Llamas fight rural crime

In rural England, I am sad to report, there is an increasingly dark side to life. Our countryside may be full of rolling meadows, ancient castles and quaint cottages with roses around the doors, but behind the romantic image a new crime wave has sprung up.

In the shadows of every forest, modern highwaymen are lurking. Behind many a village hedgerow, organised gangs could be plotting right now to steal tractors, livestock and even valuable agricultural chemicals. It is getting worse and costs at least 100 million dollars a year in insurance claims alone. Once Britain's farmers would rely on their dogs to alert them to danger. Not any more. Sophisticated alarm systems have now arrived down muddy tracks. And hidden away in the trunk of that old oak tree is probably a nest of surveillance cameras linked to the police. The jolly red-faced farmer of legend has been robbed too often to take chances these days. But at least he hasn't lost his sense of jollity.

Some of the most effective weapons against rural crime are some of the most unlikely. If you want to stop light-fingered thugs running away with expensive quad bikes used for rounding up herds of cattle and sheep, don't use padlocks - just park the bikes in a pen along with your favourite Fresian bull and watch the hoods run for their lives. Or how about a feathered deterrent? The English goose can turn very nasty indeed if you wander onto his patch. He kicks up a racket and delivers a knock out blow. Extremely popular with farmers where I live. But the ultimate weapon of choice, the magnum of the animal kingdom, is the llama. This South American creature looks like a timid family pet but is extraordinarily aggressive.

Some farmers in your western states, so I gather, already use llamas to scare off marauding coyotes. Well British farmers are now buying woolly llamas by the busload - to tackle the crooks head on. Fully grown, they stand up to 6 feet high and can weigh more than 400 lbs. When angered, they spit, kick and neck wrestle. In short, the perfect deterrent, and when you get fed up with them, their soft wool makes a lovely sweater. This is Ed Boyle for CBS News in London.

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