From bearded dragons at Papplewick to peacocks at Whitgift, school pets come in all shapes and species.
School dogs have had their turn in the limelight, now it’s time to celebrate the more unusual pets trotting, scurrying and slithering around British independent schools.
Did you know you can walk a goat? Neither did we until we saw these lovely pygmy goats on their walks at Sedbergh Prep. The goats have boarded at the school since they were born, sleeping in the stables at night and grazing the fields by day alongside the school’s chickens and rabbits. They are walked every break time by the children involved in the animal club.
The hundred or so boys who make up the Herpetology Club at Papplewick care for a menagerie of reptiles. To be more precise, around 60 snakes – mostly corn snakes and all constrictors (not poisonous) – more than 20 bearded dragons and a number of leopard geckos. As well as feeding them, the boys study them in science lessons: weighing them, observing how many times they shed their skins and recording the number of mice they need to eat to grow to a certain size.
The usual pets teach boys basic genetics. They even become experienced in breeding different kinds of frogs and bearded dragons in unusual colours. According to the headmaster Tom Bunbury, they have been trying to produce a bearded dragon with a red head and yellowish body for the past nine years, and some of the new arrivals look very promising.
The most dedicated boys in the snake club are awarded their ‘snake colours’ and a special school tie embroidered with reptiles. Snazzy!
This all-boys prep school in North Yorkshire has one unusual extra-curricular club that has proved very popular amongst students thanks to a trio of furry ferrets. Meeting every Wednesday and a Saturday, the ferreting club is led by head of maths Mr Bullas.
Many schools across the country, including Bedales and Milton Abbey, rear pigs along with a host of other animals on their very own farms. What makes the two piggies that came to Blundell’s particularly special were the conditions of their arrival: a centuries-old school tradition.
In 2013, Lewis Steer and Charlotte Routledge revived the school rule that a head pupil can choose to keep a pig on site. The head boy and head girl both agreed they wanted to revive the tradition and sought the permission and permits required to bring the porkers onto the premises. They named the saddle back cross pigs Randle and Russell.
Only a Whitgiftian could be delayed on their trip to class by a peacock strutting across its path. The magnificent birds are not the only animals to make the most of the 45-acre, parkland site. Boys at the school can sit in the Japanese water garden and watch flamingoes and African cranes stroll about too. The wildlife was introduced by headmaster Dr Christopher Barnett to create ‘an inspiring background to stimulate young minds’.