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Inadequate animal handling facilities and poor animal handling methods can lead to incidents and fatalities on the farm and other rural areas. Animals are also the source of some infectious diseases that can spread to humans. Handlers must always be on guard when working with or around animals.


Large animals may include:

  • cattle

  • hogs

  • deer

  • sheep

  • horses

  • goat

  • bison

  • elk

Animal handling hazards include:

  • stepped on

  • knocked down

  • kicked

  • bitten

  • pinned against a hard surface

  • exposed to a transmittable disease


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Training and instruction for anyone handling or in and around large animals should include information about animal behaviour to explain why certain precautions are necessary.


Animal Characteristics and Behaviour


Different animals may have different visual limitations, including:

  • colour blindness

  • poor depth perception

  • sensitivity to contrasts, which may cause them to balk or hesitate at sudden changes in lighting (shadows), colour or texture

  • difficulty in picking out small details

  • sensitivity to distractions or sudden movement because of wide angled vision

  • a natural tendency to move from dimly lit areas to lighter areas

  • blind spots where they cannot see a person


  • Loud, abrupt noises can cause distress in livestock. Keep noise and yelling to a minimum to enable the animal to feel secure.

Maternal Instincts and Territorial Behaviours

  • Livestock with young exhibit a maternal instinct. They are usually more defensive and difficult to handle. Livestock with young should be allowed to remain as close to their offspring as possible.

  • Most animals have a strong territorial instinct and develop a very distinctive attachment to certain areas such as pastures, buildings, water troughs and worn paths.

  • Forcible removal from familiar areas can cause animals to react unexpectedly. Similar problems occur when animals are moved away from feed, separated from the herd or approached by an unfamiliar person.

Kicking and Biting

Each type of animal kicks differently. Some of the reasons animals kick include:

  • pain, injury or inflammation

  • something in their blind spot

  • sudden noise

Animals may signal their intention to kick. For example, ears that are "laid back," or flattened backward, warn you that a horse is getting ready to kick or bite.

Approaching Animals

  • When approaching an animal, handlers should announce their presence by voice or by being clearly visible and gently touching the animal on the front or side.

  • Most animals, like humans, have a sense of "personal space" - a minimum acceptable distance between the animal and any perceived threat. This is the comfort or flight zone. These zones will vary from animal to animal and can be anywhere from five to 25 feet. Entering into the flight zone may cause panic and confusion in the animal.

  • Handlers can effectively move cattle and other animals by understanding and remaining at the edge of the flight zone.

Point of Balance

  • The animal's wide-angle vision determines the point of balance. It is usually at the shoulder but may move forward when the handler is further away.

  • It is important to understand and be aware of the point of balance. If the handler stands behind the point of balance, the animal will move forward. The animal will move backward if the handler stands in front of the point of balance.

Blind Spot

  • Animals are unable to see directly behind themselves. This is the blind spot. An animal may kick or run (fight or flight) when they sense something is in their blind spot.

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