Prospect Park's Wild Side
This year, Prospect Park Alliance welcomes back a few seasonal employees—the goats—to restore the Park's woodlands. These goats are not the first domesticated creatures kept in the Park by any means.
At the turn of the twentieth century, it was common practice to use sheep to maintain grass in urban parks. In Prospect Park, a flock of sheep grazed the Long Meadow, with lambs so tame that they ate from children’s palms. Prospect Park’s flock of sheep was a fixture into the 1930s, and served both aesthetic and practical purposes. As a design element, the sheep lent a fairy-tale air replete with tending shepherds and dogs, while they kept the Long Meadow cropped and fertilized.
Long before the Prospect Park Zoo was constructed, the Park was home to its own menagerie. Located near the Long Meadow, the menagerie opened in 1890 with a bear pit, and quickly grew to include deer, lions, monkeys and birds housed in cages and pens. When the official Prospect Park Zoo was constructed in 1935, the Park’s animals were moved and menagerie was demolished.
A feature of Park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s original plan for the Park was the Deer Paddock, where the creatures were allowed to wander around to the delight of visitors. While generally docile, these deer occasionally escaped from their enclosure into the surrounding neighborhoods. A story in the October 14, 1906 edition of The New York Times details the escape of a three-year-old buck, which hopped its eight-foot-tall fence and was spotted dashing down Rogers Avenue "without regard for speed regulations."
This year, Prospect Park Alliance's beloved herd of goats are back as part of our woodland restoration efforts. Throughout the Park, storms like Hurricane Sandy have felled or damaged over 500 trees, enabling invasive weeds to thrive. The goats will eat the weeds that have overtaken these areas, so that the Alliance can plant new native trees and plants to beautify the landscape and bolster natural habitat for birds and other wildlife, ensuring the Park is more resilient against future storms. Learn more about the Prospect Park Alliance Goats.
First brought to the Park as workers, dogs were used to tend the flock of sheep on the Long Meadow. Today, Prospect Park is a playground for canines as well as humans. Dogs enjoy off-leash hours in designated areas of the Park, and in 2016 Prospect Park Alliance restored Dog Beach to the delight of many wagging tails. Learn more about things to do with dogs in Prospect Park.
The Dairy, which was created by Olmsted and Vaux, attracted Park picnickers who stopped to purchase sandwiches and glasses of fresh milk provided by the half-dozen cows that grazed on the Long Meadow. Pre-pasteurization, fresh milk was a near-delicacy for Brooklyn residents, accustomed to a gray, watery variety of milk produced by most city cows.