A WELLAND man has paid tribute to the "absolute hero" who came to his rescue after he was attacked by cows.

Joe Whitehouse, aged 67, was walking his dogs in Castlemorton Common when a herd of the 'spooked' animals approached him.

He was rammed to the ground by one of the cows, which kept butting him as he lay prone on the floor.

Mr Whitehouse said he was powerless to get back up and feared for his welfare.

It was only the help of 20-year-old Charlotte Horrabin which prevented him from serious injury - or worse.

"I really thought it wasn't going to let me go," Mr Whitehouse said.

"The cow continued to come at me and was butting me but Charlotte ran towards and it went away.

"But then about 20 yards away all the cows formed into a herd and started coming back at us.

"Charlotte ran at them again with her little dog and shouted and they turned and went.

"She is an absolute hero - she was so brave."

Whilst out walking his dogs at around 4pm on December 29, he saw the animals startled so gave them a wide berth, but this failed to quell the cows' discomfort.

Mr Whitehouse, who has worked as a football referee in Worcestershire for four decades, thanked both Ms Horrabin and the other dog walkers who helped look after him following the incident.

He explained: "All of a sudden a big white cow charged out and hit me in my ribs and knocked me up in the air.

"The impact knocked me out of my shoes and on to the floor.

"The cow was just hitting me while I was on the floor and so I would've been at the mercy of the cow.

"I think if if hadn't have been for Charlotte it would've been very different and I'm very grateful for the other people as well.

"We bought her a little gift to say thank you but when we gave it to her the first thing she did was to apologise for her language.

"If she hadn't been there I would've been very badly injured at the least."

An air ambulance, ambulance and police car attended.

Unluckily, it was the first time he had taken his dogs - two shih tzus and a pug - out for a walk after emergency surgery on his intestines in October.

Although he avoided serious harm in the attack, Mr Whitehouse - the managing director of Alfaplas Ltd in Hereford - still suffered cracked ribs and bruising to his shoulder, leg, hip and hands.

For her part, Ms Horrabin said she acted out of "instinct" and didn't want thanking for her actions.

Mr Whitehouse and his wife Jane presented her with a gift to say thanks.

Former Hanley Castle High School student Ms Horrabin said: "I wasn't really thinking, everything went out of my mind and looking back I can barely remember what happened.

"I had to do something or it wasn't go to end well, so I just did it.

"I worked with cows from quite a young age which helped.

"There was a moment of fear but I guess instinct just kicked in.

"I feel quite humbled [by Mr Whitehouse's response].

"I didn't do it because I wanted the thanks - that's the last thing I wanted.

"I'm humbled that he's so appreciative and what they did is lovely."