Duke could be world’s tallest horse after growth spurt.
Britain’s tallest horse could now be the biggest in the world after a growth spurt saw him shoot up to nearly 6ft 8inches.
Owners say a diet of herbal tea and Granny Smith apples has triggered the two inch growth in just one year.
In May 2008 Duke, a the six-year-old shire horse, measured 6ft 6ins – or 19.3 hands tall.
At the time it made him smaller than Radar, a Canadian shire horse living in Texas.
But the sudden spurt means Duke is now leading the way after he was measured at just under 6ft 8ins tall – or 20.1 hands from the ground to the horse’s withers – the highest part of the back at the base of a horse’s neck.
He is now one of three horses fighting for the accolade of the tallest horse in the world.
Sara Ross, the owner of two-ton Duke said she was amazed at the horse’s continued growth.
“Duke has been unwell for the past six weeks or so, but is well on the road to recovery with the help of buckets of herbal tea and apples,” said Mrs Ross.
“We couldn’t believe it when we measured him and found he’s grown so much in the past year.”
Ice cream maker Frank Frederick has flown in an Italian opera tenor to sing to his herd of Friesian cows in the hope they will produce creamier milk.
Marcello Bedoni, one of Europe’s leading tenors, flew to Lancashire especially for the concert following an invitation from Mr Federici who is re-launching an 100-year-old brand.
The gelato, which goes on sale this month, has been faithfully recreated from a century old family recipe.
Its creator Antonio Federici, who lived near Portofino on the Italian Riviera, believed that listening to the opera he loved was beneficial to his cows and co-workers.
He was convinced that it stimulated the production of endorphin-rich milk and created a happy working environment and wrote it down as an essential ingredient to the recipe.
The recipe, which has been handed down through the generations, has now been passed onto his grandson Mr Frederick.
Mr Frederick says; “My grandfather always sang to the cows before milking and in our quest to recreate the gelato my brother and I enjoyed as children, we are sticking faithfully to his recipe.
The cows will enjoy the recital and this will be reflected in the quality of the milk they produce for us. The passion of the music will be reflected in the product. We also plan to stage opera performances within the Antonio Federici factory this summer for our work force so that everyone enjoys the benefits of this wonderful music. ”
Rats across Britain are evolving a resistance to poison that makes them almost impossible to kill, scientists have warned.
Genetic mutations have produced a new breed of “super rat” with DNA that protects the vermin from standard toxins, according to Professor Robert Smith at the University of Huddersfield.
Ratcatchers in Berkshire and Hampshire were the first to report that their poisons were no longer effective, which experts put down to increased immunity among the pests.
But as the poison-resistant rats continue to spread, tests have revealed that they boast an entirely new strand of DNA that wards off attacks from pesticides.
Swindon in Wiltshire is the latest town to suffer an infestation, with exterminators reporting a 500 per cent increase in the rodents. Many are turning to traps, air rifles and even dogs in an effort to keep the populations under control.
Prof Smith of the university’s applied sciences department warned that “super rats” may be thriving in communities across Britain. The Government no longer provides funding to track resistance, meaning the scale of the problem is unclear.
“Natural selection means that when you have a rat population in your town, poison will kill the ones that aren’t resistant, the ones that survive may have the gene, they then have babies who can receive the gene themselves,” he said.
“There are mutations and changes in their DNA that alter the ability of rats to deal with these poisons. It appears to be moving west and has now been located in Swindon and Bristol. It is a warning of things to come.”
There are now thought to be around 80 million rats in Britain, a rise of more than 200 per cent since 2007.
Puppy eats whole alphabet of fridge magnets.
A puppy had to undergo emergency surgery after eating an entire alphabet of fridge magnets, vets confirmed.
Golden Labrador Jack was recovering from a castration operation and was left sleeping in the kitchen at his home in Plymouth, Devon.
But the next morning owner Emma Keers said she was shocked to find six-month-old Jack had eaten every one of her alphabet fridge magnets and he was rushed to the vets.
She said: “After Jack’s surgery, he was sleepy after the anaesthetic so I put him in the kitchen to recover overnight.
“The next morning I noticed the whole alphabet was missing from the fridge though Jack wasn’t showing any signs of being ill.
“He can be quite greedy though.”
Senior veterinary surgeon at the Plymouth PDSA PetAid hospital, Robert Newcombe, said: “We had to operate straight away with both a gastrotomy where we opened up his tummy and an enterotomy to remove more pieces of fridge magnets that had made their way to his intestine.
“The letters were well chewed and not easy to identify and as well as finding around 30 pieces of chewed plastic, he had eaten some white rubbery cloth.”
Ms Keers said she’s not buying any more fridge magnets and Jack now sleeps in the utility room away from the fridge.
