Commoners’ grazing rights
The commoners’ grazing animals are essential to maintaining the value of commons for wildlife, landscape, cultural traditions, recreation and agriculture.
All of the grazing animals on the common are owned by individual commoners who have grazing rights for specific commons.
Benefits of grazing
Grazing animals such as sheep, cattle and ponies ensure the land is cropped. They help to keep the common open by nibbling off encroaching tree seedlings, brambles and tough grasses.
The number of animals grazing the commons is critical. Too many will damage the common and too few will allow the landscape to become overgrown with scrub and trees.
Threats to grazing animals
The biggest threat to the future of common land is the loss of grazing due to death or serious injury of commoners’ animals through traffic collisions. Several measures to reduce traffic accidents with animals have been introduced.
Animals of the Gower Commons
Gower Commons Sheep
There is a wide variety of breeds of sheep grazing the Gower Commons throughout the year. The breeds are resilient to the conditions and thrive on coarse grasses.
The types of sheep you might see include Welsh Mountain, Speckled Face and Cheviot.
Gower Commons Cattle
Gower cattle breeds
Many different breeds of cattle can be seen grazing Gower Commons, including Limousin or Charolais crosses, South Devons and Herefords.
The hardiest breed found on the Gower Peninsula is the Welsh Black which can eat woody and prickly plants such as gorse. Other hardy breeds include Belted Galloways and Welsh Black crosses.
Management of Gower cattle
Cattle can be kept on the commons all year round, although calves are brought in following calving.
Overwintering animals may be fed hay or silage from November until the end of April. There are restrictions on supplementary feeding in Sites of Special Scientific Interest as designation of a common as an SSSI recognises that the site is nationally important for wildlife.
After 20 months, cattle are brought off the common and fattened on the farm before being sold at market.
Gower Commons Ponies
Tough and resilient ponies
The ponies that live on the Gower Commons are extremely hardy animals. They have developed strength and resilience through hundreds of years of living and breeding on the rough grazing land.
Gower ponies are able to eat some of the toughest plants such as brambles, gorse and tough grasses. The trampling action of their hooves helps to keep some of the problem plants down and the commons open for recreation.
Wild Gower ponies
Gower ponies live in herds, running free with breeding mares and foals. The ponies are wild in the sense that they are left untamed until they are mature and ready to be broken for riding, work or competition.
These ponies and cobs make some of the finest riding and driving ponies in the world, whether it is for international competition, shepherding stock on the commons or just for fun.