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You are here: Jake's Bones > My haggis skull, and how to track wild haggis (video)
Written by Jake on Sunday, April 01, 2012
This is a skull I am very excited about and I have been saving it for ages to write about today !
This is one of the animals most associated with Scotland, like red deer and golden eagles. Haggis are rare and most Scots still only see them once a year, usually towards the end of January. This haggis skull was a tremendous find, as it has the lower jaws and canines. I found it near my village in woods on the Maydupp estate.
The first thing you notice about this skull is the long snout with lots and lots of sharp teeth. Although haggis are small and hard to find, they are one of the greatest predators in Scotland, and some historians think that they are one of the reasons that bears died out in Scotland. They also hunt small deer, rabbits and primary school headteachers.
A haggis skull is unusual and unlike other mammal skulls.
It has two "neeps" which are bony spikes on the top of the head. The bone at the top is softer and has nerve endings in which helps then work out which way the wind is blowing. It has a big eye socket with the bone all the way round, and the eyes face forward which makes it good at hunting other animals. (Animals that get hunted a lot, like deer or sheep have their eyes at the side). It has a long snout packed with teeth. It has a dental formula of:
Upper jaw: 3:1:13:3
Lower jaw: 3:0/1:13:3
which means three incisors at the top and bottom on each side, one (huge) canine at the top but usually none at the bottom, and 13 sharp pre-molars with three molars at the back which are for crunching bone. Here is the top canine (which are called "tatties" in Scots).
On the bottom jaw the canines are tiny and just emerging.
The neeps face forward. They look as if they are broken but it is just sensitive bone which allows the haggis to sense its surroundings.
Most haggis sold in Scotland is farmed, which means the haggis don't roam freely and are kept in big sheds. If you care about animals, always insist on free-range haggis when you buy at the supermarket.
Wild haggis were driven to extinction in mainland Scotland the 1700s because of the damage they caused to forests during the mating season, but some still survived on Shetland and Orkney. In the 1970s they were reintroduced back to mainland Scotland in a number of forests, including the Knotreall Estate in the Highlands, the Phaycce Woods in the Borders and the Maydupp Forest which is near where I live.
Here is a video from when I went to see if I could track wild haggis at Maydupp. They are very difficult to spot because they are small, good at hiding and mostly crepuscular (like deer), which means they mostly move about at twilight and that they like french pancakes. It took me all day to spot one, then it ran straight away from me making its weird noise.
Have you ever seen a haggis in the wild ? Post a comment if you have.