Page last updated at 14:53 GMT, Sunday, 8 February 2004

Appeal to protect 'unique' cattle

Chillingham cattle
The Chillingham herd was almost wiped out in 2001

A multi-million pound appeal is under way to protect a unique herd of wild cattle.

The Chillingham herd is believed to be related to prehistoric auroch oxen, which once grazed across northern Europe.

The white longhorns have remained isolated and untouched next to Chillingham Castle in Northumberland since they were first penned into their park in 1260.

A reserve herd is kept at a secret location in Scotland, should disease wipe out the Northumberland stock.

The Chillingham Wild Cattle Association wants to buy more land around the castle to act as a buffer zone to ward off diseases.

The foot-and-mouth outbreak came within a mile of the park in 2001, threatening the breed.

The association, which is responsible for the care and management of the distinctive white cattle, hopes to own the park by January 2005 after raising £2m.

Ancestral home

Lord James Joicey, the group's chairman, said: "Visitors at present are faced with an awkward walk into the park, across land belonging to another farmer.

"Easier access for the visitor and the conservation of this very special park with all its rich biodiversity are top priorities."

The launch of the appeal comes just a year after the association was given the option of purchasing the parkland by its owner, College Valley Estates.

College Valley Estates bought the park in 1980 from the now-disbanded Tankerville Estate, as a goodwill gesture to ensure the ancestral home of the cattle was preserved.

The directors of the estate then leased the land to the association in an interim arrangement.

Philip Deakin, president of the association, said: "If we purchase the park the cattle and their grazing ground would be under the same ownership once more.

"But we want to buy more than the original grazing ground because it is important for biosecurity.

"With a threat like foot and mouth we have to have a barrier between where the cattle graze and outside.

"We also need to improve visitor access. At the moment it is difficult for people with disabilities to get to see the cattle."



SEE ALSO
Rare 'frozen herd' plan
09 Oct 01 |  England

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