A cat who poked its head into the wheel of a car needed to be cut out by firefighters after becoming stuck.
Casper was trapped for an hour with only his head peeping through the tiny hole in the middle of the wheel before he was spotted by passers-by.
They contacted the RSPCA who took the tyre and cat to a nearby fire station. Firfighters spent an hour using specialist small cutting gear to free him.
“We’ve seen lots of unusual cases but this was certainly a new one for us,” said Watchmanager James Fawcett, from Bury St Edmunds fire station, Suffolk.
“The poor cat wasn’t very happy and kept trying to bite and scratch which made it very difficult for us. We had to use cutting equipment to chip away at the wheel and it took the best part of an hour.
“We made a special plastic guard to fit between his head and the cutters to protect him. The cat was fine afterwards although his skin was a bit raw around his neck.”
The Siamese, who was a stray, was taken to a local vets to be checked over and is now being cared for by a member of the RSPCA.
“The cat was very lucky to be rescued and it’s great that we were contacted about him,” said a spokesman for the RSPCA.
“He is absolutely fine now. He’s staying with one of our officers until an owner can be found.”
A couple’s obsession with Star Wars inspired them to theme their wedding on the blockbuster films – with the groom playing Han Solo and the bride Princess Leia.
Duncan Thomson, 41, and Sammi Gardiner, 39, got married in an unusual ceremony surrounded by friends and family all dressed as characters from the sci-fi movies.
In a pun on the films’ famous phrase, “may the force be with you”, they chose Monday as the date for the service, so they could bill it as “May the 4th be with you”.
The couple, from the Isle of Wight, even invited the movie’s director George Lucas, who wrote back to them saying he was unable to attend.
However, despite his absence, the bride and groom tied the knot as the film’s hero and heroine, exchanging vows themed on their favourite scenes.
During the wedding in Shanklin on the island, Mr Thomson told his bride: “I promise to protect you from carbon freezing and promise to protect you from the Dark Side, through hyperspace and into the far reaches of the galaxy.”
The couple were joined by Mr Thomson’s son Kieren, 18, who, as best man, played the part of Solo’s sidekick Chewbacca the wookie.
His daughter Charlotte, 20, carried out her duties as head bridesmaid while acting out the part of Queen Padme Amidala.
Evil villain Darth Vader, played by friend Dan Cawpheray, delivered readings in the style of the Star Wars scripts, flanked by two Imperial Stormtroopers.
He told the congregation: “Members of the Galactic Empire, Duncan and Sammi met a long time ago, in a place far, far away. The force is strong with these two.
“If you do not underestimate the power of marriage then together you can rule your house as husband and wife.”
The pair decided on the theme because their first date in May 2005 was a trip to the cinema to see the Star Wars film Revenge of the Sith.
Mr Thomson, an amateur astrologist, said: “We had both been married before with traditional services and wanted to do something a bit different and fun to put a smile on everyone’s face.
“We have been sourcing costumes for ages and most of them have been shipped over from America but we are really pleased with how it all went.
Following the ceremony, the couple departed for a honeymoon on a cruise to the Mediterranean, with a special guard of honour using light sabres.
Sammi, an IT worker, said: “The films brought us together and are something that our families, young and old, have always loved.”
List of animal myths.
Goldfish do not have three second memories
The belief that goldfish have a memory span of only three seconds is among a series of myths which have been exposed by the animal charity the PDSA.
Widely held ideas about dogs only being able to see in black and white or that purring means that a cat is content are also misconceptions, according to the group.
Even the assumption that a dog wagging its tail shows that it is happy is not necessarily true, according to research.
The charity – originally known as the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals – has compiled a list of some of the most common urban myths about pets believing that owners may be inadvertently harming them because of misinformation.
Among potentially dangerous misconceptions is the idea that dogs will only eat as much as they need, meaning that it should not be possible to overfeed them
In fact, being descended from wolves, they have a natural tendency to gorge, not knowing where their next meal is coming from, leaving them open to dangerous obesity if overfed.
Similarly the convention that rabbits should always be given carrots or that cats should be given milk are also potentially harmful, according to the veterinary charity.
The notion of “dog breath” is also exposed as a myth. Rather than being normal for a dog, foul smelling breath could be a sign of illness, the PDSA warned.
The belief that rabbits make ideal cagemates for guinea pigs has also been challenged by the group, which warned that the larger animal sometimes bullies it smaller neighbour.
It drew on a series of research projects to challenge deeply held misconceptions about pets.
The idea that goldfish have a memory span of only a few seconds was challenged by a study which found they remember to avoid an area of their tank associated with tiny electronic shocks for at least 24 hours.
Meanwhile tests involving food rewards have shown that dogs can distinguish blue, grey and yellow objects rather than seeing only in black and white.