Australia is the killer country. Just ask a tourist.

KILLER cows are coming.

Possibly they’re already here. It’s hard to tell with cows.

In the past two years, in the Hunter region alone, paramedics have been called to “38 incidents involving cows and bulls”, according to an article based on data released on Tuesday as part of National Farm Safety Week.

And that’s where the story stopped, at just a number, which is where I think we need to be told more.

Go online and you can find stories about cows injuring people on farms all around the world. Clearly the warning about cows and bulls causing injuries serious enough to require a paramedic response is something that should be widely known, hence the National Farm Safety Week release.

But Australia is already known as the land of critters that kill. We don’t need to add cows. If the 38 incidents involve cows stepping on people’s feet or backing into people, or even charging into someone, that should be stated. If it’s worse, that should also be stated, because non-Australians are already terrified enough of our fauna – and flora – without unnecessarily extending the killer list to include domesticated ungulates.

Several years ago I took a Swedish couple bushwalking. The Swedish woman was reasonably comfortable because she had lived in Australia on and off for several years and had reduced her Australiacritterphobia to just one critter, cockroaches, and that was never going to leave her.

Her boyfriend, a keen photographer, had only arrived in Australia a week earlier. It’s fair to describe his condition as alert, alarmed and already freaked out about what we might encounter during a bushwalk, based on watching too many Steve Irwin clips as a child.

“What do you do when a snake tries to attack you?” he asked in the car on our way there.

Her boyfriend, a keen photographer, had only arrived in Australia a week earlier. It’s fair to describe his condition as alert, alarmed and already freaked out about what we might encounter during a bushwalk, based on watching too many Steve Irwin clips as a child.

“Well, the only time I’ve come across a snake in the bush was a kind of grass snake across a path where I was running and I just jumped over it and kept going,” I said.

Then I thought about it and remembered running across what seemed to be a brown snake resort area on the side of a hill just after sunrise one day, when the sun’s warmth suddenly turned that hillside into a living, heaving thing.

I could hear and see movement below dried grass and near rocky clusters. I thought I would die that day and my body would be eaten by suddenly carnivorous possums – and yes, that’s the kind of thinking that occurs when you realise you’ve put yourself in a seriously dumb and risky situation.

Then I thought about another time when I was wandering along on my own, and what seemed like a large number of red-bellied black snakes were suddenly accompanying me on a narrow track in tall, dry grass leading to a bike path about 20 kilometres from my house.

Then I remembered a friend who told me about the day last year when she was cycling with a group in the bush where we often run, and how a snake dropped out of a tree and became tangled in someone’s front wheel.

Then I also remembered the two red-bellied black snakes that appeared, again seemingly out of nowhere, at Swansea one day as I waited for a woman to open her front door. They were moving very fast and either having sex or trying to kill each other – and don’t we all know that feeling – on the driveway that I had walked down only 30 seconds earlier.

“But nothing happened,” I said after recounting my I’m-an-Aussie-and-we’re-cool-with-snakes stories to my young Swedish friend. He’d turned a pale shade of grey by that stage.

“How many spiders would be here?” was another of his questions that could only – for him – have unhappy answers.

“Well, there’d be piles everywhere you look, but you wouldn’t know. They keep to themselves,” I said.

“But up ahead there’s a path, and we’d probably better not go there, now that I think about it, because if you go at the wrong time of year there’s whole clouds of spider nests strung from the bushes above you. It can be a bit freaky,” I said.

He was just white by then.

“We might see a nice wallaby, though,” I said.

He said he was enjoying the bushwalk, despite feeling like death was just around every corner. Then we popped out at a beautiful lookout above the ocean, talk turned to sharks and his skin colour changed from white to green.

That’s when he noticed even our flora can be vaguely terrifying.

“What is that?” he asked, pointing to an old, dry Banksia serrata flower and seed pod – May Gibbs’ Big Bad Banksia Men – while walking cautiously towards a tree.

He spent 10 minutes photographing it to show his parents back home.

“It looks like something that would kill you,” he said.

“Or like a dried up old flower,” I said.

In Iceland last year we stood on a glacier in the freezing cold with our strong, fit Icelander guide, and talk turned to travel. He’d been to South America, Europe, Canada, Russia, China and parts of Africa, but not Australia.

There were too many things that could kill you, he said, and rattled off the usual suspects – snakes, spiders, sharks, jellyfish, storms, lightning strikes, fires and floods.

All this while standing on a glacier that was cracking and moaning beneath us, and where a false move could have you hurtling to a nasty death. And there was an ominously rumbling volcano just up the road, not to mention the kind of cold that can kill you in a couple of hours if you wander off.

So if our cows aren’t killers, let’s say so. Or the tourist terror Aussie death list will expand to things that go “Moo” in the night.

This story Joanne McCarthy: Things that go ‘Moo’ first appeared on Newcastle Herald.