Moo-ving along – a history of cattle grids and BSI

What are cattle grids?

A cattle grid is a device that prevents livestock from proceeding along a road or railway but to allow the passing of wheeled vehicles.

 A depression is made in the road, and covered by a transverse grid of bars or tubes, which are firmly fixed to the ground on either side of the depression. They are narrow enough to allow wheeled vehicles to pass over, but wide enough for animal’s legs fall through. Normally livestock are reluctant to try and cross them. 

Anyone who has driven though commons in Devon or the Cotswolds will be familiar with the rattling sound of tyres passing over them.


The origins of cattle grids possibly go back to the flat stone stiles of Cornwall, where grids of granite bars placed over pits in public footpaths have existed for over 2000 years.

The “railroad cattle guard”, designed to keep livestock passing along railways, was an American innovation dating back to 1936.  Automotive “Cattle guards”, as they are called in the North America, may have originated in the Great Plains of the United States in 1905, in response to an increasing number of automobiles in fenced range country.

British Standards

In the UK, provision of cattle grids was covered in legislation under the Highways Act by 1950s, and is now covered under sections 92 to 90 of the Highways Act 1980.
A standard providing specification for cattle grids did not appear however until 1966, and it only covered private land.  BS 4008:1966 Specification for Cattle Grids on Private Roads was published in March 1966.  Over forty trade associations and government bodies were involved in its development, including the British Railways Board, National Farmers Union, Aluminium Federation and Ministry of Transport.  It did not cover grids on highways, which were the responsibility of the Highway Authorities at the time.

It was not until the early 1990s that public roads were covered by the standard, with the publishing of BS 4008:1991 Specification for Cattle Grids.  The latest version, BS 4008:2006 Specification for Cattle Grids, is a current standard.

What’s available in the Knowledge Centre?

BSI’s Knowledge Centre can provide access to withdrawn 1966, 1973 and 1991 versions of BS 4008 series. Members can view withdrawn standards without charge in Chiswick, and they are available for purchase in hard copy and PDF. BSI members receive a 50% discount, free postage and can buy on account.

To find out more please contact the Knowledge Centre at: or on
+44 (0)20 8996 7004


Back to the knowledge centre homepage

 Your basket
Your basket is empty