Extinct animals from the Isle of Man

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Some animal species and breeds once existed on the Isle of Man but are now extinct. Some plant species have also been included at the end of this article. There are no known specimens of the following breeds of dog, cattle, pig, horse and sheep. Today only the Manx cat, Manx Loaghtan, Manx robber fly, Isle of Man cabbage and Manx marvel tomato exist as native breeds / types of the Isle of Man.

Manx cattle[edit]

Manx cattle became extinct c. 1815. A description of the breed survives along with a record that the Manx people referred to them as Boaghans or Boghans (Manx words for cow include Booa and Baa).

Thomas Quayle described the Manx breed, just as they were dying out, in his 1812 General View of Agriculture in the Isle of Man:[1]

The original Manks breed of cattle were low, deep-chested, hardy animals, of a dingy black, often with the ridge of the back, and ears, brown, or wholly of a dark brown colour, having seldom white or light coloured spots; short jointed, but not full in the hind quarter; the horn very thick at the root, and rather curving up-wards. They gave rich mills, but in small quantities; were easy to feed and fat, though not of early maturity. It would seem a breed well adapted to the climate, and the then state of culture.

From the influx of a variety of other breeds, this original race is disappearing.

The produce, in the month of June, of a dairy, the cows of which approached most nearly to the indigenous breed, and which were in good pasture, proved to be eight ale quarts to each cow ; the produce, in butter, one pound of 16 oz. to ten quarts of milk, nearly.

Manx sheepdog[edit]

The Manx sheepdog was a breed of sheepdog from the Isle of Man that is now extinct. Little is known about the breed except that it had a remarkable "ability to 'hould' or separate and immobilise, any sheep which was pointed out" (W. Walter Gill).

The following extract is believed to have been written by a Ms. A. L. J. Gosset;

Shepherd Caley of Ramsey tells us that the old Manx sheep-dog was a "holding," not a driving dog. It kept to heel, and when a particular sheep was wanted, the shepherd would point to it and say in Manx, "There, Spring, go and hold that rough fellow," and the dog would seize the sheep behind the neck, throw it down, and hold it with his paws, never hurting it. These dogs are now extinct in the island; they did not work the sheep as the collie does. They are described as smooth—haired, of various colours, very big and strong. Dr. Tellet of Ramsey writes : "I recollect having seen one of these dogs about sixty years ago, which belonged to an old man who lived near Ramsey. It was smooth-haired, and my impression is that it was about the size of a Scotch deerhound, coloured black, grey and tan—the tan so intiniately mixed with the grey in parts as to produce a rust colour. I see the colour in the dogs we have now, a number of which are descendants of crosses between the dog in question and the Scotch collie ...

It continues ...

I have heard my father say that the Manx dog was only a holding dog. A few days ago I was talking to an old shepherd, who described the way it threw the sheep down." Miss Sophia Morrison of Peel writes : "Some years ago a Manx shepherd told me some wonderful tales of an old sheep-dog. This shepherd used to go to the mountains with his father to look after the sheep, and his father had only to point his finger at any one sheep in the flock and say, ‘Grein yn nane shoh, Coly’ (‘Seize that one, Coly’ [in Manx), or ‘Greim mee shen’ (‘Seize that for me’), and the dog at once put his paws on the sheep pointed out to him in the midst of the flock, and held it till the old man came up." Another person remembers sheep-dogs not in the least like the sheep-dogs of to-day they were larger, smooth-haired, and were known as "houl’ers, because they were good to houl’ on." These dogs upset [turned] the sheep on to their backs and kept them down until the shepherd came to them. This old shepherd did not think that these were native sheep-dogs, but that they had had special training to make them "houl’ers." An authority in the island remarks "that if there had been a breed peculiar to the Isle of Man, some of the historians who wrote about the native pony, sheep, and cat would have mentioned it. They were probably introduced by the Norsemen, and existed in other places in the United Kingdom at the same time, i.e. about fifty or sixty years ago, and were only sheep-dogs by special training.

