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Title: Haggis  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Scottish cuisine, List of puddings, Drob, Red pudding, Burns supper
Collection: British Puddings, Haggis, Meat Dishes, Offal, Savory Puddings, Scottish Cuisine, Scottish Sausages
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Haggis displayed for sale
Type Pudding
Associated national cuisine Scotland
Main ingredients Sheep's heart, liver and lungs, and stomach (or sausage casing); onion, oatmeal, suet, spices
Haggis on a platter at a Burns supper
A serving of haggis, neeps, and tatties

Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep's pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal's stomach and simmered for approximately three hours. Most modern commercial haggis is prepared in a sausage casing rather than an actual stomach.

As the 2001 English edition of the Larousse Gastronomique puts it, "Although its description is not immediately appealing, haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour".[1]

Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish, considered the national dish of Scotland as a result of Robert Burns' poem Address to a Haggis of 1787. Haggis is traditionally served with "neeps and tatties" (Scots for turnip and potato), boiled and mashed separately, and a dram (a glass of Scotch whisky), especially as the main course of a Burns supper.


  • History and etymology 1
  • Folklore 2
  • Modern usage 3
  • Drinks 4
  • Outside Scotland 5
  • Other uses 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

History and etymology

Haggis is popularly assumed to be of Scottish origin, but there is a lack of historical evidence that could conclusively attribute its origins to any one place. The first known written recipe for a dish of the name (as 'hagese'), made with offal and herbs, is in the verse cookbook Liber Cure Cocorum dating from around 1430 in Lancashire, North West England.[2]

For hagese'.
Þe hert of schepe, þe nere þou take,
Þo bowel noght þou shalle forsake,
On þe turbilen made, and boyled wele,
Hacke alle togeder with gode persole,

The Scottish poem Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy, which is dated before 1520 (the generally accepted date prior to the death of William Dunbar, one of the composers), refers to 'haggeis'.[3]

An early printed recipe for haggis appears in 1615 in “The English Huswife” by Gervase Markham. It contains a section entitled “Skill in Oate meale”.[4]

Food writer Alan Davidson suggests that the Ancient Romans were the first known to have made products of the haggis type.[5] Even earlier, a kind of primitive haggis is referred to in Homer's Odyssey, in book 20, (towards the end of the eighth century BC) when Odysseus is compared to "a man before a great blazing fire turning swiftly this way and that a stomach full of fat and blood, very eager to have it roasted quickly." Haggis was "born of necessity, as a way to utilize the least expensive cuts of meat and the innards as well."[6]

Clarissa Dickson Wright claims that it "came to Scotland in a longship [i.e., from Scandinavia] even before Scotland was a single nation."[7] Dickson-Wright further cites etymologist Walter William Skeat as further suggestion of possible Scandinavian origins: Skeat claimed that the hag– element of the word is derived from the Old Norse haggw or the Old Icelandic hoggva[8] (höggva in modern Icelandic[9]), Modern Scots hag, meaning 'to hew' or strike with a sharp weapon, relating to the chopped-up contents of the dish. One theory claims that the name "haggis" is derived from Norman French. This conjecture, however, is discredited by the Oxford English Dictionary.[10]

Dickson Wright suggests that haggis was invented as a way of cooking quick-spoiling offal near the site of a hunt, without the need to carry along an additional cooking vessel. The liver and kidneys could be grilled directly over a fire, but this treatment was unsuitable for the stomach, intestines, or lungs. Chopping up the lungs and stuffing the stomach with them and whatever fillers might have been on hand, then boiling the assembly — likely in a vessel made from the animal's hide — was one way to make sure these parts did not go to waste.[11]


In the absence of hard facts as to haggis' origins, popular folklore has provided some theories. One is that the dish originates from the days of the old Scottish cattle drovers. When the men left the highlands to drive their cattle to market in Edinburgh the women would prepare rations for them to eat during the long journey down through the glens. They used the ingredients that were most readily available in their homes and conveniently packaged them in a sheep's stomach allowing for easy transportation during the journey. Other speculations have been based on Scottish slaughtering practices. When a Chieftain or Laird required an animal to be slaughtered for meat (whether sheep or cattle) the workmen were allowed to keep the offal as their share.

A fiction sometimes maintained is that a haggis is a small Scottish animal with longer legs on one side, so that it can run around the steep hills of the Scottish Highlands without falling over. The Hebridean Haggis is "thought" to be the original native species. The Lewis Haggis is different from the Haggis on the mainland: unlike its mainland relative all its legs are of the same length.[12] According to one poll, 33% of American visitors to Scotland believed haggis to be an animal.[13]

Modern usage

Recitation of the poem Address to a Haggis by Robert Burns is an important part of the Burns supper

Haggis is traditionally served as part of the Burns supper on the week of January 25, when Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns, is commemorated. Burns wrote the poem Address to a Haggis, which starts "Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!" In Burns's lifetime haggis was a common dish of the poor as it was nourishing yet very cheap, being made from leftover parts of sheep otherwise thrown away.

