Can landowners keep bulls in fields where there is a right of way?

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 section 59 makes it an offence, subject to important exceptions, for the occupier of a field crossed by a right of way to cause or allow a bull to be at large in it.  The exceptions are:


(a) bulls less than ten months old; and

(b) bulls which are not of a recognised dairy breed and which are accompanied by cows or heifers.


Dairy breeds are Ayrshire, British Friesian, British Holstein, Diary Shorthorn, Guernsey, Jersey, and Kerry.  Any bull over the age of ten months is prohibited by itself, and any such bull, which is of a recognised diary breed, is prohibited even if accompanied by cows or heifers.

If any bulls act in a way which may endanger the public then, an offence may be committed under health and safety legislation.  In this instance a report should be made to the Executive, the police, or both.  The Executive recommends that a sign should be displayed at access points to fields in which there is a bull.  The executive states that the sign should not contain text suggesting that the bull is aggressive or threatening or dangerous, and that the sign should be removed or securely covered when there is no bull in the field.  In the event of personal injury, liability for damaged may be incurred under the Occupiers Liability Acts of 1957 or 1984 or under the general laws of negligence. 


Section 2 of the Animals Act 1971 makes the keeper of an animal liable for damages if the animal injures another person provided that the keeper was aware of the animal’s tendency to cause injury.  Thus, if a farmer places an animal that he knew had dangerous characteristics in a field crossed by a public right of way and a walker is attacked, the farmer would be liable to be prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work Act and could be sued for damages by the walker under the 1971 Act if there was evidence of the farmer's knowledge.  This would even apply if the animal was a bull not banned under section 59 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

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