Star-struck beasts put out to pasture

Kate Watson-Smyth on the Tamworth Two's bid to remain in the spotlight

Kate Watson-Smyth
Sunday 01 March 1998 00:02

WHEN Andy Warhol said everyone would have their 15 minutes of fame he was referring to humans. But it is not just people who make the news - our four-legged friends are often thrust into the media spotlight, only to vanish without trace days later.

The Tamworth Two wereflavour of the month when they escaped from an abattoir and the hunt for them dominated the headlines for a week. But what becomes of the pigs - and the ponies and pooches - once the flashbulbs stop popping?

The phenomenon began more than 30 years ago, with Pickles the mongrel, who found the Jules Rimet World Cup trophy under a hedge after it had been stolen in 1966. He was awarded a year's supply of food and went on to become a film star, appearing with June Whitfield in The Spy With A Cold Nose.

Others, of course, are simply never heard of again. Whatever became of the hamster that Freddie Starr was accused of eating? The story was hotly denied and the fate of young Supersonic has been lost in the mists of time.

But the Tamworth Two are unlikely to disappear. The most famous pigs in the world are recovering from their ordeal while their agent, Mark Borkowski, plans their future. He is convinced they will be major stars. "They are very big personalities and we have had so many offers for them," he said.

When they escaped, in January, the press was in hot pursuit. At the end of a tense week, they were tracked down and sent to an animal sanctuary to live, many thought, in contented obscurity for the rest of their days.

But their public awaits and shortly they will begin a hectic round of commitments. There are sponsorship deals, book-signings and Mr Borkowski is even planning a permanent site on the Internet.

But the pigs are not the only animals for whom fame can bring home the bacon. Maksat, a pure-bred Akhal-Teke stallion given to John Major by the President of Turkmenistan as a 50th birthday present, is being schooled in endurance riding at his new home in Wales.

He is on permanent lease to Lorna Winn, who competes at international levels in riding. "He is showing an amazing aptitude for endurance riding and he has an exceptional temperament. He could go far," she said.

Then there is Justin, a five-month-old Merens pony, presented to Tony Blair by the people of Arieges, in south-west France, when he holidayed there shortly after the election.

There was much debate about Justin's future. Was he too young to be separated from his mother? Would it be undiplomatic of the Blairs to leave their present behind? Should he be brought to live at Chequers? A spokesman for No 10 said yesterday that he was still living in Arieges and his future was a private matter for the Blair family.

Blackie the Donkey is perhaps the most heart-rending of the high-profile animals. The victim of abuse in Spain, he was rescued by the Daily Star, which paid pounds 280 to bring him to the UK in 1987. He died - of old age - in 1993 at a Donkey Sanctuary in Devon.

But it is Humphrey, the Downing Street Cat, whose star shone brightest. He arrived in the corridors of power as a stray in 1989 and became a familiar sight, until his abrupt retirement last year, amid rumours that Cherie Blair had little time for him. A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said yesterday that he was alive and happy in his new home. "He has put on weight and is feeling much better," she said.

But some of the most popular stars simply disappear from the public eye for ever, sparking Elvis-style sightings across the globe. Picture a palm-fringed beach somewhere in South America: a stallion trots across the sand and riding on the back of the Derby-winning Shergar (for surely it is he) is the raven-haired figure of Lord Lucan.

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