As we near the end of the lockdown we have been looking at some of the more unusual hobbies our team have been busy with over the Winter and today's blog features our very own CEO, Tony Marks and his ‘Haggis Hatchery’ for rare breed haggis (the plural of haggis is haggis).
Tony moved to Scotland over 30 years ago and became fascinated by the history of the Wild Haggis - a small, rough-haired quadruped creature, native to the Scottish Highlands. The most notable feature is that the legs on one side of the animal’s body are both significantly longer than those on the other, this being a local long-term evolutionary adaptation to living on the steep sides of Scottish mountains.
As most people know, Haggis can only travel with any ease or speed in one direction – clockwise (Haggis Scottii dexterous), or anti-clockwise (Haggis Scotti sinistrous), depending on whether the legs are longer on the left or the right side of the animal. If the shorter legs don’t remain on the up-slope side of the hapless creature it is in severe danger of falling over sideways and rolling to the bottom of the hillside.
After some failed attempts to breed Golden Haggis (more common in the Western Isles where they command a premium price), Tony has found success with another breed and now has his second batch of the ‘Haggis Scotti sinistrous’ Wild Haggis on the way. These are better adapted to the local terrain in Tony’s area and last year produced mostly males. This year Tony is hoping for more females - for reasons that surprised us…
Apart from the ‘Haggis Scotti sinistrous’ being better suited to the local terrain than the Golden Haggis, it turns out that there is another reason that Tony has stuck to this breed and is also seeking to achieve a gender balance. Tony explained that it is virtually impossible for courtship and mating to occur between Haggis Scotti dexterous and Haggis Scotti sinistrous, since for the male of one variety to mate with a female of the other, he must turn to face in the same direction as his intended mate, causing him to lose his balance before he can mount her.
During the Haggis Season Ghillies (unlicensed haggis guides) who are familiar with the local terrain take advantage of the delicate issues facing the male haggis on finding a mate by illegally releasing Haggis Scottii dexterous females into known Haggis Scottii sinistrous territory, (or vice versa) thus attracting the attention of local males whose brief, hazardous and ultimately pathetic pursuit of the objects of their amorous desire is inevitably fatal, as they are an easy target for the Haggis Hunters.
Regional, and indeed very specifically local sub-species of haggis exist, identifiable to Tony as a haggis expert because the actual difference in the length of the legs is dependent on the steepness of the slopes within their habitat. Haggis are therefore adapted to the angle of slope in a geographically very small area, resulting in the haggis being ‘clannish’, fiercely territorial and pure-bred.
Next week we will feature another member of the team’s Lockdown Hobbies.
1st of April 2021