Haggis is widely available in supermarkets in Scotland year-round, with cheaper brands normally packed in artificial casings, rather than stomachs, just as cheaper brands of sausages are no longer stuffed into animal intestines. Sometimes haggis is sold in tins or a container which can simply be microwaved or oven-baked. Some supermarket haggis is largely made from pig, rather than sheep, offal.

Haggis is often served in Scottish fast-food establishments deep fried in batter. Together with chips, this comprises a "haggis supper". A "haggis burger" is a patty of fried haggis served on a bun. A "haggis pakora" is another deep fried variant, available in some Indian restaurants in Scotland.

Haggis has also been used as a pizza topping launched successfully by Cosmo's Pizzas.[14]

Since the 1960s various Scottish shops and manufacturers have created vegetarian haggis, substituting various pulses, nuts and vegetables for the meat in the dish.


Scotch whisky is often asserted to be the traditional accompaniment for haggis, though this may simply be because both are traditionally served at a Burns supper.

Haggis-maker MacSween conducted a taste-test[15] which indicated that whisky is a proper accompaniment, and adds that lighter-bodied, tannic red wines, such as those made from the Barbera grape, are also suitable, as are strong, powerfully flavoured British Ales.

Outside Scotland

Haggis platter at a Burns Supper in the U.S.
A fictional Wild Haggis Haggis scoticus, next to a prepared specimen, as displayed at the Glasgow Kelvingrove Gallery

Haggis remains popular with expatriate Scots in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, owing to the strong influence of Scottish culture, especially for Burns Suppers. It can easily be made in any country, but is sometimes imported from Scotland. A recipe from the Canadian province of New Brunswick uses pork and bakes it in a loaf pan.

Since 1971, it has been illegal to import haggis into the US from the UK due to a ban on food containing sheep lung, which constitutes 10 to 15% of the traditional recipe.[16] The situation was further complicated in 1989 when all UK beef and lamb was banned from importation to the US due to the BSE crisis.[16] In 2010, a spokeswoman for the US Department of Agriculture stated that they were reviewing the ban on beef and lamb products, but the ban on food containing sheep lung will remain enforced.[16]

Other uses

Haggis is used in a sport called Haggis Hurling, which involves throwing a haggis as far as possible. The world record for haggis hurling was achieved by Lorne Coltart on 11 June 2011, who hurled his haggis 217 feet. This throw surpassed the longstanding previous record of 180 feet 10 inches (55.12 m), held by Alan Pettigrew since 1984.[17][18]

On October 8, 2008, competitive eater Eric "Steakbellie" Livingston set a world record by consuming 3 pounds (1.4 kg) of haggis in 8 minutes on WMMR radio in Philadelphia.[19]

Following his victory in The Masters golf tournament in 1988, Scottish golfer Sandy Lyle chose to serve haggis at the annual Champions Dinner before the 1989 Masters.[20]

See also


  1. ^ Montagné, Prosper (2001). Larousse Gastronomique. p. 592. 
  2. ^ "Liber cure Cocorum - A Modern English Translation with Notes, -Based on Richard Morris' transcription of 1862.". 
  3. ^ Dunbar, William; Harriet Harvey Wood (2003). William Dunbar: Selected Poems. Routledge. p. 18.  
  4. ^  
  5. ^  
  6. ^ Andrew Zimmern
  7. ^ Barham, Andrea (2005). The Pedant's Revolt: Why Most Things You Think Are Right Are Wrong. Michael O'Mara Books Ltd.  
  8. ^ , 1996The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. Retrieved on 29 June 2009
  9. ^ An Icelandic-English Dictionary, Page 309, George Webbe Dasent - 1874
  10. ^ Oxford English Dictionary"Haggis", etymology in , second edition, 1989 (on-line). Retrieved on 1 October 2014
  11. ^  
  12. ^ "Haggis History"
  13. ^ "American tourists believe Haggis is an animal",, 2003-11-27.
  14. ^ Ranscombe, Peter (2012-01-22). "Scots sell focaccia to Italy – and haggis pizzas to Burns revellers". Scotland on Sunday. 
  15. ^ "Drinks with haggis". Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  16. ^ a b c "US not ready to lift ban on Scottish haggis". BBC News. 2010-01-26. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  17. ^ "Lorne is haggis world record-breaker". Milngavie Herald(Scotland). Retrieved October 2, 2012. 
  18. ^ "Haggis in Sport". Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  19. ^ "International Federation of Competitive Eating". IFOCE. 2008-10-08. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  20. ^ The Course. The Official Site of the Masters Tournament. Retrieved on 2007-01-08.

External links

  • Alton Brown's Haggis Recipe
  • Belief in the Wild Haggis
  • How to cook the perfect Burns supper at
  • Haggis, Hail to Thee!- slideshow by Life magazine
  • HAGGIS at The Foods Of England
  • Address to a Haggis in French on YouTube
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