Police are investigating after a cow which was 'brutally' attacked by a dog had to be put to sleep.

Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) said the Galloway Steeer was on its Tadnoll Heath nature reserve, near Winfrith when it was attacked.

The injuries to its face were so severe that it was put to sleep the following day.

A plea has been issued for owners to keep dogs on leads.

DWT said dogs are welcome on most of its nature reserves, but many of these sites are managed and designed specifically for the wildlife they support, such as birds, which can be highly sensitive to disturbance.

Some of the sites are grazed with sheep, cattle or horses, which is essential to maintain habitats like grassland and heathland on which wildlife depends.

DWT’s nature reserve manager for the South and East, Leo Henley-Lock said: “This attack is particularly upsetting as we have recently installed new signage on Tadnoll nature reserve which makes it clear to visitors that your dog should be on a lead.

"We recognise that using outside space is enjoyable and can improve people’s health, but the purpose of these sites is for wildlife to thrive on them, and as a conservation charity, that has to be our first priority.

"With proper care and attention, there’s no reason why wildlife and people can’t both benefit from our nature reserves in Dorset, but we require all visitors to abide by the guidance provided. We recognise that many people are following the code and are responsible dog owners, and we hope they can lead by example, so this doesn’t happen again.”

For more information about dogs on nature reserves visit www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/Dogs

A Dorset Police spokesman said: "We received a report at 9.52am on Friday 1 November 2019 that a cow had been attacked by a dog at Tadnoll Heath nature reserve near Wool.

"Following further enquiries, it was established that the cow had last been checked on the afternoon of Thursday 31 October 2019 and was found injured in the morning of Friday 1 November 2019.

"An investigation into the incident is ongoing. No arrests have been made."

Anyone with information can call 101, quoting occurrence number 55190172481.