Birds & Animals
In Highland Strathearn once the Dinosaurs and Woolly Mammoths had moved away, new species of animal life appeared. They were much smaller and possibly less fierce, but that may be a matter of opinion. Again this is but a small sampling.
Bears–Ursidae – they roamed the region and were much feared. One did not want to meet them on a dark night! They became extinct, like so many of the animals, through being hunted, or died of disease.
Stag and Deer–Cervidae - The noble stag and deer roamed our hills for millennia and were much sought after as a food source and as sport. A twelve point stag seen against a Scottish hillside is one of the wonders of the ancient and modern world! Can one ever forget those beautiful lines of Burns?
“My heart’s in the highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart’s in the highlands a-chasing the deer,
A-chasing the wild deer and following the roe;
My heart’s in the highlands, wherever I go.”
Of course, if you happened to catch one and were in turn caught, one had one’s ears cut off, or was hanged. Later in our story we will talk about the poor wee MacGregors who got their ears cut off by Drummondearnoch who had caught them in Glen Artney poaching and killing the King’s deer! The perpetrator of this act, as we will see, when caught by the “Children of the Mist” got his own head lopped off. Callous people could say “och weil, he just lost his heid!”
Boar–Sus scrofa – they were the ancestors of the pig. Boar frequented the hills and glens in Highland Strathearn but all were wiped out. An enterprising local farmer is trying to reintroduce them on his farm as a food source.
Wolf–Canis lupus - Wolves abounded in our area of Perthshire since the dawn of man. They were much feared by the local people, who were very superstitious. To get immediate attention one only had to mention there was a wolf in the area. Whilst other areas claim that they killed the last wolf in the wild it was recorded that near Ochtertyre the last wolf was killed there in 1645. The nursery rhyme about Little Red Riding Hood was often taken as a Gospel truth!
Fox–Vulpus vulpus - they were always hunted as they were feared by superstitious man. Like wolves they harried sheep with the only difference being that they have survived until today. They eat small rodents such as moles and voles. Fortunately, although not common in Perthshire, fox hunting has been banned
Badgers–Meles meles - they are shy animals and mainly come out in the evening. They eat frogs, toads, worms, beetles and other small animals. Badger baiting used to be popular but now has died out. They are a protected species and have been with us since time began.
Otters–Lutrinae - they burrow into the banks of rivers and streams. They are nocturnal feeding mainly on fish, frogs, small birds, and rodents. Other nocturnal animals are least weasels–mustela nivalis, stoats–mustela ermine-they were valued because their skins were used for ceremonial robes–ermine, and ferrets–mustela outorius furo.
Wild Cats–Felis Sylvestris grampia-very shy and tame and should never be cornered as they are fiercesome when threatened. They are larger and more developed than domestic house cats and spend much of their time well away from people. They are wise!
Wild Cats–Felis Sylvestris grampia
Add to these species voles-Arvicolinae,
A principal job in the old days was to hire a Mole and Rabbit Catcher. “Cousin” John MacIntyre was a specialist in this, and many other areas.
Hedgehogs will take on adders and win. On a lucky day on a family Sunday walk in Aberuchill our family came across a family of six hedgehogs – mummy, daddy and four babies. This was, and is, a remarkable sight.
A good food source for many in the countryside, certainly in wartime Britain, included rabbits. They also were the property of the King or Landowner and one could be accused of poaching!
There are myriads of different types of cats and dogs abound
Felis sylvestris catus
Dogs-Canis lupus familiaris