Saturday, March 10, 2012



The Haggis Hunt season has ended. Peace descends once more on the haggis moors. Our ghillie,Farquhar Farquharson, has slunk back to his hunting lodge with his meuran until 30 November, 2012. 
Mackie's of Scotland
Thank you for hunting with us. This Season we were kindly assisted by Mackie's of Scotland, Fairmont St Andrews and The Scotsman Publications Ltd. Our 2011/2012 Grand Prize was a one night luxury break at the Fairmont St Andrews and an invitation to the Mackie's crisp factory.

Do not be too despondent at the season's close. The hunt begins again on St Andrew's Day. Until then, why not familiarise yourself with the terrain by studying our webcams? Or maybe leaf through our Haggisclopedia to hone your hunting skills further? 

Kingdom: Animalia
Location: Scotland       
The wild Haggis (plural: Haggi) lives in the highlands of Scotland. It is round, four-legged, fur-covered, and usually less than a foot in length (comparable in size to a grouse). It is a shy creature, rarely seen, and for this reason there is great disagreement about its exact morphology and habits. For instance, many who claim to be Haggis experts say that the legs of the Haggis 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 highlands. As a consequence, the 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 make the Haggis a 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.

Some Haggis-ologists speculate that the Haggis is related to the Australian duck-billed platypus, being a descendant of migratory platypuses who found themselves trapped in Scotland during the last ice age and evolved to become highly adapted to its cold, damp weather.

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. Many stores in Scotland also sell Haggis Whistles. 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 heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep, mixed with oatmeal, suet, and seasonings, and boiled in the stomach of the animal. This is simply not true.

Ten things you never knew about Haggis

  1. The correct plural of haggis is haggii, although under certain grammatical circumstances it can be haggises or even “wee yins”. The name Haggii comes from the Latin for “harried ones”.
  2. The Haggis Hunting season runs from when they hatch (30 November) until 25 January. The 31st of December is particularly anticipated by Haggis hunters as it is when great herds of Haggii migrate north for winter. The correct term for stalking a haggis is “havering”.
  3. Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem “The Hunting Of The Snark” was originally called “The Hunting Of The Haggis” until he found out the Scottish beast actually existed.
  4. Seeing a live haggis is supposed to be a sign of imminent good fortune. Earl Nyaff of Uirsgeul reputedly encountered one on his way to Ayr races in 1817 and subsequently won £50. True, he was badly trampled by the winner and flogged for race fixing after being falsely accused by his own brother, but at least he made a tidy profit.
  5. An alcoholic drink derived from the haggis has yet to be invented, despite many centuries of intensive research.
  6. The haggis is unusual in that it is neither consistently nocturnal nor diurnal, but instead is active at dawn and dusk (crepuscular), with occasional forays forth during the day and night.
  7. Haggis eggs are inedible, and can be easily confused with deer droppings. On the whole they are best avoided.
  8. Some myths say the spider watched by Robert the Bruce was trying to escape from a haggis foraging for food.
  9. Haggis fur is waterproof but not showerproof.
  10. No-one has ever succeeded in breeding haggii in captivity.

Zoology of the Haggis

The Enthusiast’s Cryptozoologicon tells us that the haggis is a member of the family of duck-filled phatypuds (of the genus umbrus), the group from which the Australian duck-billed platypus derives. 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.

Latin name: Marag fabulosus.

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 30 November, the start of the hunting season. Centuries of persecution have obviously caused these creatures to be cautious at this time of year. On 31 December, 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 31 December or 1 January and the haggii can move unmolested.

Mating habits: The mating season starts on 25 January, 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.

The Haggis in History. Part the First

According to Ossian’s Encyclopaedia Eccentrica, 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 83AD 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 – “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.

Traditional Haggis hunting garb

(shown here without kilt)

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

Rare photo of Wild Haggis 
(grazing on a pasture just off M-8 highway at Bathgate 
in West Lothian)

Since the Caledonians' defeat at Mons Graupius, the haggis has been viewed with ambiguity by Scottish military strategists.

Brigadier Antony Doon was the first to chronicle this phenomenon is his seminal 1816 work The Compleat Haggiser.

"The wee beastie can be a boon to the fighting spirit of the Caledonian warrior, giving him a belly full of courage, much like a drop of uisge beatha, the water of life, whisky. Whisky. Ahhh yes. What a fine idea. I think it is time for a wee dram as the sun is very nearly over the yard-arm."

(It should be noted that wherever he went the good brigadier had all yard-arms within his line of sight lowered to a height of three inches off the ground.)

After a somewhat obscure and indistinct passage about whisky, women and life in which the words "yer my best pal I luv ye do you want a fight" appear several times, the Brigadier takes up his theme again, warning that the haggis can be a curse as well as a blessing in time of war.

"If the haggis is not prepared properly, if its remains are mistreated or not accorded the proper respect, for instance if they are covered in batter and immersed in boiling oil, then the haggis can become something of a bird of ill omen."

