Simon Ferguson, 45, found the 20,000-year-old remains preserved in clay 11ft under the ground

A builder digging a duck pond in a back garden unearthed the 20,000-year-old skeleton of a pre-historic wolf. Simon Ferguson was digging a hole with his sons Richard, 12, and Adam, 10, to prepare the land for the water feature in the boys’ home in Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancashire.

When their spades struck bone, they suspected something sinister. But as Mr Ferguson dug further, finding teeth and even fangs, it became clear the items belonged to an animal. Experts have estimated the wolf could be as much as 20,000 years old, pre-dating the Egyptian pyramids and even the Stone Age.

The builder found the remains immaculately preserved in blue virgin clay 11ft under the ground in his former partner's property. Mr Ferguson, 45, of Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancs, said: "You don't expect to find something like this on a housing estate.

"I'd moved about 200 tonnes of soil and I had found glass bottles that were about 150-200 years old. We came across one bone and then came across another and another. "When we saw it in the ground the skull looked absolutely unbelievable, it looked pre-historic. The teeth and fangs were all in place. “It was completely intact." The find was then verified by the Manchester Museum as being between 10,000 and 20,000 years old. It is believed the wolf was around three years old when it died and would have been the size of a labrador.

The grey wolf became extinct in England in the early 1500s after being hunted out of existence. It is thought the last British wolf was killed during the reign of Henry VII. Mr Ferguson said that 10,000 years ago, “there was no sea and we were joined to Ireland so this would have just been marshland.

“The more you think about it, it's like saying it's 10,000 years older than Christ." The family have decided to donate the skeleton, astonishingly 92 per cent complete, to the Manchester Museum. "We said straightaway we would give it to a museum because we go to museums a lot," said Mr Ferguson. "Not many have been found in this country. They have only found one or two which makes it different, and the fact that it is almost complete."

The discovery was made in the garden of Mr Ferguson’s former partner, Susan Arthurs. The 42-year-old said the family were "speechless" when they found out how old it was.

"I originally thought it could be human bones," she said. "It was in a funny position on its side. As they started going down the kids kept bringing up more bones and we extended the search. It was immaculate." Ms Arthurs, who has lived in the new-build house for 20 years, admitted she had initially considered calling the police, fearing something sinister.

"It did cross my mind that it could be a human skeleton,” she said, adding, “I'm glad I didn't ring the police because that would have been a bit premature." Ms Arthurs explained that the particular section of the garden was pure clay, which preserved the bones very well.

"From the blue virgin clay we could determine that they were old,” said Ms Arthurs. “We didn't know whether it was a dog but the Manchester Museum verified that it was a wolf. It is understood the museum would like to use the discovery in a future exhibition surrounding climate change.

Stuart Noon, from the Portable Antiquities Scheme, based in Lancashire said the wolf skeleton was a "fantastic specimen". Mr Noon confirmed the skeleton was between 10,000 and 20,000 and said the prehistoric grey wolf was known as a timber wolf.

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