It’s Not Funny! Getting Shocked by Electric Fence

After years and years of being around electric fences, yes, I have received my fair share of unwanted shocks. And, the term “It’s not funny” has been heard and verbalized many times.

Getting shocked really isn’t funny, but then again, it is. Being an electric fence salesman and working at a lot of trade shows over the past 15 years I have also heard a lot of great stories from customers about being on the receiving end of those shocking stories.

I guess that since I am suppose to know what I am doing around electric fences I should probably never get shocked – right? Wrong, I get my fair share of them and it usually hurts. I think that some people may have a higher tolerance for the pain that is associated with an electric shock than others. Myself – I have a low tolerance for it. It hurts me like the “dickens”.

I’ve known some old mechanics that can pull a spark plug connector and put a finger between the plug and the wire to see if they are getting spark. I remember the first time I tried that, it felt like my shoulder was being torn out of its socket! I’ve never tried that stupid stunt again.

Not all, but most of my shocks in working with my own fences have been incurred when working with it when it’s raining or wet. Electricity has a way of flowing through moisture, on gate handles and the like.

It’s funny to me, how when I do get a shock: the first thing I usually do is look around to see if anyone is watching, even if I’m five miles from a road, in a ditch on the back side. I talk to myself a lot when I am working alone. I think a lot of farm and ranch people do that. After an unexpected shock I usually say something that is not recognized by Webster. Then I usually chuckle and answer myself, by saying “That’s not funny.”

A few years ago my wife, Jackie, was helping me pull up an old temporary fence. It had been used for a while before I had gotten around to building a proper three strand fence. It was a single strand of 12.5 gauge wire about eight feet inside of the new fence. It was on ½” fiberglass posts.

I wanted to rewind the wire on a spinning jenny for reuse some place or some day. It was a nice damp spring day. We had pulled all the clips off the posts and pulled the posts, so the wire was just lying on the ground. I gave the fun job of rewinding the wire on the spinning jenny to my wife, while I dinked around with some other important things nearby.

She was hunkered down over the jenny on her knees in wet soil. Well, during the winding process the abandoned wire got flipped over into the new fence. This new fence had around ten thousand volts running through it. About the time I heard her squealing like a wounded pig, I also heard a series of sharp snapping sounds.

I could see what had happened and was grinning from ear to ear and trying real hard not to vocally laugh out loud. Pure fire was shooting out of her eyes and for the life of me I couldn’t keep that smiley smirk off my face. She very matter of factly told me that “it’s not funny”… wasn’t, but it was.


About Gary Duncan

Gary has been active in the fence business for over 15 years. He also raises Highland cattle in a management intensive grazing system and was the first person to market the PasturePro post back in 2005. He enjoys discussing all things grazing and is the main contributor to the blog.
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24 Responses to It’s Not Funny! Getting Shocked by Electric Fence

  1. avatar Lmejia1968 says:

    Mr. Duncan, I would like to take advantage of your experience at electric fence trade shows. Please, advise me on the main ones in the USA. Because of my work, I do need to become more illustrated on electric fences. Also, I would appreciate it, if you let me know of any books on this subject ?.
    As to the unwanted electric shocks from fences, they are not funny at all, but could be very dangerous under special circumstances. Remember that the heart could get out of its regular frequency, if just a few milliampers of current go through it.

  2. avatar Gduncan08 says:

    Hello and thank you for your comments.
    First, in order to offer information on trade shows, it would be helpful to know what part of the US you live in. Additionally, it might be good for you to contact the Manufacturers of Energizers in the USA. Ask them what trade shows they will be attending this year. Most companies are in process right now to choose which trade shows they will participate in for next year.
    As for books, there really isnt much, pertaining stricktly to energizers. Most of the larger companies will have fencing manuals that cover the basics, but they will not go into detail on the actual operation and design of energizers.
    In general, I personally, beleive that Modern Day fence chargers are very safe, expecially since the introduction of the Low Impedance energizers. The older High Impedance ones had a very long duration of a pulse. The on-time of the pulse was very long compared to modern day ones. To be considered Low Impedance the pulse duration must be under 3/1000′s of a second. Most are well under that.
    Unfortunately, there is not an International Standard for energizers that i am aware of. Each country will have their own individual standards for testing. In the USA, I beleive that all have a UL approval stamp on them. You may also check with UL and get info on their criteria for safety testing.
    Out of curosity, what is your line of work ?
    A few years ago, I had a customer that put in a new electric fencing system. He had previously had some heart problems. He asked if a shock from his fence should be a concern to him. I did contact a heart specialist on his behalf. The answer was that; “probably” only if he had a pacemaker or other electronic devices in his body. I relayed this information on to the customer. His fence charger had a low output terminal on it and he chose to use this terminal to lower the output voltage.
    To the best of my knowledge, I have only heard of one fatality, directly, from an electric fence in the USA. That was more hearsay and I have not confirmed or researched it in depth. If that is true, then it would indicate af very very low percentage.
    Hope this helps. Please keep in touch with me. I would be interested in what you uncover in your research.

