IN DEMAND: Leon Horrocks with his pet boa constrictor Ivy during a show at Woodland’s Edge Hotel earlier this month  							             TM pic
IN DEMAND: Leon Horrocks with his pet boa constrictor Ivy during a show at Woodland’s Edge Hotel earlier this month TM pic

A DALE teenager is carving out a niche as an exotic animal showman.

Leon Horrocks, from Woodland, started showing strange and unusual reptiles, amphibians and insects, at the age of 12, and now, two years later, is finding himself increasingly in demand for school visits and village shows.

He got his first exotic creature, a bearded dragon, aged just four having badgered his parents for a lizard since seeing one in a cartoon aged two.

The youngster said: “I’ve had animals my whole life, since I was born.

“In my first school report it said ‘Leon is most happy under a bush finding insects’.”

He now has a collection of about 100 creatures covering 60 species, including 21 spiders, 20 snakes and three scorpions. The 14-year-old also has amazing knowledge of each creature, and along with knowing how to care for them, he is also able to read their mood.

The teenager said: “A lot of it has been talking to other keepers, the internet and I have a selection of quite good reptile books.”

One of the creatures he displayed during a show at Woodland’s Edge Hotel earlier this month was a green tree python.

Leon said: “It has the worst reputation of any snake in the world – these sit in trees and chuck themselves out to grab you. He is not tongue flicking, so he is a little bit tense. If he was relaxed, he would be doing long, slow tongue flicks.”

Other species he showcased during the event included crocodile skink, leopard gecko, savannah monitor, giant bull frog, tiger salamander and royal python.

His first show was at Woodland’s St Mary’s Church in 2022.

Leon said: “That was really scary. I started out with a little wooden box in front of me and I started getting some of my animals out. Now I have this [big stage set-up]. It is amazing to think in two years I’ve gone from a little wooden box on a table to having this.”

He received advice on the stage set-up, including the PA system and speakers, from his uncle, celebrity magician Danny Hunt, who lives at Butterknowle.

The youngster ends his shows by displaying his seven-and-a-half foot boa constrictor Ivy.

Leon said: “She is actually the biggest snake I have. Again, boas have a terrible reputation but they are actually pretty friendly. I got her because I needed an impressive snake for the show and she is the one that comes out last as a show-stopper.”

Along with his exhibitions, his business includes breeding rare species such as rhinoceros rat snakes, baby fat-tailed geckos, crested geckos, golden pythons, royal pythons, Texas rat snakes and leachianus geckos.

His ultimate aim is to have his own specialist zoo.

Leon said: “I want to show the world that they are not what they are made out to be. They are not slimy, scaly, nasty creatures, you can make them be tame.”

People can see Leon in action when he performs at Streatlam Steam Show, on August 17.

He can be followed on Facebook by searching for Leon’s Exotics.