THANKS to the power of the media and a frightening incident on Tuesday, I am now stuck with bovinophobia.

I have lived in the Forest for most of my life – except for a five-year stint in London where the only encounter with a cow was on a plate and served with horseradish or brandy sauce – and the sight of cows never bothered me.

But following the news that four people in the UK have been trampled to death by bovines in the past two months my fondness for the big-eyed docile creatures has turned to uneasiness…well ok – FEAR.

Britain has 7.5million cows and in the past eight years there have been 18 deaths involving cattle – including bulls, whose dangers are well-known.

And that doesn’t include the hundreds of people of have narrowly escaped cow-charging incidents with their lives.

I mean, cast your minds back to June when the former Home Secretary David Blunkett received extended coverage when he was attacked by a cow when his guide dog led him across a field in the Peak District. He broke a rib and was heavily bruised, but survived.

So is 18 deaths by cow really that low? I don’t think so – not when you consider that fewer than one person is killed each year by a shark – and how many people are phobic about these big fish with fangs? Films are even made about them.

Think of the panic caused following the death of the German woman who was killed in a shark attack in the Egyptian resort Sharm-el-Sheikh – within hours you could pick up a package deal for about 50p for a two-week stay.

But despite the fact that bovines are easily able to crush a fully grown adult before you can yell “land shark”, this hasn’t prevented people from walking in fields full of them. I guess they just don’t look that scary.

On Tuesday I was scheduled to meet a woman in the middle of Ogdens, near Fordingbridge. To get to the car park you have to drive through an old farmyard, where there are always scores of cows hanging about.

I met the woman and her friend and we walked a good mile to our meeting spot. No problem. But as we said our goodbyes and I made my way back to the car park, I realised that three herds of cows were loitering on my path and they were making a terrible din.

My head was filled with David Blunkett and all the others who had come face to face with a frenzied cow. Fear gripped my heart and so I walked as fast as I could through the branches and dead bracken, trying to go unnoticed by the boggle-eyed herd.

I know it sounds absurd, but my heart was racing and I was panicking and the car seemed like an eternity away and still the cows roared, I swear I could see them looking in my direction, scraping the ground with their hoofs.

And then I noticed that they were coming straight at me, probably curious about the moving shadow in the undergrowth – I ran at a speed that would have made Linford Christie proud and eventually reached the car in a sweaty, panting mess. Pathetic.

I sat in the car elated that I was safe. I know I had probably been in no danger whatsoever, but this is the thing about phobias – they aren’t rational.

And anyway, I still console myself that cows can and do kill people. UK spiders can’t and no-one has been eaten by a shark in the English Channel. I am not mad.

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