Walruses in Britain

The walrus occasionally turns up as a vagrant to the northern shores of Britain and Ireland, though in no way can be considered a British mammal. It was perhaps, though, the first British zoological species as one was said to have been presented to Alfred the Great. No doubt with climate change the few sightings are going to become even more infrequent. If you know of any more please let me know.

  • There have been at least 13 records in the Shetlands in recent history, the last a male in 2002. Here
  • And then there is the famous Wally the Walrus who in 1981, as he visited the east coast of England, became a media celebrity, before being flown back north.
  • Walrus sightings in IrelandA Walrus was seen hauled out on rocks in County Mayo, Ireland for six hours. Lying within 100 metres of the busy coastal road and spotted as a “rock that moved”, the resting walrus finally disappeared at dusk. There have been several walrus sightings at sea off County Donegal in recent winters, and a couple of walruses were reported to have been seen by surfers in Killala Bay in December. A dead walrus was found in County Kerry in January 1995″. From here
  • North Uist: local fishermen saw a walrus – tusks an’ all on a small island off the east side of North Uist a couple of years ago. Here
  • A large walrus was regularly seen in Aberdeenshire in 1954.

Above Image: John Tenniel’s illustration for Lewis Carroll’s poem The Walrus and the Carpenter. (wikipedia). – which also notes:

The origin of the word walrus itself has variously been attributed to combinations of the Dutch words walvis (“whale”) and ros (“horse”) or wal (“shore”) and reus (“giant”). However, the most likely origin of the word is the Old Norse hrossvalr, meaning “horse-whale”, which was passed in a juxtaposed form to Dutch and the North-German dialects as walros and Walross. The now archaic English word for walrus—morse—is widely supposed to have come from the Slavic. Thus ???? (morž) in Russian, mors in Polish, also mursu in Finnish, moršâ in Saami, later morse in French, morsa in Spanish, mors? in Romanian etc.

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