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Crossing bull enclosures?


2018 edition Camino Guides

Buniontrotter

What's around the corner?
Camino(s) past & future
From Dublin, Ireland to Santiago, arrived May 2009
From St Jacobi Parochie to Santiago, arrived June 2014
From Seville, Via de la Plata, halfway there, October 2014
Completed Via de la Plata in May 2013
Will start in Brussels in September 2015 to lead onto the Voie de Tours and onto the Northern route and the Primitivo, God willing.
#1
Hello dear fellow pilgrims. I hope to start walking the Via de la Plata from Seville in early October. In June earlier this year I completed my 2nd camino and continued on to Finisterra and Muxia. There I met some people who had walked the VdlP and it all sounded very beautiful. Except for a few things, for days on end they could walk without ever meeting any other pilgrims - could be very lonely. Another thing that really frightened me was that this young man described having to cross right through a few enclosed fields with bulls in them. Can I have any feedback on this? Where are they and is there a way around them at all? It has never been my ambition to become a toreador... And how about dogs?
 

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grayland

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes
#2
Both of those statements can be true.

1. Walking without seeing other pilgrims for long periods will change with different times of the year. As an example, I walked in mid August last year from Sevilla with daily temperatures of well over 100F with some days in excess of 135f. Needless to say I saw no one for a couple of weeks. Not even in albergues..just me. Not many foolish people about. There were a couple at first but they abandoned right away and went up to the Camino Frances.
From Salamanca on this changed and there were others walking and together at night. Just don't go in August :cool:

2. The fenced in pastures/dirt yards are common. They are not bulls. They are steers and not the same aggressive mean temperament of bulls (so they say;))
They do make you nervous as they are often just hanging out in front of you and staring at you in some pretty large groups.
The huge black ones with Texas style longhorns are the most frightening!

After a while, I had watched ladies and small children moving them and working around the steers and noticed they carried small sticks. They simply waved them slowly up and down as they walked through the animals and the cows would move out of the way. I tried this with my sticks and it worked perfectly.
The steers are scary but, as far as I know, are not dangerous.
Just be sure to secure the gate behind you on both ends.
 

peregrina2000

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#3
Hi, Buniontrotter,

I had some of the same concerns as you, especially in the animal category. As grayland has already said about the pilgrim traffic, you will find plenty of people if you walk during the less extreme weather months. I started once from Sevilla in mid April and once in early May and both times there were lots of other people walking, but never a crunch for beds, which is perfect.

Once when I was on the Vdlp and walking nervously past some horned animals that were definitely male, my Spanish companions explained to me that they were certain that these animals were not "bravos" -- for one thing, the cost of a bull is so high they said, that no owner would leave them to wander freely through fields and subject to poaching. And for another, the liability of letting a bull out under EU regulation is incredibly punitive, so none but the most flagrant scofflaw would even consider this. That set my mind at ease, but I still am not overjoyed to encounter a steer in my path. This happened a couple of times on my recent walk on the Camino Olvidado, and I usually tried to find a way around or just stood and waited for them to move. But maybe next time I will try grayland's stick waving trick. Grayland, could you be more specific about what part of the cows you swing the sticks near? Better yet, how about a youtube of you parting the herd with your staff? ;) Buen camino, Laurie
 

grayland

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes
#4
Laurie....I didn't get close enough to wave at any actual Toro part or parts.

Simply let it wave up and down calmly in front of me.....not threatening just moving up and down. It really did work and surprised me.
Those really huge animals in a group unwilling to move out of the path are pretty intense.
They simply move off to the side when you walk at them with the stick. At least I hope they will when you try it. ;)
Discovering the stick trick was a "good" thing.
 

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xin loi

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walked May 14, 2014 from St Jean France

starting to walk again August 25, 2016 --SJPDP to Finisterre
#6
Every stock water tank in West Texas has a big bull guarding it. If you don't bother to carry water and want a drink, you have to stare down the home bull to get a drink. They usually back down and it's easier than carrying water, even if the cows were drinking before you arrived.
 

Luka

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Via de la Plata (2013/2014)
Via Podiensis (2015)
Camino Francés (2015)
Camino del Norte (2017)
#7
Maybe I haven't looked carefully enough, but I only came across cows... And dogs? No problem at all. A relief after walking in France...
 

bystander

Veteran Member
Donating Member
#8
A stranger in a field with either cattle or horses, the quadrupeds will be curious and come and see you.
Might be a bit intimidating at first to those not use to such situations.
They're just trying to be welcoming

A stranger in a pub in England
Different story!

edit
Decided I should edit this and further explain

The quadrupeds in the field are interested and want to get to know you.

Now
The English pub
If you are foreign they will want to know where you are from
The locals will then tell you their views on your country and their own experiences of that country if they have visited it.

