Boondocking Basics

Learn the core concepts of off-grid camping, boondocking, and overnight parking

Is it Safe to Camp With Cows?

Is it Safe to Camp With Cows?


Yes, it’s generally safe to camp with cows in the area. As long you refrain from following them, touching them, or provoking them in any way, they’ll leave you alone. Problems usually occur when people try to shoo cattle or pet cattle. Otherwise, cows are pretty used to being around people and generally don’t perceive us as threats.

camping with cows
Camping with cows at a boondocking site in Arizona

Is it Safe to Camp With Cows?

It’s very common to find cattle on BLM lands as well as State Trust Lands. This is because both the BLM and state land agencies frequently sell grazing rights to nearby ranches. However, in most cases where there are grazing rights, the general public is still allowed to enter these lands for recreational purposes.

How to Tell if You’re Entering Land with Grazing Rights

It’s easy. If you drove your vehicle over a “cattle guard”, you just entered grazing lands. Otherwise, cattle have to be kept fenced to stop them from wandering on to a highway. A cattle guard is the only way to let the public to pass through freely while still keeping cattle inside.

Other ways to tell if you’re camping on grazing lands…

  • The presence of a watering tank.
  • The presence of cow manure (cow patties) laying around
  • If you see a yellow road sign with the silhouette of a cow on it.

What to do if Cattle Wander Into Your Camp

  • First of all, don’t provoke them. This means, don’t stand in front of them, waving your arms, yelling at them, throwing rocks at them, or pushing them. Every herd of cattle will have a bull somewhere, and that bull will charge at you if you threaten one of his cows or calves.
  • Stay away from the calves. Even though most cows are used to people handling them and their babies, bulls will take issue with it.
  • Don’t feed the cattle. If you give them something good to eat, they’ll just stay at your camp.
  • Bring all food inside your vehicle.
  • It’s okay to sit outside in your patio chair enjoying the cattle. As long you’re just keeping to yourself, not provoking the cattle, you’ll be fine.
  • Wait for them to go away. Calling the local authorities won’t help.
  • Watch out for cow manure.

Will Cattle Damage My Vehicle?

They might. Cattle love to brush their bodies against solid objects to scratch an itch. Cattle also love shade, and your motorhome or trailer might provide that for them.

Most cows weigh between 1,000 to 1,400 pounds. Bulls will go even higher, between 1,500 to 2,000 pounds. Cattle can do some damage just by rubbing up against your vehicle. They can put dents in your door, bust the plastic headlight housing, and break off side view mirrors. And if you manage to anger a bull, it can lift the front or back of your vehicle off the ground, bust open windows, destroy all your camping gear.

Should You Avoid Camping on Grazing Lands?

In our opinion, camping on grazing lands is not our first choice. It’s mostly because there’s cow manure everywhere, and lots and lots of flies.

But, if you want to maintain a short drive into town for supplies, or be able to enjoy some breathtaking scenery (such as the Badlands of South Dakota), then you’re going to encounter cattle.

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