A Runner’s Guide to Animal Attacks

Learn how to dodge animal encounters when you're off-road running

A few years ago, Men’s Running’s editorial director, David Castle, was knocked to the floor in a surprise attack by a ram, while out on a run. A second charge resulted in a fractured rib, luckily further injury was avoided thanks to two brave passersby who diverted the ram by shouting, enabling David to retreat.

It’s now a story that elicits a certain amount of muted laughter from his colleagues. But animal attacks are a serious issue. Every year, dozens of runners and walkers in the UK are injured or killed by rampaging wildlife.

We’ve provided a profile of four common animals you’re likely to encounter in the UK’s fields, parks and meadows – and how to best avoid incurring their wrath.


The most dangerous of all the farmyard animals, bulls are big, bad tempered and best avoided by any runner with designs on keeping all of his vital organs.

Warning signs: The broadside display (in which the bull faces you side on, showing how big it is). This is often followed by the bull facing you head-on, pawing with its forefeet and horning the ground.

Dangerous times of the year: Bulls should be treated with the utmost caution all year round.

How to best avoid an attack: If you find yourself in the same field as a bull, try to locate the nearest exit. If a bull charges at you and you’re close to a fence or stile, head for it immediately. Alternatively, if there’s a tree nearby, you can climb your way to safety. If you have a dog with you, let it off the lead.


Strong, surprisingly heavy and incredibly determined, rams can cause serious injury or even death.

Warning signs: If a ram stares at you directly and gives out a “baa”, it’s likely he’s preparing for a charge.

Dangerous times of the year: Rams are most likely to attack during breeding season, between September and November, when he sees you as a potential rival to his ewes.

How to best avoid an attack: The best way to avoid a ram attack is to not get anywhere near it in the first place. Don’t enter fields or paddocks in which a ram might be present, particularly during breeding season. But if you do encounter one, do not turn your back on it. Back away slowly and try to locate an easy exit.


Man’s best friend can also be a runner’s worst enemy. Quick, powerful and aggressive, big dogs can leave you with more than a nasty nip, so it pays to be extra vigilant around these four-legged creatures.

Warning signs: Any dog snarling, growling and baring its teeth should be given a wide berth.

How to approach them: Do not run – running away can awaken the dog’s prey instinct to chase and catch animals.

How to best avoid an attack: Make yourself rigid and motionless. Do not wave your arms around or kick with your legs – the dog may perceive these actions as threatening. And do not make eye contact, either, since that could also cause the dog to lunge at you.



Forget what you know about Bambi. Deer can be dangerous creatures, and an attack from one of them is no laughing matter.

Warning signs: If a deer approaches you or makes a loud noise in your direction, this could be a sign of an imminent charge.

Dangerous times of the year: During ‘the rut’ – from late September to early November – when stags set about fighting each other in order to establish themselves as alpha males.

How to best avoid an attack: By and large, people are too inquisitive about deer, getting far too close to them and underestimating their danger factor. If you are attacked, climbing a tree is your safest bet. Better still, is not being there in the first place.

*Disclaimer: The advice in this article should be treated as suggested best practice. Readers run in the countryside at their own risk.

David Castle

Written by David Castle | 337 articles | View profile

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