This is an interesting phrase given the long-running controversy involving Doon and the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. For many years Doon claimed that "that man Croalidge" (sic) had stolen the idea for "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" from him. Until his dying day, the brigadier insisted that the epic tale of sin and redemption featuring the slaying of an albatross was in fact based on a limerick about haggises he had written on a beer mat in a pub in Porlock.

Until his dying day, Coleridge could not understand a single word Brig A Doon was saying.

In the interests of research, we at reproduce Doon's original for the first time so that you can make up your own minds about the issue.

It is an ancient Haggiser
and he stoppeth one in three
"By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Go and get the drinks in."

When he wasn't accosting literary geniuses with soiled beer mats, the Brigadier devoted his time to whisky, the works of Burns, the lowering of yard arms and analysing Scottish military defeats.

His arguments are only convincing - or indeed comprehensible - with regard to two famous defeats in Scotland's history.

Battle of Falkirk
This battle on 22 July, 1298, saw the end of Sir William Wallace's heroic campaign to liberate Scotland from the tyranny of the English king - and all round bad egg - Edward I.

Conventional histories say that a key factor was the unexpected departure of "Red" John Comyn and his cavalry at the battle's crisis point. Without these troops the Scottish army was unable to break up the Welsh archers whose attacks were more than decimating its ranks.

Brig A Doon begs to differ. Actually he doesn't beg at all, he just differs. Forcefully.

Prefacing his theory with a stream of invective against Comyn that contains phrases entirely unsuitable for replication in a family publication, or indeed most adult ones, the good Brigadier claims that bad table manners led to the Scottish noblemen's treachery.

As Doon put it: "Like a [words excluded in the interests of taste] Comyn [words excluded in the interests of taste] the battle [more words excluded] passed [words excluded] haggis [words excluded]."

As the sense is not perhaps clear in the edited version, a summary of the above runs thus: "Comyn's moral fibre was corrupted because on the eve of the battle he had passed the haggis in the wrong direction - violating centuries of tradition and bringing ill luck on the cause he went on to [words excluded in the interests of taste]."

The Brigadier's argument is not helped by the fact he is not entirely sure in which direction a haggis should be passed. His comment on the matter: "Left or right, one of the two," is somewhat unsatisfactory.

He claims that "this sacred Celtic knowledge" was lost while Scotland was ruled by the English. This last point then provokes further invective in the text.

Battle of Culloden
Brigadier Doon claims that on the eve of the Jacobites' calamitous defeat, Bonnie Prince Charlie jinxed the whole enterprise by shunning the traditional fare of haggis, neaps and tatties.

He believes that the slaughter on 16 April, 1746, is directly due to Young Pretender's decision to eat his haggis on a bed of lollo rosso drizzled with truffle oil.

Historians have been slow to blame the "truffle incident" for the defeat, focusing instead on the decision by an effete idiot that his tired, guerrilla army would be best deployed in a mile-long jog through heather into the blazing guns of the Redcoats.

However, Brig A Doon does have his supporters among the haggis fraternity. For instance, our Chief Ghillie, Farquhar Farquharson, claims "the truffle thing" was indeed the reason for the defeat. (Mind you he also claims he was there.)

Of course, Doon's contemporaries dismissed his theories as complete nonsense, although never to his face (they didn't want to get a yard arm somewhere surprising).

The Brigadier does not explain how the incorrect preparation of a dish can affect the performance of armies. He says: "Also, it is peculiar that the wee beasties prefer it when we rip out their innards and stuff them. Mind you that is we did to the [words excluded] English at Bannockburn."

Scot cleaning lady waits for Fingerprint I.D. to allow entry 

to the top secret Royal Navy Haggis Research Laboratory 

at Scapa Flow.

Top tips for the haggis moors

Hunting the haggis is no easy matter. Before you have even ventured out on hills armed with your meuran (the standard tool of the haggis hunter) there are myriad traditions to be observed.

Central to the art is stealth. Like the deer stalker, the haggis hunter must be silent, invisible and without odour. Fortunately, while the haggis has incredibly acute senses, these function over a very narrow range. Thus the haggis hunter has to be only a bit silent, a bit invisible and a little without odour.

The haggis can hear only certain high pitched sounds with any clarity. By whacking turnips with a mallet next to a haggis warren, or fobhríste, the prominent cryptobiologist Ima Maidep-Nayim has proved that the animal does not react to low thudding sounds. However, even a light rustling can make these delicate creatures bolt.

By perverse coincidence, the sound the haggis is most sensitive to is that of plaid rubbing on underpants. No-one knows why this should be, perhaps this almost undetectable noise mimics exactly the sound of a golden eagle plummeting towards its target. Whatever the reason, the aim of a haggis hunter who sports underwear will never be true. Hence, the tradition that “true Scots” wear nothing under their kilt.

