New Forest Cattle
Within the New Forest there is a herd of furry locals who make the beautiful forest landscape their home. Cattle are very prominent throughout the New Forest, much like the ponies and pigs; New Forest cows spend a lot of the summer months grazing throughout the forest.
There are 3,000 cattle grazing the forest during the summer, released onto the open commons and heathland by the Commoners, people who have rights to depasture their animals on the land.
Cattle are usually removed from the open forest during the autumn as like the New Forest ponies, they are susceptible to poisoning from the fallen green acorns (see how pigs are used to help resolve this problem). There are some cattle that are grazed on the land during the winter months as only some of the breeds are hardy enough to brace the winter in the forest.
There are roughly a dozen different breeds of cattle in the forest including Highland Cattle, which are more resilient than your average Friesian cow (these can often be spotted in the Brockenhurst area) plus Galloway and Hereford cross breeds, hardy breeds which can tolerate the New Forest winter.
Calves are sometimes born on the forest however commoners usually take their cows back to their holdings before the are due to calve just in case of any problems. Once they are old enough, you will see calves out on the forest with their mothers. Bulls however are not allowed to roam on the forest.
Where can I spot the New Forest cattle?
The best way to see New Forest cattle is by taking a stroll along some of the fantastic New Forest walking routes. You can often spot them grazing on the land or around one of the New Forest’s watering holes.
Cows are typically gentle and shy in nature but they are notoriously protective of their offspring, therefore always keep a safe distance. This ensures not only the safety of the animals but visitors too as some breeds of cows have large horns, which can cause serious injury. Aggression from cattle is rare. However, a cow which has recently given birth is very protective so please keep yourself and dogs well away to avoid causing distress to the mother.
The New Forest National Park is a wonderful place to visit and you can help it stay that way by being a Forest friendly visitor and following the New Forest Code.
For their safety and your own, please leave the animals alone - although owned and cared for by local people called commoners, they are unpredictable and best treated as wild. Please don’t feed or touch them; there is plenty of natural food and it’s best that they don’t come to rely on people’s attention. They may look friendly but they can bite and kick, especially when with young.
Cows roam the New Forest freely and will often step out in front of traffic with no warning; it is important that you slow down whilst driving through the Forest and that you are aware of any wildlife around you.