Jan 25

Every 25th January, ‘Burns Suppers’ are held throughout Scotland, as well as in other parts of the world, in honour of Robert Burns (1759-1796). An iconic Scottish figure and one of the world’s most famous poets, Robert Burns is much admired for his poems and love songs, as well as his cheeky character, and is probably best known as the writer of one of the most popular songs in the English language – Auld Lang Syne.

Spear thistle image

Some believe that the spear thistle is most likely to be the true ‘Scotch thistle’

Burns Suppers are a celebration of Robert Burns and all things Scottish, including Scotch whisky, Scottish music and haggis! Last year, we at ARKive joined in these celebrations by delving into our extensive collection of flora and fauna to pick our own favourite Scottish species. This year, however, we have decided to do something a bit different, and feature a few species that you might be surprised to learn once roamed Burns’ homeland…

Brown bear

Brown bear image

Alaskan brown bear

This powerfully built species is one of the largest carnivores on Earth! Can you imagine if it was still roaming the Scottish highlands today?! If it was, each male brown bear would occupy a home range of around 2,000 square kilometres…and would probably rather enjoy the fresh supply of Scottish salmon!

Grey wolf

Eurasian wolf image

Female Eurasian wolf following scent

There has been much debate over whether or not the grey wolf should be reintroduced to Scotland. But no matter which side of the argument you are on, there is certainly no denying what an impressively beautiful and intelligent predator this species is! Did you know that, despite being called the grey wolf, this intelligent social canid is found in many other different coat colours, including red, brown, black and almost pure white?

Arctic fox

Arctic fox image

Arctic fox cub pouncing

The dense, woolly coat of the Arctic fox would certainly keep it warm during the harsh Scottish winters…this species even has fur on the soles of its feet! The Arctic fox also has a short nose and heavily furred ears to help reduce heat loss.


Eurasian lynx image

Eurasian lynx walking through snow in summer coat

A proficient hunter, the Eurasian lynx mainly hunts around dawn and dusk, and is capable of taking down prey more than three times its size. Amazing! This furry feline usually feeds on roe and red deer, but is known to take smaller animals such as rabbits, hares and wild pigs when larger animals are scarce. A stealthy predator, the lynx uses its slightly longer hind limbs to help it pounce on unsuspecting prey.


Eurasian elk image

Eurasian elk

Along with the moose, the Eurasian elk is the largest living deer species. It is a rather distinctive mammal with a heavy body, a broad, overhanging muzzle, and impressive antlers. Sir Edwin Landseer’s famous ‘Monarch of the Glen’ painting might have looked a little different if this massive deer had been around in Scotland in his day!

How different do you think Scotland would be today with these creatures lurking around?! What are your favourite Scottish species? Leave us a comment to let us know!

Happy Burns Night!


Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author