Animals on our Farmland Nature Trail
Minnie and Billy are pure-bred pygmy Goats. They are hardy and good natured and like lots of attention when they are not busy eating, which is most of the time! The breed is originally from Cameroon in West Africa but can adapt to all climates. They are friendly and comical, just fun to be around.
The sheep and cattle you will see are rare or heritage breeds. Heritage animals were bred over time to develop traits that made them particularly well-adapted to local environmental conditions. Breeds used in intensive farming are bred to produce lots of milk or gain weight quickly for meat. Heritage breeds are generally better adapted to withstand disease and survive in harsh environmental conditions, and their bodies can be better suited to living on pasture.
Dexter – Dexters are small, red or black in colour and were a very popular breed in Ireland for thousands of years until their numbers declined in the middle of the 20thcentury. The breed is enjoying a revival worldwide.The Dexter originated in the South Western region of Ireland.
They are descended from the predominately black cattle of the early Celts. They are a gentle breed that has been part of small farms since ancient times. They are the smallest natural breed of cattle in Europe.
Irish Moiled – The Irish Moiled is the rarest of the surviving indigenous breeds of Irish cattle and the only surviving domestic livestock native to Ireland. Again, the breed was popular in the 19thcentury and thrived on hilly ground but almost became extinct in the middle of the last century. The breed is still on the endangered list.
The name Moile (or Maol) is derived from the Gaelic language and relates to the distinctive dome or mound on top of the head. They are a hornless (polled) breed, red in colour and characteristically marked by a white line on the back.
Jacob sheep – A story in the Bible, Genesis 30, describes how the patriarch Jacob selectively bred spotted sheep as his wage for working for his father-in-law in Syria. Jacob and then returned to Canaan with his sheep. When Jacob’s son, Joseph, became a governor of Egypt, Jacob went to Egypt with his flock of spotted sheep. From Egypt, the migration of the breed took place across North Africa to Europe and Ireland.
From such noble beginnings come our females called Kimberly, Mikado, Coco and Cream after a certain Irish brand of biscuits!
Soay Sheep – Our other breed of sheep originate in Soay, one of the islands of St. Kilda in Scotland where they have survived as a stranded, isolated population for thousands of years, completely unmanaged by man. They are thought to have descended from the flocks of primitive Bronze Age shepherds. They are classed as ‘critical by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust
Here are some of the rare breeds of chickens along the way:
Favorelle – A haughty French breed complete with beard, muffs feathered feet.
Welsumer – This is a Dutch breed, the Kellogs Cereal rooster is a Welsumer. The females are highly prized for their beautiful eggs. Their plumage is luxurious and vibrant. They are great at foraging around the farm and finding things to eat.
Derbyshire Redcap – Derbyshire Redcaps are a dual purpose chicken breed from England distinguished by their huge rose combs. Unlike most chickens with red earlobes, the Redcap lays white eggs! Redcaps are good foragers and they’re very hardy, so it is a shame that this breed is now nearing extinction.
Sussex – Our beautiful Sussex is very friendly and easily handled. Her curious nature means she will often follow us around for a treat or fly over the fence to check if anybody is having a picnic. This “speckled” variety has plumage that gives them some camouflage from predators, too. Many tend to get more speckles after each successive moult, so they get prettier with age
Buff Sussex – These two are also a Sussex breed but with a bit of English Game which gives them a leaner shape. They are constantly on the move.
Gold Pencilled Hamburg – This breed is highly prized by breeders for its elegance and beauty.
Lavender Pekin Bantam – The Pekin is a very gentle bird. They are good layers of small eggs but are broody, making them great mums. They make excellent pets for children as they are tame. They settle very well and require little space. They are normally a robust and long-lived bird that loves company
Polish – This is a very special and unique breed of chicken with their huge bouffant crest of feathers and v-shaped comb. They are tame but their behaviour can be a bit wacky since their crest limits their vision. Polish Frizzle are even stranger loooking!