The owl and the dog went to sea...

YOU'VE heard about the owl and the pussycat – now meet the owl and the dog. Tiny owl Oran and English springer spaniel Fraggle have struck up an unlikely friendship.

YOU'VE heard about the owl and the pussycat – now meet the owl and the dog.

Tiny owl Oran and English springer spaniel Fraggle have struck up an unlikely friendship.

The odd couple got together after falconer Gary Butcher brought Oran, a breed known as a little owl, to his Stowmarket home to be hand-reared.

Motherly Fraggle very quickly took Oran under her wing and the two are now firm friends.


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Gary, 22, of Cardinals Road, said: "Fraggle started mothering Oran as soon as he game home with me.

"They've become really good mates. They seem to have great fun together and run around all over the house with each other.

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"Oran always stays close to Fraggle, he seems to think she's his mum.

"Fraggle will stand next to Oran's box when he's inside and will prick up her ears whenever he make's a noise.

"Then when I let him out he runs straight up to her and starts nibbling her toes."

Gary explained he has had owls and other birds of prey in the house before but they have never formed such a close relationship with his dog.

He said: "You have to introduce the birds to dogs so they are used to them when we take them out to exhibitions.

"I've had a couple of owls at home, but Fraggle's never really bothered with any of them before.

"She's got to the age now where she's about ready to breed so she's got very motherly.

"Whenever he's tired he goes straight over to her, she's treating him like her puppy really.

"Oran's even started to expect a feeding. Sometimes when Fraggle's eating he wanders over to have a look and she has to tell him he's not getting any of her dinner."

Seven-week old Oran has just started making his first tentative test flights, but Gary explained the earth-bound relationship with Fraggle will be able to continue.

He said: "Little owls are really good on the ground and Oran's really fast.

"A lot of their prey is on the ground – they go after bugs and beetles and worms so they need to be very mobile on the ground."

Although Oran has been welcomed into the family nest by Fraggle, it seems unlikely Gary's other pet was quite as welcoming.

He said: "I've got a three-foot milk snake, but I don't suppose they would get on that well."

Gary is a freelance falconer, but much of his work takes him to Suffolk Owl Sanctuary, in Pettaugh Road, Stonham Aspal.

Oran accompanies him on every visit as it vital to build a strong bond between handler and bird.

But Gary's tasks at the owl centre involve dealing with other birds of prey.

The Star revealed last week how the centre was planning to present two rare Red Kites to the Queen as a Jubilee gift.

Eagles, vultures, falcons and hawks are also part of the brood at the sanctuary.

But the owls are very much the stars of the show at the moment, with two newborn snowy owls stealing everybody's hearts.

Gary said: "They're doing really well, they're both great characters. One of them is leaving for the south of France soon.

"He's going to be living just outside Monaco, so he's going to be a posh owl."

Factfile

n The Little Owl has links to the Greek goddess of divine wisdom Athene – its Latin name is Athene Noctua.

n Because of their divine links, little owls were seen as a good luck symbol in ancient Greece and often accompanied armies into battle.

n Even the money in people's purses had owl links – little owls appeared on some Athenian coins.

n According to early English folklore, alcoholism could be treated with raw owl eggs, which were thought to provide lifelong immunity to drunkeness.

n Owls range in size from the sparrow-sized Elf Owl to the Eurasian Eagle Owl which boasts a wing span of up to two metres and has been known to prey on deer and wolves.

Weblinks

www.the-owl-barn.com

www.owls.org

www.owlpages.com

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