Many different species have been used by land managers reintroducing grazing on Commons; sheep, cattle, ponies and even goats have been tried.
As in the New Forest, sheep do not appear to have been commonable animals on Ashdown Forest. Sheep were banned by custom, taken up by those complaining against attempts to enclose the Forest at the end of the 17th Century, reinforced by early-19th century court barons, and by drives of the Forest with impounding at Nutley. However, many turned out sheep - including farmers with large amounts of land. Although there appears to be no written evidence that suggests that sheep were excluded from some commons because of competition with deer, it was probably this reason originally. It is difficult to see why 18th and 19th century Commoners would object to sheep as deer were no longer an issue and would not have been since before the Commonwealth. There is plenty of evidence of sheep and deer being grazed together in the parks of the great houses.
These two charming young heifers, Dunragit Aster & Dunragit Acer, are a part of the recently acquired cattle herd that are now going to graze alongside the Hebridean sheep flock on Ashdown Forest.
We are initiating the cattle grazing because cattle are largely dog-proof, they graze in a different manner to sheep and can act as a precursor to sheep by breaking up tough swards.
We have chosen Galloway cattle because they are a very hardy hill breed capable of producing high quality beef from the lowest quality moorland grazing.
To add interest we are going to try and breed Riggit Galloways. These are a well-documented archaic strain of the Galloway cattle with a white stripe running down the spine. The Riggits have recently only been seen as sporadic throwbacks amongst other Galloway types principally the White Galloways.
Since Riggit marked Galloways are rare and expensive we have bought Riggit bred white Galloways and these will be crossed with a Riggit bull in an attempt to produce the desired line-back markings.
The cattle will be seen out on the Forest in the spring. We will be happy to see any volunteers who would like to get involved with looking after the livestock. Get in touch with the Forest Centre.
Three Riggit Galloway bullocks can now be seen on the North Chase of the Forest. Go to Townsends car park and walk down the hill to find them in their enclosure.