However
A stranger, but a Brit, walks into that pub.
From the moment he opens his mouth he will, by accent, be categorised, mentally criticised and possibly ostracised!

Cynical you say? No
Realistic? Yes
 
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peregrina2000

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#9
Laurie....I didn't get close enough to wave at any actual Toro part or parts.

Simply let it wave up and down calmly in front of me.....not threatening just moving up and down. It really did work and surprised me.
Those really huge animals in a group unwilling to move out of the path are pretty intense.
They simply move off to the side when you walk at them with the stick. At least I hope they will when you try it. ;)
Discovering the stick trick was a "good" thing.
So, I am assuming that you are walking towards their faces, not coming up from behind, since they wouldn't be able to see the sticks if you were coming from behind. o_O
 

amancio

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, Norte, Primit, Salvador, Portug, Arag, Ingles, VdlP, Lebaniego-Vadiniense, Invierno (2018)
#10
You are very unlikely to run into fighting bulls. You may find half-bred fighting cows, and they can be nasty, but only if you stand between them and their fresh born calves. This is the theory. Then, when you see a group of black as black can be cows running towards you along a dirt track, you start looking at the best fence you can jump over, but if they are moving between fields, they will be accompanied or lead by their cattle herders, you should have no problem. If all comes to all, as when you are facing a horse that is gone rogue, when they are running to you, just stand with your legs astride, and wave your stretched arms up and down (better if you have a stick) and shout at them, and they should avoid you alltogether.

This said, chances are you will never need to use that last resource, just wave your arms on your side up and down with plenty of energy and shout something nasty at them, and they will avoid you. And never get between a heifer and her newborn, that is the key!

In october, you should not find so may fresh born calves, in theory, calves are mostly born late winter/spring/early summer
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
Donating Member
#11
You are very unlikely to run into fighting bulls. You may find half-bred fighting cows, and they can be nasty, but only if you stand between them and their fresh born calves. This is the theory. Then, when you see a group of black as black can be cows running towards you along a dirt track, you start looking at the best fence you can jump over, but if they are moving between fields, they will be accompanied or lead by their cattle herders, you should have no problem. If all comes to all, as when you are facing a horse that is gone rogue, when they are running to you, just stand with your legs astride, and wave your stretched arms up and down (better if you have a stick) and shout at them, and they should avoid you alltogether.

This said, chances are you will never need to use that last resource, just wave your arms on your side up and down with plenty of energy and shout something nasty at them, and they will avoid you. And never get between a heifer and her newborn, that is the key!

In october, you should not find so may fresh born calves, in theory, calves are mostly born late winter/spring/early summer
Amancio, this is NOT what I want to hear!!!! :eek:
 

Al the optimist

Veteran Member
Donating Member
#12
A stranger in a field with either cattle or horses, the quadrupeds will be curious and come and see you.
Might be a bit intimidating at first to those not use to such situations.
They're just trying to be welcoming

A stranger in a pub in England
Different story!

edit
Decided I should edit this and further explain

The quadrupeds in the field are interested and want to get to know you.

Now
The English pub
If you are foreign they will want to know where you are from
The locals will then tell you their views on your country and their own experiences of that country if they have visited it.

However
A stranger, but a Brit, walks into that pub.
From the moment he opens his mouth he will, by accent, be categorised, mentally criticised and possibly ostracised!

Cynical you say? No
Realistic? Yes
Love it Bystander and so true!
 

AlanB

Active Member
#13
There's a stretch after Grimaldo where you walk for what seems like hours (probably only 5/6km through populated cow fields. They can look intimidating but the path goes along the side of field and the cows are, on the whole, uninterested in you. I can't think of any other places where you have to pass directly through herds of cows who unaccompanied.
 

biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF011, CF012, CP013, CF014, CA015, S. Anton015, CF015, CI015
Ditch Pig016, CF017 CP016 CN(017)
#14
DSC00682.JPG DSC00684.JPG The best advice is to stand to the side and wait for the traffic to pass.
 

xin loi

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walked May 14, 2014 from St Jean France

starting to walk again August 25, 2016 --SJPDP to Finisterre
#15
I don't think you could out run a Spanish cow. One of the highlights of our trip was watching two German Shepard Dogs herd cows. They actually chased one, making it jump OVER three rock walls and several hedgerows back to the woman herdess. That cow could jump!
 

