Animals at the Arboretum

Livestock

During your visit, you may come across livestock at the Arboretum, for example domestic breeds of pig such as Oxford Sandy and Blacks, also known as the 'Plum Pudding' or 'Oxford Forest' pig. They have red-orange hair with black spots, and darken to a grey colour when mature.

During the winter months, you may see the distinctive Castlemilk Morrit breed of sheep which play an important role in maintaining our wildflower meadows. This year a rare native breed of cattle, called Aberdeen Angus, are grazing our meadows. 
Cattle graze meadows in a different way to sheep and are very good at eating the woodier weeds and pulling up the under layer of thatch that sometimes prevents the seed getting to the ground. Ask at the Welcome Centre to find out whether there are cattle, sheep or pigs at the Arboretum during your visit. We kindly ask visitors to keep a reasonable distance from the livestock, and not to feed them.

Wildlife

The Arboretum is home to a wide variety of birds, mammals and insects. The different types of habitat, including woodland, coppice, wildflower meadow, and exotic trees and shrubs, support everything from deer and badgers to dragonflies and beetles.

When you arrive, take a moment to stay quiet and still, and watch our bird feeder next to the ticket office. Here you may catch a glimpse of great tits, blue tits, coal tits, woodpeckers, nuthatches and chaffinches. The loudest birds here are our resident peacocks, which call to impress the peahens, whilst displaying their prominent fan-like tail. You may also hear the shrill cry of the red kites that glide overhead.

While you are on your walk, look out for the tell-tale signs of local mammals and birds, such as droppings, footprints and burrows, which can all give clues as to what lives here. You may catch a glimpse of a deer, hare or a stoat, each of which are can be spotted in the coppice and in Palmer's Leys.

The meadows and ponds are a breeding place for butterflies, dragonflies and bees in spring and summer. If you see something interesting on your visit, please let our Ticket Office staff know who can log it in our records.

Peafowl

The Indian peacocks and peahens at the Arboretum are not domesticated, and have lived here ever since their ancestors were introduced from the Indian subcontinent in the 19th century. There are usually 15 birds on site, although the number fluctuates throughout the year because many also live in the neighbouring village of Nuneham Courtenay.

The blue-necked males display to the females between February and July, creating huge fans with their tail feathers. They often accompany this with strutting and shivering movements, and loud repetative calls that sounds a little like a cat's 'mee-ow'. The peacocks shed their impressive tail feathers every year in July, and regrow them over the autumn and winter months.

The peahens have short tails and grey-brown plumage (except one peahen who has a genetic mutation called 'black shoulder' and has speckled-white feathers).

You may see our peacocks scratching and having dust baths, chasing each other, or hopping up to the tops of some of our trees. These are all normal behaviours and can be very entertaining. If you spot a peacock lying with his leg sticking out strangely, don't panic – this is how they prefer to sunbathe.

Our popular peafowl find everything they need to survive at the Arboretum, eating a varied diet of insects, berries and other plant material. They provide wonderful entertainment for our visitors with their dazzling appearance and strange habits. While you enjoy watching them, please be mindful not to:

  • Feed the peafowl, or encourage or allow them to take your food
  • Approach closely, chase or try to touch the peafowl – they may defend themselves if threatened
  • Allow children to get too close, and always supervise their interactions
  • Be aware of peafowl on the main drive and in the carpark when arriving and departing.