It continues ...

Ralph Fleesh tells us that the dog applies his mouth to the wool as well as his paws to the neck, but the skin of the sheep is never injured; adding, "To upset a sheep is a mistake, since the process involves a shock that some times leaves bad results. I knew a ‘beardie’ collie named ‘Roy ‘—one of the heroes of his day—who could hold up any sheep without upsetting it. He was a powerfully built dog, and so by seizing the wool of the sheep’s neck, and meeting by quick movements every effort of his charge, his strength and weight being a sufficient barrier, complete victory was easily and promptly achieved." There are local shepherds’ dogs in various districts in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, as well as in the Isle of Man, but these local breeds cannot be regarded as distinct, since they lack uniformity of type.

— (A. L. J. Gosset Shepherds of Britain: Scenes from Shepherd Life London:Constable 1911)

Manx horse[edit]

Manx horses also became extinct c. 1820–1830. Of them Thomas Quayle said,

The island had formerly its peculiar breed also of ponies, Fine boned, sure footed ; blacks, greys, and bays: from neglect this breed also has become nearly extinct. Still less care than with regard to horned cattle and sheep, has been taken to replace the indigenous breed by the introduction of good draft-horses. In the uplands a small breed is yet to be found, kept at slender expense, rarely housed in winter. When wanted, they are fetched home in the morning, and after a feed of sheaf-oats or hay, worked all day, and in the evening, after another feed, dismissed again to the pasture. The animal thus treated must be unequal to the spring-ploughing ; but from the cessation of work in summer, gradually recovers.

Manx pig[edit]

The Manx pig were known to the locals as 'purrs'. They had completely died long before Thomas Quayle wrote this about them;

The Isle of Man had also its peculiar breed of pigs, now totally extinct. In summer they ran wild in the mountains; were lank; of a sandy or grey colour, with black spots, and, as tradition reports, partook of the wild-boar flavor. Their number was, in former days, sufficiently great to attract the cupidity of the tithe-owners. Though these animals ranged the mountains, yet the property in them was as clearly ascertained as that in sheep. In the year 1577, a collection of the spiritual laws and customs directs, an account to be taken, at Martinmas, of Purrs, (the provincial name of this breed) of which the tithes were to be received of the husbandman at Easter. From eight, nine, or ten purrs, one was to be taken, provided the husbandman, out of the whole number, might select one or two ; if any man had but five purrs, he still might select one, the proctor then to praise (appraise) the rest : and the husbandman to take or give; meaning, perhaps, that he might retain all his hogs, paying the tith of the whole value, as affixed by the proctor on the lot ; or give up one of them, retaining the best.

Other extinct species[edit]

Four species of birds that once bred on the Isle of Man have gone extinct locally, of these the great auk is extinct worldwide. Six species of non-breeding birds have not been recorded since before the 1950s and are considered as being locally extinct. N.B. None of these animals were solely native to the Isle of Man. Several other species of mammal, such as the brown bear, wolf and beaver may have once been present in Mann. However, no evidence has been found of their existence.

Mammals[edit]

Breeding birds[edit]

Non-breeding birds[edit]

Plants[edit]

  • Juniper Juniperis communis, became extinct in the 20th century. It suffered a major decline after its uses for firewood and gin making ceased. Climate change is suspected to have made the population that was left infertile.

Trivia[edit]

  • The seabird Manx shearwater Puffinus puffinus is the only bird that has a name relating to the Isle of Man. However, the bird is found in many parts of the world and is not endemic to the Island. It is called the Manx shearwater as the world's largest colony of them was once found on the Calf of Man, a small island off the Isle of Man. This colony was wiped out after longtails (rats) were accidentally introduced in the late 18th century. In the late 20th century these were eradicated and a small colony of 'Manxies' exists on the island once again.
  • The Island's wrens Troglodytes troglodytes may be a subspecies of T. troglodytes endemic to the Isle of Man.

See also[edit]

References[edit]