  3. avatar Ben says:

    The only death I’ve ever read about with an electric fence was someone getting shocked in the head. Probably had something else wrong, totally freak accident.

    I have a lot of respect from the number of times I’ve been shocked. The worst is when you’re on your hands and knees in moist soil crawling under and your back hits it. Now I tend to get down totally flat and almost do a military style low crawl.

    I think what is really funny is setting people up to get shocked. Like laying a piece of temp fence over a metal tube gate for when they go to un-chain the gate. One other time I turned my friend’s charger off and tied a piece of polywire to the fence and laid it over his truck frame between the cab and bed. I turned his lights on then went and turned the charger back on. I forgot to mention it was pouring rain. I told him he left his lights on, went out and proceeded to get shocked multiple times trying to get into his truck.

    • avatar Gary Duncan says:

      And here I thought you were a perfect gentleman ! If I ever visit your farm again, I WILL be wary, now that I know that you have a practical joker side to you.
      I got hit in the back one time, from crawing under. Was working on a poliwire gateway and had some tools on the ground. It was a hot day and had sweated thru my shirt. I leaned and reached under the hot gate wire to gather up the tools and pow – right between the shoulder blades of a wet t-shirt. It felt like I’d been hit with a sledge hammer.

  4. avatar Ben says:

    You have no idea… ;-)

  5. avatar Rusty McDonald says:

    I just got shocked in my head last night. I remember feeling the wire touch my hat and a pop and I woke up lay’n on the ground away from where I was empting the metal horse tank. I had no idea what happen but I had a mouth full of blood and missing teeth. When I got shocked it contracted my muscles so fast the it broke my front teeth out of my jaw and all my crowns of my teeth are chipped. When I came thru the only thing that hurt was where my teeth were. I set my teeth back where they fit the best and held them in place for the rest of the evening. I go get xrays today. I know I wasn’t out more then 30 min because the horses weren’t finish with grainand hay. This morning I am pretty sore and achy my teeth “seems” to be doing good I will know more after the dentish … I’m thankful that I am alive

    • avatar Steve Freeman says:

      Hi Rusty,
      How did this turn out? Were you able to have your teeth replanted? Sounds like quite an ordeal.

      A wise practice is to have a cutoff switch on any wires you plan to pour feed or water over and turn it off every time to avoid this kind of accident. New modern chargers with the short duration pulse are safer than the old weed burners with their long pulses but they can still knock you down if you are firmly grounded and touch the wire with your head.

      • avatar Rusty McDonald says:

        Hi Steve,
        My teeth seem to be doing fine the dentist is amazed that they have reseated and are still “alive” I have a wire glued to the back side to hold them in line for the next 12 months. I am now in the habit of turning the fence off when I enter the barn no matter what. Im a control power specialist I work on stuff from 9 volts to 480 volt up to 2000 amps, for awhile it was real hard to over come the “feeling” evertime I would open up circuits and trouble shoot.

        • avatar Steve says:

          Hi Rusty,

          Good to hear you are almost back to normal!
          Learning what you do for a living makes me feel a little sheepish suggesting to you safe power procedures but this is a good lesson for all of us. I still hook up my portable water lines bent over with my head near the wire. I even have a fence tester that will turn the fence off; never learned how to program it so I don’t use the technology. I need to take some time and figure it out before I end up using my head to test the voltage.

          thanks for getting back with us for the “rest of the story”.

        • avatar Rhiannon says:

          I’m so glad you’re ok! I got zapped across my back today and was feeling sorry for myself, now I’m glad it wasn’t my head! I know this comment is a year after the conversation and you may not even read this, but how did it work out? Are you back to normal?

