The risks of being perceived as a threat: Creating a safe environment for visitors and their dogs in parks with free roaming cattle

Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportRapportForskning


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Peaceful encounters between humans and free roaming cattle, outside of a farming context, occur daily. In the rare cases that human injuries (or fatalities) do occur in such encounters they receive strong interest from the media. Although few in numbers, those incidents elicit fear among the
general public and pose a potential threat to existing/future re-wilding initiatives, risking to take humans one step further away from nature. The relatively high proportion of cases involving petdogs and dams of young calves in fatal encounters, has led to the assumption that dogs are perceived as predators by cattle, and that the attacks are simply due to ‘innate’ defensive maternal “aggression”, thus limiting ability for intervention. Assessment of existing literature suggests that the mere presence of dogs may certainly increase the risk of an encounter to escalate, but it cannot alone explain reported injuries to the owners. Here we explore complementary mechanisms, specifically, the involvement of owner false perceptions about cattle behaviour, intra- and inter-specific emotional contagion (specifically, human-dog), and the consequent behavioural responses of each member of the triad, in escalating these encounters. The effect of cattle cognition and personality, as well as previous experience with humans and dogs, is also discussed. Dividing the encounters to three periods, i.e. pre-contact, contact, and break of contact,
will allow us to discuss how one’s perception and action in each stage may potentially affect the risk of being injured, and allow us to make concrete suggestions on how to avoid / de-escalate an encounter if it occurs. Suggestions as to how to address visitors’ behaviour directly (i.e. perceptions/actions) and indirectly (visitors “policing” of un-informed/non-obeying dog owners)
will also be discussed. Providing a window to the psychological processes that may accompany the cattle-human-dog triad before and during an encounter, could play a central role in altering the dynamics of these interactions, and diminish the perceived threat and its possible consequences. Better understanding of our behaviour and the behaviour of the animals
surrounding us may contribute to deepen our connection with nature and the animals inhabiting it.
ForlagDepartment of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen
Antal sider48
ISBN (Elektronisk)978-87-7903-888-2
StatusUdgivet - 2023
NavnIGN Report
NummerFebruary 2023

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