VILLAGERS last night branded a publicity stunt involving Oxfordshire’s 3,000-year-old chalk white horse as “desecration”.

Betting firm Paddy Power added a canvas jockey to the prehistoric monument on White Horse Hill near Uffington to promote the Cheltenham Festival next week.

But site owner the National Trust demanded it be removed after it was discovered yesterday morning.

Sharon Smith, curator of the village’s Tom Brown School Museum and Uffington Parish councillor, said: “It is over 3,000-years-old, it has been revered throughout the generations and it is not for advertising.”

But the 110ft tall and 200ft wide jockey was made from more than 200 metres of canvas and put in place 5ft above the horse using 500 tiny pegs in an attempt to stop it being harmed.

Chairman of Uffington Parish Council Graham Banks said he was relieved it had not been damaged.

But he said: “It is not the right thing to do with an ancient monument. It has a lot of meaning to the villagers and other people in the Vale.It is a treasured monument.”

His wife Eleanor Banks, 58, of Craven Common, Uffington, added: “They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.”

Historians are unsure why the horse is there but it is thought it could be a tribal symbol.

The ancient figure was carved into the hill and filled with chalk.

Helen Marshall, of Oxfordshire’s branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “It’s a bit of a silly prank.”

Paddy Power, which now claims to have donated £1,000 to the National Trust, said it spent a month preparing the stunt to ensure no harm was done.

Spokesman Paddy Power said a team of 20 people used nightvision goggles for more than six hours to set it up.

He said: “We didn’t ask permission because we knew the answer would be no. But no harm has been done, it is down now. If anything we have actually highlighted the beautiful horse.”

National Trust spokesman Steve Field said it was investigating to see if any damage had occurred.