Highland cattle in the New Forest


There are more than 3,000 cattle on the Forest in summer, although this number drops sharply in the autumn and winter when the grazing is not so plentiful and many have to go back to their owners’ holdings. A variety of breeds of cattle roam the national park, with Galloway and Hereford crossbreds being particularly popular for their hardiness. They are bred for the meat market.

Some calves are born on the Forest, but commoners usually take their cows back to their holdings before they are due to calve in case there is a problem, as expert assistance is often necessary. Many cattle are also taken off the Forest in the autumn to prevent them from being poisoned by eating acorns.

The New Forest is a high-risk area for Red Water Disease in cattle, which is spread by the ticks which live on deer and can prove fatal as it leads to internal bleeding if left untreated. Cattle bred from Forest stock acquire a natural immunity to this illness, and it tends to strike animals which are brought in from outside the area.

Bulls are not allowed to roam on the Forest, and aggression from cattle is rare. However, a cow which has recently given birth is very protective of her calf, and dog-walkers should keep their pets well away to avoid causing distress to the mother.

Cattle are notorious for finding weak spots in fences and hedges in pursuit of lush grass, and property owners in the National Park need to check regularly that their boundaries are stock-proof - otherwise they could find their gardens invaded and badly damaged by cattle!

  1. Common rights of the New Forest
  2. History of commoning
  3. Cattle (you are here)
  4. Donkey
  5. New Forest pony
  6. Pigs
  7. Sheep
  8. New Forest Commoners Defence Association


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