I travelled to Ireland for a wedding on Friday evening, but within seconds of arriving at Dublin airport I had been distracted by one of the most unusual and unexpected animals I have ever seen.
Explaining my experience to friends and family when I returned to Scotland, they uniformly attributed my surprise and confusion to the quick pint (or four) of Guinness I had had in the airport bar with a few old friends.
But now I’ve been researching online, I can cast off those slanderous remarks because it was not only amazing, but it is 100 per cent true.
As I drove out of the airport, I noticed a rabbit feeding in the grass.
When the car moved along the road, the rabbit sat up.
I have spent so long watching rabbits and hares that I instantly knew that something was wrong with this one.
It was a uniform biscuit brown with a large puffy white tail.
Short ears and a roly-poly face were like a rabbit’s, but there were no fine markings around the eyes; no black eyebrow or angular cheek.
As it stood up, it revealed long legs like a tiny muntjac deer and it occurred to me that I was looking at a hare, but the ears were short and round and only tipped with black at the extreme ends.
It walked and I was convinced that I was looking at a hare, but then it stopped and it became a rabbit again.
Something was seriously wrong.
It was only when I got home that I learned that Irish hares are a different species to brown hares, which were introduced to the British mainland by the Romans and Normans.
Lepus timidus hibernicus is a species unique to Ireland, related more to blue (or mountain hares) than anything else.
I had no idea whatsoever, but I feel very lucky that this one thrust itself into my line of sight.
It may have nothing at all to do with black grouse, but I thought it was fascinating.
The views expressed on Patrick Laurie’s blog are the author’s and not the views of Shooting Gazette, ShootingUK, IPC Media or its employees. www.gallowayfarm.wordpress.com