The Lost Creatures of the British Isles.
The British Isles were at certain points in early History connected to larger bodies of land such as mainland Europe via the now submerged Doggerland. When the sea levels rose to their modern levels, the new Islands made the existing creatures adapt to the fresh environmental circumstance's. Over the years many of these creatures failed to adapt and were replaced by more versatile version's of their species.
We have numerous fossils from all across the British Isle's and from them we are able to theorize their dietary requirements and how they interacted with the early Human hunter gatherers. I have listed Five creatures that were once native to the British Isles but due to a number of factors, are no longer part of the natural environment.
The Irish Elk
We have fossil records that proves a large Elk with antlers spanning over 10 feet existed in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.The creature's thrived in a time when Ireland was a landscape of rolling grasslands and an absence of thick woodlands. Outside of the British isles the giant Deer would have roamed much of Europe, and it's skeleton is found in much of the continent. Because the best finds have been found in Irish Bogs, the name of the animal has stuck.
The Giant Deer grew to over two metre's in height and the creature lived on a diet of wild grasses. The giant antlers meant that the animal had to develop a strong muscular and skeletal structure to accommodate the weight of the antlers. It is theorized that the Irish Elk died out because it was unable to adapt to dwindling supplies of it's food supply. The grasslands of the British Isle's were replaced by the ancient forests. The Irish Elk's with their antler's meant they were unable to negotiate the new woodlands and it's alternative food sources. Smaller species of Deer took advantage of the Elk's inability to react to change and the Irish Elk became lost forever.
The Auroch's first appeared in the fossil records around Two million years ago and they are believed to have developed from a Eurasian breed. The Auroch's would have spread into Europe and Asia, Auroch's are the common ancestor of modern cattle. The last wild Auroch was killed in the 17th century, the beast was shot in a Polish Forest and it's Horn was taken as a trophy. Although it could be argued this creature is not truly extinct due to the existence of domestic breeds of Cow bred from rarer breeds, which shared much of the lost creature's characteristics.
The Auroch would have fallen out of favour in the British Isle's as captive breeds would have possessed a better temperament, higher production of milk and a leaner meat. The Auroch would have been used as a working animal, but it would have lacked the obedience of a Horse or Oxen.The Auroch's were a beast of burden and they became symbolised by the pagan Norse with their own runic letter.
The Auroch stood over Two metre's tall including horns, and weighed close to 3,000 lb. It fed on a mixture of grasses, twigs and acorns when it lived in the wild. The creature would have lived in a wetter environment than the woodland's that our domesticated farm cattle used to inhabit. Although technically extinct, the Polish Government plans to use DNA from Museum specimens to breed a wild version of the creature for tourism.
The Woolly Rhinoceros was well adapted to the Ice Age conditions of the British Isles. With its thick Woolly hide it was able to search out it's favoured food in the inhospitable environment. It roamed the rolling grasslands and arid tundra of the area, feeding on heavy mouthfuls of grass and flowering vegetation. The Woolly Rhino would migrate to keep it's distance from the ever shifting glaciers.
The Woolly Rhinoceros would have migrated in groups and would have shared the tundra of the Isle's with Woolly Mammoth's. The size of the creature would have been comparable to a modern day White Rhino and it's horn would have been for mating displays and defensive actions. Weighing as much as 7,000 lb, the creature would have had to spend much of it's life eating. It's extinction would be due to lack of food sources after the creature's became trapped in isolated area's. Combined with natural predators and the Human hunter's, the creatures are thought to have become extinct about 8,000 years ago.
It had been thought that the Eurasian Lynx became extinct in the British Isle's about 10,000 years ago. Other expert's came to the belief that they finally died out about 4,000 years ago, during a cooler and wetter climate change. Recent scientific and forensic investigations have shed more light on the longevity of this creature. Carbon dating of Lynx skulls taken from the National Museums of Scotland and from caves excavated from Yorkshire show that they were still active in the British Isle's until at least 425 AD. Nearly 3,500 years later than originally predicted than some experts.
The Eurasian Lynx would have preyed upon member's of the Rodent family, Deer and any other creature it could attack with stealth. The creature would have been hunted to extinction by the Human's entering it's natural habitat. We know the Celtic-Romano people's of the British Isles had native name for the animal, they called it a lox , and the name even existed in Old English so the Lynx may have lasted until as much as a thousand years ago. There is currently some interest in reintroducing the Lynx into Scotland and other parts of rural Britain to control nuisance Deer populations.
- Ireland and it's Viking influence.
Ireland owes much to the people's of the North of Europe. These Vikings help found Ireland's cities and increased local trade.
- Bring back Wolves to the UK
Would the introduction of wild Wolves into the rural areas of the United Kingdom be a wise move? For an animal that had been hunted to extinction by our ancestors, could its return wash its blood from our stained hands?
The Grice was a domesticated pig which became extinct in the 1900's. The Pig was native to the British Isle's for a long period of History but eventually was replaced by superior breeds of other pigs. The remaining Grice population's were confined to the remote area's of Ireland, Scotland and the Shetland area's. In these remote and rural area's the noisy and aggressive creature was kept to feed the family.
The pig was smaller than a modern farm yard breed and as well as been aggressive, it was also noisy and a nuisance. Many neighbours would fallout over the keeping of these creatures for the table. The Grice would forage on bulbs and roots for their meals, they would be partial to Swede,Potato and Carrots.
The name Grice is derived from Old English and Scandinavian, the creature was excellent for making cured Hams. This would explain why those in remote locations persisted with the troublesome beast for longer than the more urban population. The creature shared many characteristics with a Wild Boar, it had small tusks and great strength for it's size. The breed died out as it was just too troublesome when compared to the more domesticated farm breeds.