amancio

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, Norte, Primit, Salvador, Portug, Arag, Ingles, VdlP, Lebaniego-Vadiniense, Invierno (2018)
#16
I only had to cross among cow herds right after Fuenterroble, and believe, i do not enjoy it either, but you somehow do seem to find some protection in numbers!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Finnesterre May-July (2013); Planned Caminos with grandchildren starting in (2016)
#17
So, I am assuming that you are walking towards their faces, not coming up from behind, since they wouldn't be able to see the sticks if you were coming from behind. o_O
Hola Peregrina! It is such an extremely rare occasion where I can offer you advice! And that is only because, in this instance, I do know cows, having worked with them and literally been dependent on my livelihood from them for over 50 years. Cattle (the generic term to include cows i.e. mature females, bulls i.e. mature males left with the cows for breeding purposes, heifers i.e. young females not yet bred, steers i.e. young males that have been castrated, and calves i.e. the nursing young still with the cows on pasture) all have a very specific "flight zone". The more domestic the cows, think dairy animals brought in daily for milking, the closer to the actual animal is their specific "flight zone". In other words, a big ol' mature Holstein may actually have to be PUSHED out of the way for you to walk by. A beef animal spending most of its life on the range may have a "flight zone" of 50 to 100 meters. Come inside that zone, and they back away. Beef animals will invariably face you as you approach their zone. Dairy cows could care less. If you see cows with small calves in a pasture, always assume there will be one or more bulls with them as the cows get bred while they are nursing and on pasture. Unless you are trying to drive the cows away from the bulls, they also could care less about you as an intruder (exceptions to this rule for both cows and bulls is if you are walking accompanied by a dog). With all this being said, I must include this one precaution. I'm not familiar with the breeding routine for the dairy cows in Europe so I don't know if it is mostly done via artificial insemination as in the US or naturally in the field. The point is, if you encounter ANY breed of dairy bull (Holstein, Jersey, Guernsey) with cows in a field, give them a very wide berth. I know this seems counter intuitive based on what I have said previously, but the fact remains they are much more aggressive than any beef breed. I hope this gives you some reasonable comfort as you continue on any future Caminos.

In Peace,
PFJ
 

peregrina2000

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#18
Thanks very much Farmer John, it's always amazing to me how so many members of the forum have such specialized knowledge to share with us. I have read your words carefully and have learned a lot, but I'm not sure how much I will retain for actual use on the Camino. So I think you should set up an escort service on those many places where we know-nothing pilgrims have to tip toe our way through the cows/steers and hope for the best. ;)

Seriously, though, many thanks for this. But my one question is whether you can tell me how I would distinguish a dairy bull (aggressive) from a beef bull (apparently not a problem). Muchas gracias, Laurie
 

amancio

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, Norte, Primit, Salvador, Portug, Arag, Ingles, VdlP, Lebaniego-Vadiniense, Invierno (2018)
#19
A quick notes about castrated steers: breeders of fighting bulls usually pick for steers those bulls which have a peculiar skin pattern. For example, if his bulls are mostly black, they might pick for steers other bulls which are white with red patches. They are usually docile, very large, harmless animals. The actual fighting bulls may not seem so large compared to other beef bulls. The main danger, I think, is in cows of the fighting breed, they can be nasty
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
#21
In Spain the only dairy cattle is Frisona (Holstein) and I think is almost impossible seeing a bull outdoors (I've never seen one), because all the cows are inseminated.
Beef bulls are mostly Charolais or Limosin and sometimes you could see one but usually cow herds don't have bulls because they are also inseminated.
From my experience, beef bulls are not dangerous and in case of problem, the stick/pole would help to make him move away.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 13
Plata 14
LePuy 15
Invierno DosFaros Portuguese 16
The 88 Japan 17
Sicily, ArlesFrances 18
#22
Buniontrotter, you also asked about dogs. They are in deed there and I was unlucky enough to have a number of nasty encounters with several...one in particular. The only advice I can give you is to squarely face the dog(s), avoid looking them directly in the eyes, hold your poles aggressively in the air or swing them to keep the dog at a distance and pick up the biggest, nastiest rock you can handle. Then slowly retreat in the direction you need to proceed in. They seem to understand the concept of rocks (I appreciate they are there to guard, but the treatment and condition of some of these dogs is pretty sad). In 4 encounters I never hit a dog (I really like dogs). I met other peregrinos who came along after me on the same day that I had experienced a very aggressive attack (the worst one) which took me quite a while to deal with and they didn't even see the dog...luck of the draw I suppose. Most of my encounters happened in the more remote areas in the first 500 kms. Later just after Laza I had my last dog encounter when I had to deal with two German Sheppard like dogs, but by then I had my technique down pretty well. As they ran towards me I had time to pick up the nastiest rock I could find and toss it up and down in the air with my right hand. They must have seen this before because thankfully they turned tail and ran back across the field leaving me feeling relieved, but also pleased that I had learned to manage these situations. A German fellow I spent time with had pepper spray with him for this reason.

I relate these experiences to illustrate that this can happen, but can be dealt with too. I think I experienced more than most folks I met along the way...as I said, luck of the draw, but I met others with similar experiences. Photo of the two dogs thankfully departing...no photos of the others...I was probably shaking too much! For the record I also encounter many, many very nice dogs as well:) Oh, and never a problem with cows or bulls...have you ever noticed how they look at you like they want to say something to you?;-)
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