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The ancient Uffington White Horse may actually be a dog, a vet has said.

Olaf Swarbrick has said that the 3,000 year old, 374 foot long carving filled with crushed white chalk on top of White Horse Hill in Oxfordshire has more canine-like rather than horse-like features.

But the National Trust, one of the organisations which protects Britain's ancient treasures and buildings, has dismissed Swarbrick's claims.

"What you have to remember it's a stylised horse, almost like a stencil on the hillside, so it's not a complete figure of a horse, it's a suggestion," said the Trust's Keith Blacksall.

Like Stonehenge in neighbouring Wiltshire, nobody knows for show why the Uffington White Horse was created, even though written records date back to the 12th Century

It used to be thought that the horse was carved by the Saxons to celebrate victory in a battle under King Alfred, but this view has been discredited (for a start, the horse would have to be much younger than 3,000 years old because Alfred reigned from 871 to 899).

On 3rd June, members of the campaign group Fathers 4 Justice spray-painted the horse's head purple and unfurled a banner at the site which read "fathers 4 justice stop the secret family courts."

The Uffington White Horse is not the only one in England. There are, in fact, several giant carved white horses but most are much more modern. One overlooks Weymouth Bay on the Dorset coastline. It was cut on a hill (also called White Horse Hill) in 1807 by British soldiers to pass the time while awaiting Napoleon's invasion, which never came (if only his invasion barges hadn't sunk in the Channel).


Vet's dog theory over ancient Uffington White Horse


The figure dates back 3,000 years to the Bronze Age

The Uffington White Horse has been caught up in an identity battle after it was suggested it could be a dog.

Retired vet Olaf Swarbrick has said the ancient carving in the Oxfordshire hillside is not anatomically correct and has more canine-like features.

But the National Trust, which said soil samples indicated that the figure dated back 3,000 years to the Bronze Age, has rejected Mr Swarbrick's ideas.

However it admitted there were many theories about the carving.

Written records date back to the 12th Century but do not give proof of its exact age or why it was created.

It used to be thought that the figure was constructed by the Saxons to celebrate a victorious battle of King Alfred's. This view is now mainly discredited.

'Perpetual canter'

Mr Swarbrick wrote a letter to scientific journal the Veterinary Record appealing for his fellow professionals to cast their opinion on his claim.

He said he believed the figure looked like a hunting hound at full stretch.

"Anatomically it's not a horse at all," Mr Swarbrick said.

"It's too long and too lean and it has a long tail - horses don't have a tail the length of that stylised creature at Uffington."

Mr Swarbrick joked that its name might have to be changed.

"If I'm correct, it needs to have its horse removed - maybe the wolf hound of Uffington.

"The other thing about short-carved figures is that over the years they have had to be cleaned and refurbished and they do change in their shape over periods."

Keith Blacksall, from the National Trust, said he thought its shape suggested the figure was supposed to be a horse.

"What you have to remember it's a stylised horse, almost like a stencil on the hillside, so it's not a complete figure of a horse, it's a suggestion.

"I would like to think it's frozen in perpetual canter across the downs.

"Visibility wise you can't see the entire figure, my theory is it's meant to be revered by the living and by the gods and the ancestors - a view from above and below."

news.bbc.co.uk
Last edited by Blackleaf; Oct 13th, 2010 at 01:30 PM..