There are several thousand cattle on the Forest in summer, with numbers dropping 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.
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. Many cattle are also taken off the Forest in the autumn to prevent them from being poisoned by eating acorns.
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 it is best to keep yourself and dogs 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!