In Bushy Park, which is also known as "deer park", a stag displayed its footballing skills to the amazement of passers-by. A mum, Katie O'Lone, was taking a stroll with her children after picking them up from nursery when she witnessed the rare sight. The lone animal was seen moving the ball across the water with its nose and horns.
According to Ms O'Lone, the stags often wallow in the river in Bushy Park in the early evening. On this particular day, the animals seemed to have football fever with one dribbling upstream having found an abandoned football stuck in the reeds. She added, "I spotted it as I was walking back from doing the nursery run. Light entertainment before bed."
The sighting of a stag playing football has captivated many on social media, with viewers expressing their amazement at the animal's remarkable skills. One user commented, "That's amazing! Who knew stags could play football?" Another user joked, "Looks like we've got a new player for the England national team."
Bushy Park is home to roughly 320 red and fallow deer, which have roamed freely throughout the parks since at least the Tudor period. During this period, their ancestors might have found themselves at the receiving end of arrows from Henry VIII out hunting. Although the herds are kept out from the nearby Woodland Gardens and other protected areas, officials say they are indispensable in maintaining the park's biodiversity.
Grazing by the deer contributes to variations in the structure of plants in the area, while cutting is less effective and can further damage ant hills. The red deer that can be seen milling about in the park represent the UK's largest native mammals. On the other hand, fallow deer are smaller, boasting a cream-to-dark-brown colour that makes them easily distinguishable from their red counterparts.
Despite being a popular attraction in the park, park officials often remind locals and tourists that these deer are wild animals. Parkgoers are therefore urged to keep a comfortable distance of at least 50 metres at all times. This is especially important during mating season, as stags often rut in competition for mating partners, and birthing season between May and July, when does can become aggressive if they feel their new offspring are in danger.