Haggis
Location found: Scotland
The common haggis is a member of the group from which the Australian duck-billed platypus derives. There is evidence that they may be related to echidnas (also Order Monotremata), and are possibly products of genetic cross-mutation. (See: Enthusiast’s Cryptozoologicon). 
 
The haggis is a shy creature, and for this reason there is great disagreement about its exact morphology and habits. The creatures are believed to be the descendants of a migrating group of phatypuds trapped in Europe during the last ice age. They evolved thick pelts and layers of blubber to survive in the cold damp conditions gripping the continent. So well did they adapt that they began to thrive and multiplied in huge numbers. But as the glaciers retreated and the melt waters dried, the haggis had to flee north to escape the rising temperatures. As the planet warmed, there were fewer and fewer habitats suitable for the haggii, needing as they did almost constant rain and a chill climate. Thus it was that Scotland became the only place in the world where haggii can be found.

Some haggis observers claim to have spotted a variant of the species where the legs are longer on one side of its body than the other, in order to allow it to better stand on the steep slopes of the Scottish highlands. As a consequence, this variety of haggis can only run around hills in one direction, and to catch one you simply run around the hill in the opposite direction. If true, this morphological feature would possibly make the haggis a distant cousin of the
American Sidehill Gouger. However, other Haggis observers deny this to be true, insisting that all the legs of the Haggis are of equal length. The Golden Haggis is a verified rare variant.

Lifespan: Unknown.

Natural enemies: Anything with teeth, anything larger than a football and, of course, midges, the natural enemy of every living thing.

Food: Heather, blaeberries, turnips and potatoes.

Habitat: Cold and wet regions of Scotland.

Range: The haggis can be found anywhere in Scotland. However the creatures become harder to find after November 30th, the start of the hunting season. Centuries of persecution have obviously caused these creatures to be cautious at this time of year. On December 31st, something very unusual happens: haggii move east across the country in huge numbers. The reason for this mass migration is unknown. This could be an example of co-evolution as most of the human inhabitants of the country are in no condition to hunt on December 31st or January 1st and the haggii can move unmolested.

Mating habits: The mating season starts on January 25th, a date after which it is illegal to hunt the haggis. Most mating attempts are unsuccessful, possibly due to the cold weather. However a successful female will lay literally hundreds of eggs. This strategy is the only reason that the haggis has survived.
 
History: According to Ossian's Encyclopaedia Eccentrica (Adobe Acrobat required), the first historical document to mention the haggis is an account of the Roman invasion of Scotland written by
Iocus. The noted scholar relates that as the Roman and Caledonian forces faced each other before the Battle of Mons Graupius in 83 or 84 AD a wandering Pictish holy man called Goileam saw a “small round creature revered by the tribes” dart from the heather and run toward the invaders. Goileam turned to the Scottish army and, baring his breast, promised that this was an omen of victory and led a headlong charge against the forces of Agricola.

Within an hour, Iocus tells us, more than 10,000 Caledonians lay dead, their army defeated, their land conquered. The Picts blamed the appearance of the small brown omen for the terrible defeat and sought to exact retribution on the creature that had so betrayed them. The haggis hunts began out of a desire for vengeance. It was then that the unfortunate creatures got their name (the term “haggii” comes from the Latin for “harried ones”).

Before that fateful day, the haggii had been plentiful in Scotland. Like the Dodo, they did not fear man, while man basically left the odd looking animals alone. When the Picts unleashed their vengeful feud on the haggii, the small creatures were all but wiped out.

But there was more to the events of that year than the persecution of an unfortunate beast by warriors feeling the pain of defeat. It was a time which saw one of the greatest culinary discoveries since fishermen first noticed that oyster shells could be opened. The Scottish harvest of 83AD was particularly poor and the people were forced to find food anywhere they could. As they were hunting haggii anyway, the Picts started to eat them. To their great surprise, they discovered that haggises were delicious and named the animals’ main breeding area
naidheachd bhreugach (place of plenty). Thus it was that the haggis became the staple food of Scotland.

But so hunted were the haggii that it was nearly 100 years before they were seen in any great numbers again.

Hunting the haggis: To catch a haggis it is advised to disguise your scent with liberal amounts of whisky, and then adopt a stumbling gait, swerving from side to side, so that the animal won't see you coming. Some stores in Scotland also sell
Haggis Whistles, noting that Robert Burns himself may have used a similar device. It is claimed that "in skilled hands this whistle can perfectly mimic the mating call of the Haggis."

It is sometimes said that haggis is actually a traditional Scottish dish made from the sheep's 'pluck' (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally boiled in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours.
This is simply not true.

Haggis in contemporary culture: See
Burns supper; Scotch whisky; Robert Burns; Address to a Haggis; Haggis Hunt.
 
Updated: 12/2007





 

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Monotremata
Family: Haggae


 
Female Haggis

Also see: Haggis Hunt
Burns supper
Scotch whisky
Robert Burns
Rare: Golden Haggis


Rare Golden Haggis

This is a No Pule Zone!

Updated: 12/2007