October 21, 2007

Thanks to the bluetongue virus, this Christmas in Beverley ponies will be pulling Santa's sleigh, rather than reindeer.

Reindeer are out, ponies are in. The recent outbreak of bluetongue virus in Britain has put paid to plans for the community of Beverley, in England, to use reindeer to pull Santa's sleigh in their annual Christmas parade.

The bad news for festival organisers came when biosecurity officials extended the disease protection zone into their area.

However Santa's sleigh, which leads the parade in the town near Hull, and is the highlight for children who turn out to watch, will not be left stranded.

Organisers are hoping to harness up shetland ponies for the job.

The Scotland-based reindeer are well outside the bluetongue restricted zone. Current restrictions means they would be able to visit the town for the parade, but would then be unable to leave the area to return home.