A POLICE car was rammed and chaos reigned as a horned Highland cow ran amok on a busy main road at the weekend.

The cow escaped from a nearby field and charged along the A350 between Melksham and West Ashton while police tried to herd it back to safety. A police spokesman said: "There was absolute chaos at the scene as lorries and cars swerved to avoid it as it started walking up the road. "It then charged a police vehicle that had been sent to deal with it."

Officers were called just before 11pm on Sunday but it was more than an hour before the beast could be coaxed into a field. Initial reports the creature was a bull were later clarified by the owner the only Highland cattle breeder in Wiltshire who is based at Hag Hill Farm, Steeple Ashton.

The police spokesman said: "When it is dark and there is a hairy creature snorting and pawing the ground in front of you, you don't stop to check." Highland cattle are one of the oldest and most distinctive breeds in Britain and can weigh up to a tonne. No officers were hurt during the operation to round up the animal but the police car was left with dents and damage to the bonnet and grille.

Insp Dave Cullop, of Trowbridge police, said the force would be considering legal action against the animal's owner. He said another incident in which a calf escaped from the same farm two or three weeks ago had resulted in the animal being killed.

"In this county we get incidents like this from time to time but we had another incident from the same farm and we are now looking at prosecution, " he said. "My officers were trying to corner it as it was rampaging around and they were getting to the stage where they were considering dispatching it but they did not have a suitable rifle available to do it safely.

"Any loose animal on the roads is dangerous but certainly larger animals such as cattle could be fatal, that is how serious it can be."

The owner was contacted by police and the animal was eventually taken back to the farm. At the time of going to press the Wiltshire Times was unable to contact the farmer.