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Haggis is a Scottish national dish that may turn some visitors squeamish when they find out its ingredients. It is a combination of sheep heart, lungs and livers boiled inside a sheep stomach. For those in Scotland, haggis is especially enjoyed on Burns Night, the 25th of January, which celebrates the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Burns even composed a poem, To a Haggis, which makes the serving of this dish all the more appropriate.
Visitors to Scotland, especially from America, may not be in the know about what haggis actually is, and this has led to a running joke in Scotland. Rather than describing the true ingredients of haggis, a Scot might reference the nonexistent wild haggis, a creature said to live in the hills of Scotland. There is some disagreement on the type of animal the wild haggis is. Some believe it to be a three-legged fowl.
In contrast, some describe wild haggis as a four-legged bird or mammal about the size of a grouse. It dwells in mountains because of the peculiar leg length of the animal. The haggis has shorter right legs than left legs so it can easily run around the hills in a clockwise fashion. The joke is carried further when some suggest that two types of wild haggis exist. One type has shorter left legs so it can circle mountains quickly in a counterclockwise fashion.
The myth of the wild haggis is pervasive, and in a 2003 survey of 1000 American tourists in Scotland — almost a third — firmly believed in the existence of this “beastie” as Burns would have termed it. About one in four surveyed thought that they might even be able to catch a wild haggis. It’s a tribute to the Scottish that they can keep straight faces long enough to perpetuate this myth and actually convince their visitors that haggis hunts take place regularly.
There is also a persistent rumor that people have exported the wild haggis to Nevada, where it may be related to two other creatures with similar leg length features. These are the Black Hodag from Wisconsin, which has the face of an elephant, the rear of a dinosaur and thick legs; and the Sidehill Gouger, which is said to graze in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Like the wild haggis, the Sidehill Gouger comes in left handed and right handed types, so that they may circle mountains with great speed, either in clockwise or counterclockwise fashion. Sidehill Gougers may be blamed for landslides, whereas the mythical haggis is generally thought a boon to tourism.