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Last Updated: Monday, 4 December 2006, 11:31 GMT
Goat guarded from festive vandals
This year's Gavle goat
This year's goat...
Arsonists who enjoy burning down a festive Swedish straw goat may have met their match this year.

In the 40 years since the tradition started, the giant goat of Gavle has often gone up in flames within days.

But this year the 13-metre (43ft) high goat has a coat of flame-resistant chemicals, and the authorities are determined it will see in the New Year.

"No-one is going to get our goat this year," says a local spokeswoman with confidence.

Those who remain concerned can reassure themselves of the goat's wellbeing by watching on the "goatcam".

Gruff justice

Just 10 of the goats, which are built in the town's central square, have survived beyond Christmas since 1966.

Last year's Gavle goat
...last year's goat
Some have been burnt down within hours of being erected during the first week of December.

The culprits are seldom caught. However, a 51-year-old American tourist spent 18 days in jail after being convicted of setting it alight in December 2001.

It is not the first time authorities have put their faith in a flame-proof coating - a substance tried before washed off in the rain.

This one is waterproof, says Gavle spokeswoman Anna Oestman, and while its hooves could still be singed, a full scale torching would now be "impossible".

Goats have a special place in Swedish tradition, and it was a goat which in earlier centuries delivered festive gifts before Santa Claus took over that role.

Country profile: Sweden
04 Sep 05 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Sweden
03 Dec 04 |  Country profiles

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