‘They know we’d never take them anywhere dangerous. They trust us so much. I’ve just had my 21st-birthday party and we raced in car headlights – they didn’t blink.'
Whether it’s a Nativity play, a Christmas market or racetrack, the ‘amazing’ camels of the Fossett family will be the calmest souls present. ‘We were on the set of Aladdin, with music, horses, crowds, and they were super chilled,’ says Daisy. ‘They know they’re good. Big-name film stars were enthralled.’
Daisy’s father, Joseph, was working as a lion tamer when he met Rebecca, who had ‘run away to the circus after Bedales and university. They met over a bucket of meat’. After Daisy was born, they moved into camels. Now, the family has eight: four Bactrians (two humps) and four Dromedaries (one), aged between six and 16 – they can live up to 40.
After a summer of racing, they’ll be out every weekend in the run up to Christmas, re-creating the journey of the Three Kings. ‘They’ve done the Brampton Christmas parade, appeared on stage and been inside Holy Trinity Church, Stratford.’
Training is relatively simple: ‘It’s food rewarded. They’re extremely greedy animals! Max stole a muffin straight out of my hand at Aladdin. One gulp, gone.’
The Fossetts slowly get them used to crowds, but the key is mutual respect. ‘They know we’d never take them anywhere dangerous. They trust us so much. I’ve just had my 21st-birthday party and we raced in car headlights – they didn’t blink.
‘They’re unbelievably clever, to the point that they’re naughty,’ Daisy adds. ‘The three Bactrian Bs, Bertie, Blizzard and Baxter, are like a gang of teenage boys.’ Believing the grass is always greener, ‘they’ll shuffle over the gate, one foot then the other, then hop the back legs over’.
Kazakh, the fourth Bactrian, was hand-reared after his mother rejected him. ‘He thought he was a person until he realised he wasn’t. He has the funniest personality – he likes photobombing. People freak out and he thinks it’s hilarious.’ Ruby is the matriarch Dromedary; ‘a 90-year-old grandmother or a baby could ride Kosovo’.
The Fossetts would like to breed and produce camel milk, which is ‘slightly more sour than cow’s milk and very healthy’, but for now, the Advent bells are calling.
Matthew Parris, the MP-turned-journalist/political commentator, keeps pet llamas at his home in Derbyshire. He spoke to Octavia Pollock.
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