Plea to stop pet dogs attacking livestock at archaeological sites

Sheep grazing at Middleton Mount, the remains of a small motte and bailey castle owned by Norfolk Archaeological Trust

Sheep grazing at Middleton Mount, the remains of a small motte and bailey castle owned by Norfolk Archaeological Trust - Credit: NAT

Dog owners have been warned to stop their pets attacking livestock and harassing visitors at some of Norfolk's key archaeological sites.

Henry Kilvert, a trustee of Norfolk Archaeological Trust, said out-of-control dogs have become an increasing problem, particularly at the NAT's three most-visited sites - Caistor Roman Town outside Norwich, Burgh Castle near Great Yarmouth and St Benet’s Abbey in the Broads.

He said grazing sheep and cattle play a vital role in maintaining these historic areas, but tenant graziers and shepherds are being driven away because of dog attacks - including one last year which killed three lambs.

Sheep grazing at Caistor Roman Town

Sheep grazing at Caistor Roman Town outside Norwich - Credit: NAT / Debra Stokes

He urged dog walkers to keep their pets on leads around livestock and other public visitors.

"We are all about public access, but this problem is getting worse," he said. 

"Last year we had a terrible case of livestock worrying at Bloodgate Hill (the Iron Age fort at South Creake near Fakenham), in which three lambs were killed, and the tenant says they don't want to come back.

"It is not just the loss of the animals, the effect it has on the shepherd when he sees the stock killed is pretty devastating.

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"We have a number of quite large sites and it is terribly important that they are kept grazed. 

"Caistor Roman town is a vast area with something like 40,000 visitors a year and we want people to come with their dog, because it is part of the countryside - but if they kept them on a lead it would not be a problem."

Mr Kilvert said dogs could also cause problems with cattle and calves, which graze areas including land at St Benet's Abbey.

"There is a potential problem with trampling, and dogs can carry a disease called neosporosis which can cause abortions in cattle," he said. 

He added that he believes the growing number of incidents has been partly driven by the rise in dog ownership during the Covid pandemic.

"I think lockdown has affected it," he said. "People were able to come out to places like Caistor Roman Town and a lot more people have got dogs who probably didn't traditionally have dogs, so don't know how to train them or look after them as well as people who have had them long-term.

Henry Kilvert, a trustee of Norfolk Archaeological Trust

Henry Kilvert, a trustee of Norfolk Archaeological Trust - Credit: Jill Kilvert