A Perth hotel boss has told how he was almost trampled to death by a herd of stampeding cows.
Gordon Paterson said he is lucky to have survived the terrifying ordeal at a Perthshire beauty spot.
The 52-year-old manager of the Fair City’s Salutation Hotel – the oldest hotel in Scotland – was pulled to safety by a passing family-of-four, who had watched in horror as the cattle thundered over his body.
Gordon was airlifted to hospital for emergency surgery to fix a crushed elbow, and to reconnect his left arm to his shoulder using metal plates.
The incident left him physically and mentally scarred. He told The Courier that, while recovering in hospital, he woke one night thinking that his ward had been invaded by cows.
Now he is pursuing legal action against the cattle’s owner.
“It was horrific,” he said. “I just know that I’m lucky to be alive.
“If I had fallen onto a rock, or if I had been knocked down in a different way, it could have been a very different outcome.”
He said: “The surgeons told me that there was one hoof mark that came down on my back, right next to my spinal cord. It was bad, but it could have easily have been much worse.”
Gordon was walking his black Labrador Bracken on a popular countryside trail near Dunkeld when the cows struck.
It happened on a sunny Sunday afternoon towards the end of September.
“It’s a circular walk through the countryside,” he said. “We go this way quite often. It’s usually very popular.
“As I was walking along, I could see the cows in the distance, about 15 of them standing on the footpath.
“I thought I’d better stay clear of them, so we started to walk around them.”
He said: “That was when I felt the ground start to vibrate underneath me.
“I looked up and I saw the herd charging towards me. There was a cattle grid at the end of the path, but I thought there was no way I was going to make it there in time.
“Before I knew it, there was an almighty thud and I was on the ground. The impact of one of the cows striking me just knocked me right out.”
Gordon kept slipping in and out of consciousness as the cows trampled across him, leaving him covered in hoof prints. “Luckily, I fell on a fairly soft part of ground. I remember that I just sort of, sank into it,” he said.
“My dog got off his lead and was growling at the cows, and I could hear this family-of-four who were nearby shouting and yelling. They were trying to scare the cows away from me.”
Gordon said his clothes were torn to shreds as the cows ran over him. “I could feel a breeze on my body,” he said. “My glasses were smashed as well.
“The next thing I remember was the family dragging me over the cattle grid. I was really, really lucky they were there.
“They made the calls and kept talking to me, to keep me awake.
“If they weren’t there, things could have ended very differently. There was nobody else in the area, so I could have been left lying there for some time before someone found me.”
Emergency services swooped on the area, including a team of armed police who just happened to have been dealing with another incident nearby.
Gordon spent two weeks in Ninewells Hospital’s trauma ward. He required an ulnar collateral ligament operation to fix his right elbow, while metal plates were inserted to fix his left arm to his shoulder. “That was the part that took the most impact from the cows,” he said. “I had a very badly bruised back and bashed left shoulder blade too.”
He said: “While I was in hospital, I was reading up on incidents like this and I spotted one from just a week or two earlier, where a 67-year-old was killed. Exactly the same thing had happened to him.”
He added: “While I was in hospital, I did have a few nightmares. I actually woke up one night thinking the ward was full of cows.”
Gordon, who is on a flexi-furlough scheme with the Salutation Hotel only opening for key workers and essential stays, said he is now very wary of walking anywhere that there might be cattle roaming.
More than four months on, he is still recovering. “Every week I see a bit of an improvement,” he said. “My left arm is about 50% now, but it will be a few more weeks before its back to normal.”
Gordon is now trying to identify the cow’s owners as part of a compensation bid.
“I think it’s worth a try,” he said. “Sadly, we have no indication of where they came from. There’s a farmhouse about half a mile away from the spot, but someone tried there and they said it wasn’t their cows.”
Mr Paterson’s lawyer, Eilish Lindsay from Thompsons Solicitors’ Dundee office, said: “The injuries suffered by my client were extremely serious and he is entitled to both answers as to how this incident happened and to full compensation.
“We continue to gather evidence in this case and will leave no stone unturned in our effort to make sure Mr Patterson achieves the justice he deserves.”
‘The whole herd snaked round behind him’
Siobheon Duncan, a hospital pharmacist from Perth, was on a family day out in the Dunkeld countryside when she came across the herd of cows blocking her path.
She was with her husband Steven, youngest son Keiran, 15, and 18-year-old Lewis, who was about to leave for university the following day.
“We were heading along the footpath and a lady stopped us and said: ‘Excuse me, are you planning to do the circuit?’
“She was warning us about a herd of cows on the path ahead. She said she had got through, but the rest of her family got stuck because the cows were behaving so aggressively. They had to turn back, and find another way around.”
The family walked on to a cattle grid, and could see the cows just a few yards ahead.
“My husband saw a man and his dog on the footpath in the distance, walking towards the cows,” she said. “We were about to turn back, but we decided to stick around to make sure he got past okay.
“He walked towards them and then veered off to his left, obviously trying to give the cows a really wide berth.
“But then the cows started moving. They started to follow him and his dog.
“The whole herd snaked round behind him. It looked really strange.
“And before we knew it, they just charged at him. He was running and screaming, and then the cows were on top of him.”
She said: “We started shouting to try and get the cows back, but we were also shouting to Gordon on the ground, telling him to run towards us.
“He managed to get himself back up again, but then collapsed.
“Steve and I ran into the field and we tried to get him off the ground. He was saying: ‘Just leave me here’, because he was in so much pain.
“He said he couldn’t move, but we told him: You’re going to have to move.”
Steve and Siobhean managed to take Gordon over the cattle grid to safety. “He just collapsed, because he couldn’t go any further,” she said.
Lewis made the 999 call, and used the what3words app to help emergency crews pinpoint their location.
“Meanwhile, Keiran was trying to get hold of the dog,” Siobhean said. “The Labrador just wanted to lie on top of Gordon, he just wanted to stay with his master. We had to try to stop the dog from jumping on him.”
She said: “It took about 25 minutes for the emergency services to arrive. After about 20 minutes, I was starting to get a bit panicky. I could see he was in real pain and I was trying to keep him talking and keep him conscious. He had massive bruising to his abdomen and all over. You could see prints on his face where they had stood on his head.”
Siobhean said after the incident, she was told that – a week or so before – another person had been chased by aggressive cows on the same spot, and hurt his leg when he jumped over a fence.
“I never want to go near cows again,” she said.