed pretty easily – and completely accidentally – by one.
Not only was it dangerous when they were fighting, but if the fight happened in the corrals it could be dangerous when the fight ended as well. This was because the loser of the fight usually decided he wanted to be somewhere else as soon as he gave up. Little things like fences and gates were only minor impediments when that happened.
I saw one who wanted to leave the corral who simply tried to jump over the fence, which was about seven foot high. He didn’t quite make it, but he got about half way. When he came down the fence turned into so many matchsticks. I remember another time when one decided to go under this big metal and wood gate. He got a horn under the edge, lifted it up about a foot and forced the rest of his body after it. Needless to say, it wasn’t much of a gate afterwards.
As the ranch’s designated regular visitor to the emergency room, I did manage to get in the way of a bull fight once.
Our corrals were set up so that there were several pens that all opened up onto a long, narrow ‘alley,’ like a cow hallway. The gates to these pens were designed to be the same length as the alley was wide, so that it was possible to either open the gate half way, in which case any cows pushed down the alley had no choice but to go into the opened pen, or the gate could be opened completely, swinging back against the side of the alley.
Two of these big old Brahma bulls starting fighting in the alley one time, just a few feet down the alley from where I cowered inside the pen, holding onto my gate. No problem. I was reasonably safe from them there.
The problem was that Dad wanted them out of the alley and in the pen where I was and started yelling at me to that effect. They were coming my way pretty fast, horns locked, a couple tons of snorting testosterone. All I had to do was swing the gate out into the alley while running around the end of it so I could get behind it, on the other side of it from the bulls.
Except that I wasn’t quite fast enough. I was making my way around the end of the gate – right as it was coming up to the opposite side of the alley – when the bulls arrived. They ran into the gate and the gate hit me square in the chest, pinning me against the side of the alley.
Fortunately, being about 10 or so and still fairly rubbery, I wasn’t injured beyond bruising and the loss of some air from my lungs.
But my point is that bulls aren’t the fearsome creatures we’ve been led to believe. They’re fierce looking, but they’re only really interested in eating and cows. So don’t get too worked up when you see one ‘in the wild.’
Just try not to look too much like a cow.