  6. avatar Angie says:

    My daughter and I were fixing fence and we both managed to get shocked. The kicker…the fencer was unplugged. We were repairing 3 sections of fence all based off one fencer. The West side has a hot middle wire with a top and bottom dead wire. We were repairing a break in the top wire (which is dead anyway) and we both received shocks when we grabbed the end of it, but did not receive shocks in the middle. We did not fix that break and moved on (left it on the ground). The next section has 2 wires, both hot. There was a break in the bottom one. We fiddled with that and received no shocks, but didn’t have a long enough piece of patch wire to fix that one, so we left it (looped it around the top wire so we could find it easily). The East section is also 2 wires both hot and there was a break in both wires. We were tightening up the end that would NOT be connected to the fencer in any way and were fine, until again, we got to the end and both got zapped by the end of the poly wire. Needless to say, we didn’t fix that break either. It was very wet outside while we were doing this, but not storming. I’m not going to ask IF it’s possible to get shocked by a fence that’s not plugged in, because I know it is. I’ve experienced it. What I wonder is HOW does that happen? Would the fence hold charge or be pulling it out of the air or ground somehow?
    Thank you for any light you can shed on this. I’m scared to go fix it now because I don’t want to get zapped again.

    • avatar Gary Duncan says:

      Sorry to hear of your surprise and pain from the shock from a disconnected fencer.
      Do you have a fence tester or meter ? If not I would suggest that you get one, so that you can check it for voltage.
      There could be a couple different things going on here. It sounds like there may be some “stray voltage” present.
      I would ask first if there are any overhead power lines above your fence. There could potentially be some stray voltage coming from that, especially if it were a transmition line.
      Also, the grounding (ground rods) for you fence charger should be located at least 50 feet from other utility grounds. If they are too close to other grounds you could be getting some voltage from that. Other utility grounds could be from the building ground, a well house or any electrical system present, that is grounded.
      Just to make sure there is nothing serious going on I’d really recommend that you call your local Utility company to inspect for stray voltage. And / or a liscensed electrician to check other electrical grounding and connections.
      It would be advisable to get a fence meter and take a reading on the wires to determine how much voltage is there. If it is minor, you would probably take a jumper wire and ground the fence wire off to ground and get rid of the stray voltage while you repair the fence wire.
      With a meter you can be sure the fence wire is dead before touching it again.
      I know, stray voltage is hard to understand and its invisible to our eyes.
      There is another blog article, on our website, that is about Stray Voltage. It may be helpful for you to read it also:
      We have had several other comments on that article, so you are not alone !
      Hope this helps & please let us know how you progress with the problem.

  7. avatar Dre says:

    Just have a question bout getting a fencer shock… My husband was fencing the bout 3 days ago and he was sitting on the quad when he touched the fence with his hand that had a glove on it. He felt the shock, gave a beller and was thrown off the quad and landed a couple feet away from it on his side. He said he could feel the burn where it had entered and where it had come out altho there was no burn mark on the outside. At the time i just thot oh thats what happens on a farm. but after that he has been very sleepy and no energy at all. just wondering if we should still take him in to get it checked out or not??

    • avatar Gary Duncan says:

      Hi Dre,
      I sympathize with your concerns, but have no credintials to offer any medical advice – so suggest that you seek medical assistance, if you deem it neccessary.
      All the modern low impedance fence chargers put out a short duration of a pulse. The on-time of the pulse is very short. To be labeled as low impedance I think that the pulse duration must be less than 3/1000′s of a second in duration, and most are well below that.
      I once did consult a physician ragarding electric shock from fence chargers. One of my customers had a history of heart problems so he therefore had some personal concerns.
      The answer I got from the doctor was; the only concern would be if the patient had an electronic device implanted within his body, such as a pacemaker. In this case an electric shock would be and should be a concern. This particular customer chose to purchase a charger that had a low output terminal, so he could reduce the amount of output energy , and he makes a point of turning off his energizer when working on his fence.
      I personally think that people as well as animals have different tolerance levels for electric shock. Mine is pretty weak as I said in the article above.
      I suppose that a fence charger, being an electronic devise could malfunction sometime during its lifetime. There is a meter that will measure the performance of the pulse, including the length of the duration. However, it is a pretty expensive meter and there arent many of them around. I know Tru-Test has one in their product line.
      Hope this helps.

  8. avatar heather says:

    ok i got electircuted on the 26 by a fence with animals. ever since then i haven’t been myself. feel shakey and numb, i had a headach, feel like my eye are blurry little bit

    • avatar Gary Duncan says:

      Hi Heather,
      Sorry for the delay in replying to you.
      We have had so many comments lately simular to yours I am going to make a dedicated effort to get some qualified answers. When I get them I will make a post on here.
      All I can do for now is give a personal opinion and furnish some input for comparisons.
      Most, if not all fence chargers available in the US that are sold in farm stores have a UL listing. They have gone thru extensive testing to verify that they are safe to use for both animal and human. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of information that I can find that is written for us laymen to understand.
      You can add to that a lot of variables from area to area or from one body build to another.
      [There are some security electric fence chargers that are of a lethal nature, but not available, over the counter, in the US, to the best of my knowledge. They are not for agriculural use. Areas of the world, such as South Africa, use them for home security. Those chargers have joule ratings of 75 joules or more.]
      Here is one comparable: a solar fence charger for a small fence project, will vary from 1/4 of a joule of power to 1 joule of power. A mid-size farm may use a charger with 6 joules of power. A large-sized farm may use a charger of 20 joules of power. The electric pulse that they put out is of a very short duration, and is high voltage and low amps. Overall, I would say that the average farm fence charger in use today is less than 6 joules of output power.
      For comparison, a “modern external defibrillator” used by emergency and medical personel will generally put out around 120 joules at the first pulse and ramp up if subsequent “hits” are required.
      I read that defibrillators are adjustable and that individual body make-up is generally a consideration. Each persons body will have different levels of resistance. Things such as dry skin, or different layers of fat between skin and body tissue may create more or less resistance.
      I “think” that this body make up probably has some bearing on how much discomfort each person feels from an electric shock from a fence charger. Thats just a personal opinion.
      Sorry I cant give you a definative answer, but I will see what the medical experts can give me to pass on.
      Hope this helps.

  9. avatar Rhiannon says:

    THANK YOU! All the stupid farm kids on Youtube make it look like it doesnt even hurt!

    I got shocked across my back today. My kids and I were throwing apple pieces to the lanlords horses, I couldn’t figure out why the stupid things wouldn’t come closer to the fence. The landlord had assured me when he moved his horses back in that he would not be turning the fence on. Its been off for a year! Apparently he changed his mind. As I reached under the fence to pick up an apple piece and toss it closer to the horses, leaning in the wet dirt, the electric fence zapped me across my whole back. I screamed, tried to stand up, and fell over. I laid on the ground for a while trying to convince my kids that I was fine and just didn’t feel like getting up. My whole body had pins and needles for a good 6 minutes. Its been hours. I feel like I was hit across the back with a baceball bat! I put ice on it…..don’t try that, it makes it worse.

  10. avatar gina says:

    I got shocked in the head when try to feed goats underneath somehow I got my head touching the electricl fence. I blacked out and just remember everyone asking me if I am okay. I hope I have no effects from it.

    • avatar Steve Freeman says:

      Hi Gina,

      Really should turn the fence off if you are going to be working around the fence and have a chance to touch the wire with your head. I would guess that if you are okay now you probably won’t have any effects. If you continue to feed your goats under the fence without turning off the wire and get shocked with your head as the point of contact them we may need to worry..

  11. avatar Rebekah Lockhart says:

    My son was playing at my brothers house last night and was crawling under the fence and got shocked in the head two times he was flat on the ground and it was a bit damp on the ground. My son passed out and had a seizure we called 911 and they came and took him to the hospital and he checked out fine. The ER doctor said the fence would have enough power to cause this, however my brother feels the fence would not have enough power and something else caused the seizure. Just curious what your thought are on this?

    • avatar Steve Freeman says:


      I am very thankful your son is okay. From your description of the event I would have to agree with the doctor.

  12. avatar Jackie Sheldon says:

    The owner of the lot next door to us (in a residential but unincorporated area) is trying to fight a drainage ditch being put in by the county. We (and neighbors who actually live here) need it badly so he is taking the fight to us. He is running an electric fence down several hundred feet of property line that floods badly. From your comments, it seems as if not just the fence but the drainage area will be subject to shock if we come in contact?

    Thanks for any insight or direction on this.

  13. avatar CURT R says:

    I hunt a piece of property that has cattle on it I often have to cross the eletric fences is there a way I can make a jumper wire so I can safely cross anywhere on the fence line

  14. avatar Steve Freeman says:

    Hi Curt,

    That’s not an easy question to answer. Of course the easiest answer is to ask the landowner to turn off the fence while you are hunting. In lieu of this solution I would need to know more in order to say there is a “safe” way to make the fence crossable. The new high voltage, low impedance chargers make it very difficult to dead short a fence.

    I had a friend who rode jumping mules at night in pursuit of his coonhounds. He carried a logging chain with him and whenever he came to an electric fence he would lay the chain on the fence which would dead short it and allow him to cross. The mules jump the fences- but not with the rider aboard so he still had to get through the fence. He told me one day that he is a little more “learned” about modern electric fencing after trying this trick [log chain on the fence] on one of our fences with the a high voltage, low impedance charger providing the power. He said he was “astraddle” the fence when he learned that a logging chain is not enough to dead short those new fangled chargers and it wasn’t going to be something he would forget anytime soon!

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