Sadly, every year, a number of members of the public, while walking across fields, get attacked by cows. This most commonly happens when the cows have calves at foot and therefore their maternal, protective instincts are on steroids. The outcome is rarely good and the press correctly reports the incident as an attack, usually fatal.
But when people let their dogs off the lead and they promptly savage a whole load of sheep, it is coyly reported as “sheep worrying”. No! The term worrying has the connotation of mildly annoying, like being worried by a cloud of midges at a picnic. Yes, this is bothersome but neither life threating nor gory.
And in reporting an incidence of “sheep worrying”, the stories spare the readers the visual horror, thus subtly re-enforcing the message that this really is not too much of a problem. No again! I believe readers and specifically dog owners need to see the images of sheep with their throats torn out or disembowelled lambs, the mum ewes standing over the little corpses. And yes, the reports should capture the pain and anger of the sheep farmer who is left to clean up the mess and count the loss.
I don’t know how many times I have encountered people on the bridle path that bisects my farm, blissfully ignoring the big red signs asking them please to keep their dog on the lead. “Oh my dog is very good, and would never hurt sheep,” comes the response. What these folk don’t understand is that yes, I am sure the dog is good natured and a nice animal but, when faced with something on the hoof, instinct kicks in and the thrill of the chase supplants obedience training. I know this because I have seen it in my own 2 lovely dogs. Once my gentle, fabulous Cal gets the scent of a pheasant or rabbit, all disciplinary bets are off and there is no recall.
So going into the summer with all our holiday cottages re-opened and full of guests, please, please keep your dogs on the lead so you don’t have to worry about them attacking our ovine friends.