As far as masking the hunter’s smell is concerned, there is only one substance that can hide the multifarious odours of a haggiser: whisky. Preferable, the hunter should be absolutely drenched in the stuff to mask any scent. Many’s the ignorant laird who has given his gamekeeper a tongue-lashing for smelling of alcohol and then had to issue a cringeing apology after learning this bit of haggis lore.

Finally, the haggis hunter must make himself invisible to his prey. Much like the Tyrannosaurus Rex – a creature to which it is not often compared – the haggis has eyes that react most effectively to movement, but only movement in a straight line. In order to creep up on their prey, haggis hunters must disguise their approach by adopting a shambling, apparently random gait. This is known as havering.

Thus, if you encounter a Scot stinking of whisky, shuffling down the street in an ungainly fashion with their kilt flapping round their bare backside you know they are only hunting the haggis. To show that you are au fait with “the hunt”, approach him (or her) and say in a loud voice: “Ach, your havering”. A lively discussion should ensue.

Silverback Haggis 
Haggis are believed to live 
up to 70 years in the wild.

Cocktails of the haggis hunter

When stalking the heather, our chief ghillie, Farquhar Farquharson is always careful to stock up on warming drinks “to keep the cold out”. While other more timid souls rely on hot beverages and – pah! – soups, Mr Farquharson swears by an assortment of home-made tinctures without which he never leaves the house, even to go to the shops. Of course, he gets hypothermia every time he sets foot outside the house, but he says it doesn’t really bother him anymore.

The editors of have persuaded Mr Farquharson to share some of his recipes with our readers. He was quite happy to do this after five days locked in the coal shed with only distilled water for comfort.

WARNING These are alcoholic beverages and as such should be treated with respect. If you are under 18, you should not drink them. By the way, drinking does not make you funny, tough or attractive to the opposite sex (or the same sex for that matter). It makes you fall over and throw up. If you are over 18, remember that drinking makes you loud, boorish and utterly repellent to potential sexual partners.

Whisky with haggis chaser
Large bottle of malt whisky
A Haggis
A glass
A very very small amount of water (dinnae droon it laddie)

Place generous amount of whisky in glass. Wave water over whisky. Drink whisky. Cook haggis the following morning and serve on toast with brown sauce as an excellent hangover cure.

Bloody haggis
Large bottle of malt whisky
A glass
A very very small jug of water
Tomato juice
Worcester sauce
Stick of celery
Bottle of vodka

Place generous amount of whisky in glass. Wave water quickly over whisky. Reserve tomato juice for the next time you cook linguine. Place celery in bunnet. Dab Worcester sauce behind ears. You are now ready for a night on the town. Put vodka somewhere that local teenagers will be unable to find it. Drink whisky. Cook haggis the following morning and serve on toast with brown sauce as an excellent hangover cure.

Haggis sunrise
Large bottle of malt whisky
A large carton of orange juice
A Haggis
A glass
A very very small jug of water

Dash eight sloshes of whisky into glass. Show water to whisky from minimum distance of ten yards. Carefully put carton of orange juice unopened in fridge lest it go off. Drink whisky. Cook haggis the following morning and serve on toast with brown sauce as an excellent hangover cure.

Sloe comfortable haggis against the wall
Large bottle of malt whisky
A large carton of orange juice
A Haggis
A glass
A very very small jug of water
A random selection of those lesser liquors in garish bottles so beloved by dull people seeking glamour

Half-fill glass with whisky, then add more whisky. Sotto voce mention existence of water to whisky. Pour other spirits into the nearest pot plant. Give juice to tee totaller. Drink whisky. Cook haggis the following morning and serve on toast with brown sauce as an excellent hangover cure.

Haggis on the beach
Large bottle of malt whisky
A haggis
A very very small jug of water
Bag of sand

Pour sand on ground. Pour water on ground. Strip down to your underwear. You are now at the beach. Use haggis as a beachball. Drink whisky from the bottle.

Russian Haggis
Large bottle of malt whisky
A glass
A very very small jug of water
Bottle of vodka
Coffee liqueur

Hold bottle of whisky vertically over glass for several seconds. Place jug of water in next room. Carefully position liqueur in cupboard beside tea bags – if you want ******* coffee, you’ll drink ******* coffee. Place vodka unopened in freezer – it’ll feel at home there. Drink whisky. Cook haggis the following morning and serve on toast with brown sauce as an excellent hangover cure. Drizzle cream round plate for dead classy presentation.

Haggis margarita
Large bottle of malt whisky
A Haggis
A lime
Lime juice
Bottle of tequila
A glass
Another glass
Small jug of water.

Wet rim of glass and dip in salt. Cut lime into slices and attach to rim of glass. Wet bottom of glass with lime juice. Fill glass to rim with tequila. Drop lit match into glass. Now you have made a nice home-made heater, sit down beside it, rest your feet on the haggis and enjoy a wee dram.

Haggis Hunt

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