What is Wild Haggis?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

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.

Many Americans might be a bit sheepish about trying Scottish food such as wild haggis.
Many Americans might be a bit sheepish about trying Scottish food such as wild haggis.

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.

The people of Scotland enjoy haggis on January 25, Burns Night.
The people of Scotland enjoy haggis on January 25, Burns Night.

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.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


@pleonasm - I love these kinds of stories. My father used to be an expert on convincing people about these sorts of things. He particularly liked telling people about "drop bears" which lived in whatever part of the world the person happened to be visiting.

According to dad, they lived in the trees and would drop on people who weren't constantly vigilant.

I think the only thing that disappointed dad was that he usually wasn't there to see his friends peering nervously above their heads the whole time they were overseas.


@bythewell - Even if they think they know what haggis is, it's still relatively easy to convince a tourist of this kind of joke. They've already encountered all kinds of differences and things they didn't expect while they were traveling. And they have to rely on the locals to explain how things work.

If the locals are all telling the same story with a straight face, there's no reason they wouldn't believe it. I mean, when people first visited Australia they probably wouldn't have believed that there was a little swimming mammal with webbed feet and a duck beak snout, but the platypus exists. A wild haggis isn't really all that unusual sounding in comparison.

And that story about the animal with left legs shorter than the right is told all over the world. I've heard it told about sheep and cows as well.


I can't believe that people are ever taken in by this kind of thing. I mean, I thought that haggis had been used as a punchline in enough movies by now that everyone knows what it is.

I've always thought the disgust factor was a little bit ridiculous considered how popular tripe is in a lot of countries (which is also made out of stomach) and original sausages which were made out of intestines. Cooking haggis isn't any different from making either of those.

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