Cotswold Wildlife Park

Rhinos at Cotswold Wildlife Park

Does your dog go crazy whenever a wildlife programme comes on TV? Whether they’re entranced by tigers, amazed by monkeys or fascinated by ferrets, I guarantee they’ll love the Cotswold Wildlife Park.

Plenty of farms and animal sanctuaries allow pets, but the Cotswold Wildlife Park takes things to the next level. Here, your dog can come face-to-face with lions, penguins, rhinos, giraffes and a whole host of other exotic animals.

The 160-acre park was created by John Heyworth on the Bradwell Grove estate in Oxfordshire – his family home. Centred around a stunning manor house, it opened in 1970 and has been dog-friendly since day one.

Ernie watches the penguins at Cotswold Wildlife Park

The dog-friendly park is home to one of the largest zoological collections in the UK. More than 260 species live here and, after a good few hours of exploring, we still didn’t manage to see them all.

It describes itself as a cross between a zoo and safari park. And, thanks to carefully-landscaped enclosures and non-intrusive fencing, you can get surprisingly close to the animals. In fact, the pens are so open, there were a few moments when we wondered if there was fencing at all!

The park is split into four sections – birds, mammals, primates and reptiles and amphibians. Dogs on leads are allowed everywhere, apart from indoor areas, the Bat House, Reptile House and Children’s Farmyard. They cannot go into areas with free-roaming animals either, which is absolutely fair enough.

Ernie meets donkeys at Cotswold Wildlife Park

Once you have bought your ticket and parked up, you’re free to explore. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll around or, between April and October, pay £1 to hop on a narrow-gauge railway. Not only does this give a great overview of the site but it’s a quirky attraction in its own right.

When we visited, at least a third of people in the park had dogs, which was wonderful. Many of the small-breed owners were also lifting their pets up so they could get a better look at the animals. It was reassuring to see I wasn’t the only crazy dog lady doing it!

Ernie wasn’t as wowed by the giraffes or rhinos as I was, but I think that was because they were quite far away. He was, however, fixated by the farm animals, who were just as interested in him. He loved watching the prairie dogs and meerkats scuttling around. That’s definitely the terrier in him!

Ernie meets goats at Cotswold Wildlife Park

The park puts on a number of daily talks and feeding sessions throughout the year. If you’re particularly keen on a certain animal, you can even sign up for a “close encounter” or be a keeper for the day.

Visitors are encouraged to bring their own picnics to the park. Alternatively, enjoy a meal in the Oak Tree Restaurant onsite, which serves a great selection of reasonably-priced meals and snacks.

Adult tickets cost £16 on the gate, or £14 when bought online. It’s £10.50 for children and senior citizens to enter, or £9.50 if purchasing an e-ticket. To find out more or book your visit, check out the Cotswold Wildlife Park website. Be sure to let us know which animal was your dog’s favourite!

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