The late Queen’s love of animals, particularly horses and dogs, is well documented. It’s almost impossible to name all the horses and ponies that Her Majesty has enjoyed over the decades.
Her staff say she possessed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the care and welfare of equines gained over a lifetime of love and devotion. Her stable of thoroughbred race horses is among the finest in the land, producing many notable winners. And her concern to preserve rare breeds such as Cleveland Bays for the carriages at Buckingham Palace and her beloved Highland and Fell ponies endured over many decades too.
The Queen’s knowledge and expertise was well known. We are told that she named all of her horses and ponies herself and remembered the parentage of every single one. Indeed, for the official photograph to celebrate her 96th birthday in April she chose to be pictured with two Fell ponies, Bybeck Nightingale and Bybeck Katie (above), and her delight in their presence is clear for all to see.
The Fell is a versatile, working breed of mountain and moorland pony originating in the north of England and many were used to support the war effort at home in both the Great War and the Second World War. They were used underground in the production of coal, where the mine’s seam height allowed, and above ground for moving machinery and also hauling dairy produce to town from the colliery farms overlying the pits.
The Queen’s first ever corgi, named Susan, was an 18th birthday present in 1944. So strong was their bond, that the Queen snuck Susan on her honeymoon in 1947, much to the despair, we are told, of husband Prince Phillip. For over five decades she bred more than 30 Welsh corgis and walked them all twice a day until her mobility issues. The Queen was credited with creating the dorgi – a dachshund-corgi mix. This hybrid coming about when one of the Queen’s corgis mated with her sister Princess Margaret’s dachshund, Pipkin.
There is nothing documented to show a link between Corgis with either World War One or WW2. In 2014, however, Dr David Nott, a vascular surgeon, visited Buckingham Palace shortly after returning home from Syria. As he was meeting with Queen Elizabeth, he was overcome by a PTSD attack. Sensing something was wrong, the Queen introduced her Corgis and suggested that Dr Nott feed them with her. The two fed the dogs for 20 minutes during their lunch, helping calm Dr Nott and allowing him to recover from the attack.
“Stroking animals, touching them, and feeding them – we just talked about the dogs and how many she had. She was just so warm and so wonderful. I will never forget it,” Dr Nott told the BBC.
As well as horses and dogs, the Queen had a passion for pigeons. She was patron of a number of pigeon racing societies in recognition of her interest in the sport, most notably the Royal Pigeon Racing Association and the National Flying Club.
She kept more than 200 birds in special lofts on the Sandringham Estate, In February 2016 she came to the aid of tearful schoolchildren by donating one of her racing pigeons after a cat wiped out the pupils’ own flock. Devastated youngsters at Longshaw Primary School, in Blackburn, Lancashire, were left heartbroken when a hungry cat broke into the birds’ enclosure on an allotment and killed them all.
When well-wishers heard of their plight, new birds were kindly donated to the school and a free trip to the Royal Loft at the Queen’s estate of Sandringham was organised. While there, Her Majesty saw to it that the stunned youngsters were given one of her own prized pigeons as a gift. The bird, was one of a select few pigeons in the world that could wear a ring on its leg bearing the initials ‘ER’.
- In celebration of Her Majesty’s 70-year reign War Horse Memorial produced a Platinum Purple Poppy collection (pictured below). Pin badges, knitted purple poppies for pets and a special bracelet are available from our SHOP and are sold in support of our 2022 Animal Purple Poppy Fund.