Animals

Killer cows and sadistic sows: When livestock attack

A photograph of the author, Austin Bailey.

By Austin Bailey

October 31, 2018

Killer cows and sadistic sows: When livestock attack

In This Article

  • Farm animals are adorable, but they can be deadly.
  • Cows, horses and pigs? Watch them.
  • Cows kill more than 20 Americans each year, most of them farm workers.
  • Homicidal pigs leave behind very little evidence of their crimes.

Those long-lashed dairy cows and plump piglets may seem sweet as candy, but they may be hiding sinister intent. So on Halloween, a day when we face our fears, we at Heifer International would be remiss if we didn’t give fair warning: farm animals sometimes attack, and sometimes those attacks are deadly.

Farms are notoriously risky places to work, for plenty of reasons besides animals. Falls and tractor accidents, for example, are common. But working with enormous livestock causes many injuries and even fatalities. Agricultural work ranks in the top ten most dangerous jobs in the United States, based on statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

Cows kill more than 20 people in the United States each year, and the cause of death is most often blunt force trauma to the head or chest. Most victims are farm workers who are trampled, crushed or gored. British cows are plenty dangerous too, killing an average of five people per year. While bulls are known for aggression, female cows are just as likely to kill, especially right after they’ve birthed a calf. Maternal defensive aggression is the likely culprit.

Horses and pigs aren’t to be trusted, either. Horses kill about 20 people in the United States each year, sometimes with fatal kicks to the head or chest but more often in horse-riding accidents.

Pigs are the slyest of the murdering animals because they’re likely to eat the victim, leaving behind little evidence. An irritated pig can become a dangerous pig, considering these animals routinely grow up to 500 pounds or more. Consider the case of a farming couple attacked by their pig in Townsend, Massachusetts, in 2016. The wife was the first victim, suffering lacerations and other injuries severe enough that her husband rushed her to the hospital. When the husband came home from the hospital the pig attacked him, severing an artery and nearly killing him.  

We'd be remiss if we didn't end these spooky tales of farmyard horror with a reminder: if you respect farm animals, they will respect you! We work hard to ensure that animals around the world are given the care that they deserve so that they, in turn, can help farmers in need. But that's not much of a Halloween story, is it?