Explainer: What was behind cow herd's mad mauling

The victim of a savage cow mauling in south Auckland may have been considered a threat to the herd's young, an expert believes.

Animal behaviour expert Lori Marino appeared on RadioLIVE on Monday to discuss the attack, which left the victim "smashed up" and suffering horrific injuries. And she has advice which could help you survive a similar situation.

Aimee Wedgwood was running through Totara Park on the weekend when she noticed the group of cows glaring at her. They then attacked, before a man came to her aid. The herd then turned on him, inflicting gruesome flesh wounds.

"They're not known as particularly aggressive animals and so when they do act like that there's usually a pretty good reason," Ms Marino told RadioLIVE.

"The reason these cows in the report were aggressive is because they were protecting the yearling that was with them. So when they have youngsters with them they're often going to be very protective."

Ms Wedgwood told NZME she saw the cows acting suspiciously before they charged.

"They were following me with their eyes. I was actually on my third loop of the park, I'd passed them two times before," she told NZME.

"I backed off the path then they all came around me from all directions."

Ms Marino says there's normally warning signs before animals lash out.

"When they give warnings signs you should get out of the way - but if you don't then they'll probably take that to the next level which is some footstomping and pushing," she told RadioLIVE.

"If you keep doing the same thing then they up the ante and if they feel that they really need to they will make contact with you.

"The reason is usually they are defending something precious to them, which in this case was the youngster."

And she has advice for anyone else who meets a herd of cattle - especially if they are guarding their calves.

"Unless they come up to you, you don't know if they want to be pet," she says.

"You should be looking for the warning signs that they are going to be giving you if they don't want you to come any closer. And if you don't heed those things escalate.

"My advice is simply don't initiate contact and if you see they're starting to get a little perturbed - snorting and maybe footstomping - you want to get out of the area."