Great Chieftain O’ The Puddin’ Race

 The haggis is a species in the class of Mammalia Puddingous.  This ellusive animal is found predominantly in the windswept Highlands of Scotland though unsubstantiated sightings have been made as far south as the Border town of Peebles. To date, the above picture (taken in 1897 near Loch Duntelchaig) is the soul photographic record of the haggis’ existence. 

A very shy creature, its preferred habitat is heather moorland far from human settlements.  In these barren regions, lone haggis build nests deep in the roots of the extensive heather coming out at dawn and dusk only to feed.

 During the summer months haggis eat mainly insects and green plants, whilst in winter they forage for roots. 

Haggis mate only once in their lifetime and generally produce a single offspring.  Despite this and despite their reputation as being utterly scrumptious, haggis numbers are still strong.  According to the last Scottish Executive-funded “haggis count” (whereby vast lines of participants walk through the heather heaths imitating the gurgling sound of the beasts and listening for haggis’ reply call) there are an estimated 100,000 in the Easter Ross area alone.   

The meat of haggis has been a delicacy in Scotland for hundreds of years and is, indeed, so  possessively prized that Scots have been known to spread false rumours in the hope of reducing the dish’s popularity.  Perhaps the most ridiculous and famous of these rumours is the idea that not only is the haggis not a real animal, it is made from finely chopped animal innards encased in a sheep’s stomach.

Along with champit neeps and bashed tatties (roughly mashed turnip and potatoes), Haggis is traditionally eaten on the 25th of January when Scots celebrate the brithday of their national poet, Robert Burns.  So much did Burns love to eat haggis, he wrote an ode to it.  This poem is now respectfully and traditionally read before diners feast on the Haggis:

To A Haggis

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm…

For the full poem and translation, click here.

Happy Burns Night Everyone! :)

29 thoughts on “Great Chieftain O’ The Puddin’ Race

  1. Hi Wendy

    Love the photo of the Haggis :D

    I know it could be a hundred places, but is that second photo taken on Cairngorm by any chance?

    Our (veggie) Haggis is cooking as I type. Mmmmmm, cant wait.

    Claire
    x

  2. Hope you had a good Burns Night, Wendy. That photo makes haggis look appetising – which always seem a real achievement to me!

    I was once told that the wee haggis has two legs shorter than the other two so it can run along the sides of mountains (like the beautiful ones in your photos). Shame I can’t see the legs in your photo to check if it is true :-)

  3. Peter – Bring ‘em on!

    Claire – It’s not. It’s above Loch Muick, near Lochnagar. Similar landscape though. :)

    Sophie – A baby one??? You monster, you…

    Gen – It was for a good cause. My belly.

    Johanna – Hee hee! Love that idea! It’s not true though. There legs are all the same length.

  4. Oh hooray, we do get a Burns Night post! Thanks so much for de-mystifying the haggis – I’m sure many out there didn’t understand the truth behind all the mis-information. You didn’t confirm whether or not the haggis is really the distant cousin of the creature in Loch Ness…? Hope your butcher was able to give you a nice haggis so you could enjoy your Burns night.

  5. I was just over at Sophie’s site reading about haggis. I told her I have never heard of this, but now I can see it is a Scotish tradition! Too fun! Now I must read up on this Mr. Burns and haggis! It sounds good!

  6. Annemarie – Forgot what day it was and I had this post almost organised. Don’t think I’ve posted twice in one day before. And, no. The Nessie isn’t real. Haggis are living creatures. ;)

    Deb – You’ve never heard of haggis? Good grief, woman! Get yourself over here!

    Peter – Answer – There’s a chance you might get a drink out of a coconut. Hah! Foiled.

  7. I didn’t have any haggis, neeps & tatties (nor even whisky) last night, which is a real pity!
    But have you any idea how many people actually believe your Mammalia Puddingous animal version? A lot, I’ve been told :)
    And I’m shocked you forgot to mention that their feet are shorter on one side than on the other, as they circle around the Scottish hillsides all the time…

  8. Christina – Glad to have made you smile.

    Susan – It’s my favourite too!

    Pille – Plenty leftover here. If you were closer I’d put it in a tupperware tub and bring it over. And of course lots of people believe this version. It’s the truth. :)

  9. Years ago when I was in highschool I worked for a catering company. I remember walking with the haggis down a procession, bagpipes playing during banquet….I have yet to this day to feast on haggis… I just haven’t had the opportunity.

  10. Spaghetti – It was a very fortunate snap indeed. :)

    Maryann – That’s right. Shocking, the lack of info on this species.

    Gloria – Thank you!

    Valli – It’s so very, VERY good. I kid you not. :)

  11. Oh, hooray!

    My family took a trip to Scotland last fall, and I threw Geeky Tourist embarrassment to the wind and ordered haggis, neeps and tatties for lunch one day (at the Scots Kitchen in Fort Augustus), and it was so delicious that I HATED to share!

  12. Amazed that you managed to get a haggis to stand still long enough to take a photo – they are usually quite speedy – I congratulate you, Wendy, and hope you enjoyed your Burns’ Night!!

  13. Wendy, we had a Burns Supper for 16 people at the house with 4 different varieties of haggis and every single one was delicious but didn’t get one photo as good as yours. One neep between 16 didn’t go far so I supplemented with sweet potatoes.

  14. Pingback: Burns Night « A Wee Bit of Cooking

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