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!