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My haggis skull, and how to track wild haggis (video)


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.

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Anonymous said...

well done Jake! Love krissy

David Craven said...

Hmmm. I feel sure this is a hoax. All the wild haggis I've seen are squat with heads more like a turtle than this. Maybe there are a range of species, and geographic variation? Someone should do a paper.

Unknown said...

Love it! Well Done on your Haggis find ;)

Anonymous said...

Free range haggis is almost as hard to find as organic tree grown spaghetti. Well done Jake!

Jake said...

Thanks everyone !
@David: I think you mean subditus haggis vulgaris which you get in Greenland. I think my skull is subditus haggis maydupp which is the Scottish type.

Emma S said...

Ha ha, nice one Jake! Very well written and photographed too. And that skull is intriguing!

jordan said...

Hi jake so haggis is a predetor but you can eat it?
your friend
jordan ;)

Anonymous said...

aren`t haggis fictional?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
is it me or was there a piece of string attached to the haggis?

Jake said...

I think you must be mistaken, Anonymous.

Jack N said...

That was not string,that was it's tongue which it pulls itself along by when startled.By the way, the tongue of a haggis is made of strawberry laces!

Lauren said...

Well done Jake! we went on an adventure today to try and find ourselves a haggis. Sadly we were unsuccessful and so went to Tesco and bought one, but don't worry, it was free range.

Megan said...

It was yummy

Aishah said...

What exactly is a Haggis? I've actually never heard of them before. They seem very interesting, though, each time I look them up, I just seem to find a mythical creature that kind of looks like a porcupine thing..

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