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Rare breed makes a comeback.

Byline: By STEVE DUBE Western Mail

A rare and endangered species of horse is grazing happily in a Welsh forest. Visitors to Clocaenog Forest near Ruthin can imagine themselves back in the Neolithic and Iron Ages when Prze- walski horses were native to Wales.

Forestry Commission Wales is using three of the horses to graze an area in the forest called the Enclosures.

The horses, which are now classified as extinct in the wild, once roamed wild in Welsh woodland.

They were introduced from the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay and are surplus mares from the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme.

The horses roam around a 12-acre former Iron Age settlement in the woods, where they play a valuable management role.

'Although they are known as the Mongolian wild horse, the Przewalski horse roamed Britain three to 4,000 years ago, so this truly is a scene from the past,' said FC Wales conservation manager Iolo Lloyd.

'Przewalski horses appear on cave paintings, and now we've brought them back to the forest after all this time as part of a modern approach to the challenge of managing this significant site.'

The site has been designated a scheduled monument by Cadw because it was once a Neolithic or Iron Age settlement with livestock enclosures where animals were held overnight or during the seasonal movement of grazing regimes.

Unlike many Iron Age settlement, the site was not fortified, and a key feature of the heritage designation suggests it was used during a calm period of what was historically an era of tribal conflicts.

As well as helping the international conservation project, the reintroduction of the Przewalski horses is seen as the ideal solution to the problem of managing such a sensitive site.

'There are many benefits from grazing,' said Iolo Lloyd. 'Because it's a scheduled ancient monument, we're not allowed to take vehicles on the site and we have problems of scrub control.

'But because these horses are extremely hardy they will eat a lot of the scrub, thereby helping vegetation structure and biodiversity.

'It's more environmentally friendly than throwing chemicals all over the place.'

The horses were introduced to Clocaenog exactly a year ago and visitors can now get a better view of the rare animals from a viewing platform which has been erected in the woods, along with an interpretation panel giving an insight to their fascinating history.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 5, 2004
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