The Irish Elk

In Boate and Molineux’s Natural History of Ireland, Ware’s Antiquities, and other works, accounts are given of the great Irish elk, or Moose deer, designated Cervus Megaceros or the great horned deer; the horns, head and bones of which have been frequently found buried from six to twenty feet deep in bogs and marl-pits, and also in lakes in different parts of Ireland: a circumstance which shows the vast length of time the ancient forests have been prostrated, and the bogs formed out of them have been extant; as well as the many ages those gigantic animals, whose remains are found so deeply buried, must have lain in those bogs.

The immense size and strength of the Irish elk is shown by its huge broad and branching antlers; each of the two horns measuring five or six feet in length, and having ten or twelve branches on each; and measuring between the extreme tips of the horns, on both sides, ten or twelve feet; and these horns so large and massive as to be from sixty to eighty pounds in weight; so that the animal capable of carrying them must have been of great size and strength, and is considered to have been eight or ten feet in height, and its body about the same length; being far larger than an ox, and next in size to the elephant. It resembled the great Moose deer or elk of America, and is considered to have been of the same species; and also had a great resemblance to the European elk or reindeer of Norway, Sweden, and Lapland; and it may be observed, that the huge skeletons of some fossil elks like the Irish, have been found buried deep in the earth in the Isle of Man, and also in France, and Germany.

From the remains of the Irish elk found in various parts of Ireland, but mostly in Ulster and in Meath, these magnificent animals must have been very numerous in Ireland in remote times; but the race has become extinct for ages, and the era of their existence is beyond the reach of historic records, though they were once inhabitants of the great forests that waved upon the surface of the primeval lands. The huge horns of an elk are to be seen at the House of the Royal Dublin Society, and in other museums.