Matt Baker: a celebration of the Queen's love of animals

Countryfile's Matt Baker explains how the Queen's love of animals – whether that's thoroughbred horses or racing pigeons – shows how animals can be a great leveller

Published: May 30th, 2022 at 8:21 am
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I don’t think there’s anything more levelling than animals; they simply don’t care who we are or where we are from. Considering what I have experienced of the Royal Family’s love of animals over the years, it was no surprise for me to see Her Majesty the Queen with two beautiful white fell ponies in her most recent photo portrait.

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Behind the curtain of ceremony, I’ve been lucky enough to experience the Royal Family’s passion for animals first-hand. I remember my very first meeting with the Queen; as soon as we got on to the subject of my Blue Peter dog Meg, and the fact that I grew up on a farm, the tone of our encounter changed sharpish. The Queen was fascinated to hear how, as a working sheep-dog, Meg coped with the Blue Peter studio. Our monarch just got it and understood my challenges dealing with Meg’s herding instincts.

Matt Baker with Ben Fogle and their respective dogs at Crufts in 2006/Credit: Getty Images

Seeing that recent photo of the Queen took me back to 2018 and the lawns of Windsor Castle, where I took another of the Queen’s fell ponies, Emma, for a walk in the grounds. A highlight for me was mucking out her stable – the ultimate claim to fame for someone who loves a pitchfork as much as I do.

Back in the day, after work and between Blue Peter shoots, I used to go to help exercise the Household Cavalry horses in Hyde Park and ride out with the King’s Troop on exercise, practising for the ceremonial gun salutes. I also went carriage driving with the late Prince Philip’s team of horses, and sensed his passion for the sport and experienced the power of his animals. I have also filmed with the Prince of Wales on Home Farm. Again, we had a passionate conversation about heritage farm-animal breeds, which led to me buying some of His Royal Highness’s Hebridean sheep. They are still going strong in our flock to this day.

What I love about conversation like this is how it leads to fascinating insights into the type of animals people are fond of. During a filming trip to Sandringham, I was surprised to discover the Queen’s passion for pigeons when I was fortunate enough to visit the royal pigeon loft. Her Majesty is patron of quite a few pigeon-racing societies, including the Royal Pigeon Racing Association and the National Flying Club.

In fact, I loved that loft so much that I have since built a similar walk-in design of indoor pens for our chickens on the farm. Which, if I ever get the chance to meet the Queen again, I will tell her about – and we can pick up where we left off, talking about the animals!

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Matt Baker is a British television presenter – when not on television, he spends his time outdoors.

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