I am not a fan of cows. I’m not easily intimated by large animals, having owned horses for many years, but I have a nervousness around cows which I darkly suspect they recognise. Many years ago, when I was on maternity leave with three children under 18 months, I would begin the day with a dog walk. It is not easy to find a suitable route for both a Labrador in need of a fast run, and a triple buggy with a dubious centre of gravity, but I had identified a single off-road circuit of a couple of miles, which was navigable with the pushchair. One day, as I sweated my way through the large field which stood between us and home, I realised a herd of cows had moved in. In an unspoken agreement they began lumbering as one towards us. Considering their size, cows can move surprisingly fast, and we were barely halfway across the field before I began to feel really rather uncomfortable. Against everything I know to be sensible, I broke into a run. So did the cows. As we neared the fence I was horrified to discover that over the weekend the farmer had replaced the easy-access gate with a narrow stile, trapping us in the field. With the sort of Herculean strength experienced only by a mother bent on protecting her young, I heaved the triple buggy – complete with babies – over the stile, where I collapsed in a heap. The cows gave the bovine equivalent of a chuckle, and went back to eating grass. Last weekend I took the children on a dog walk, and discovered a dozen or so bullocks in a field through which the footpath ran. Keen not to pass on my cattle-phobia to the children, I briskly told them there was nothing to worry about, but that I’d take the dog into the field first, just to check. Quite what I was checking, I’m not certain. The dog and I began walking through the field amongst the bullocks, who looked up, but didn’t move. Satisfied we weren’t about to be trampled to death, I stage-whispered to the kids. ‘Come on!’ They didn’t hear me. I was reluctant to wave my arms about, lest I inadvertantly give the universally-recognised sign for ‘I’ve got cattle feed in my pockets, come and get it,’ so I stood stock still in the field until one of the children finally looked up. ‘Shall we come in now?’ Evie said. I nodded: a movement which seemed to strike a chord with the bullock nearest to me, who nodded back. Clearly encouraged by this conversation starter, he began to walk towards me. ‘It’s okay!’ I said brightly to the children, who were already heading across the field towards me. ‘He’s just saying hello!’ In fact, they were all saying hello. Rather enthusiastically. The dog, alarmed by their size and proximity, saw fit to race round me in circles, wrapping the lead around my legs in her panic and effectively hobbling me. I heard a whimpering, and looked up to see that I was now separated from the children by a group of bullocks, two of whom were doing the sort of gambolling movement which looks charming on a lamb, but is rather alarming when performed by 1000 lbs of beef. Seven-year-old Josh, who is so very brave in many respects, was having what I can only describe as a break-down, white as a sheet and shaking hard enough to rattle his teeth. With no alternative but to walk through the excitable bullocks, I pasted a smile on my face and launched into a Disney-style monologue. ‘Oh look at that one! Isn’t he sweet? Yes, I know they’re big, but they’re awfully friendly. Oops, mind those hooves! Yes, they do look like they’re flying, don’t they? They’re more frightened of you than you are of them. That’s it, just keep your eyes closed and walk forward. Girls, take his hands. Never mind the poo. Yes, the bullocks are snorting, aren’t they? And pawing at the ground. But I really don’t think your red t-shirt is attracting them. No, don’t take it off…’ Somehow we reached the other side, where three quivering children burst into tears and I was tempted to join them. ‘Why did the cow cross the field?’ Georgie said. ‘I don’t know,’ I said weakly. ‘Because it wanted to go to the moo-vies!’ Our laughter was only slightly hysterical.