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British army demotes mascot

The ceremonial pet's atrocious performance during a parade to honor the queen left superiors "no option but to demote Billly."

Published June 25, 2006

LONDON - A British army regiment's ceremonial pet goat was demoted in disgrace after it marched out of line before a host of dignitaries during a parade to mark Queen Elizabeth II's birthday, a military spokesman said Saturday.

The military mascot, a 6-year-old male goat called Billy, was downgraded from the rank of lance corporal to fusilier - the same status as a private - after army chiefs ruled his poor display had ruined the ceremony this month at a British army base in Episkopi, western Cyprus.

Lance Cpl. Dai Davies, 22, the goat's handler, was unable to keep control during the June 16 march. The mascot darted from side to side, throwing soldiers off their stride, Capt. Crispian Coates, a spokesman, said by telephone from the base in Cyprus.

"The goat, which has been the regiment's mascot since 2001, was supposed to be leading the march, but would not stay in line," Coates said. "After consideration, the commanding officer decided he had no option but to demote Billy."

Ambassadors from Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands were among those who attended the march along with U.N. dignitaries.

Since the goat's demotion, soldiers of a lower rank are no longer expected to salute Billy as a sign of respect, Coates said.

Capt. William Rose, a soldier present at the parade, said the goat "was trying to head-butt the waist and nether regions of the drummers."

The 1st Battalion, the Royal Welsh, has had a long tradition of traveling with a pet goat used in ceremonies. The Welsh regiment was presented with a goat from the royal herd in 1746, and Billy is a descendant from the same bloodline, Britain's Ministry of Defense said.

A total of 11 ceremonial pets - including a ferret, an Indian black buck and a ram - are kept by the British army, but regiments do not take the mascots to combat zones. British legislators were told last month that keeping the pets costs the equivalent of $55,000 a year.

[Last modified June 25, 2006, 07:41:14]

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