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Animal Legends

of Ireland


Strange Animals of Ireland
- Horse-eels, Hairy-eels, and Peistes

By: Tippy & Alfred

Legends of the Lakes and Rivers of Ireland


The horse eel is just one of the many strange creatures that
are said to inhabit Ireland's waterways. They have been
sighted all over the Connemara Bogs and other places across
Ireland. They are known for keeping turf-cutters (turf is
bog moss also known as peat that is burnt as fuel for the
fire or used to build with in some instances) and children
away from the safer shallows and land come sunset (Maybe
used as a handy excuse for children when they play too long
outside? :)). But mostly horse eels are just considered
pests by the locals.

There are many tales from people of sightings and many
people around the area where these creatures are said to
live can name some cousin or relative who saw one. Are they
just legend or are they in fact real? Eels have been known
to reach frightening sizes and just recently one such
creature was shown on national television. Could there exist
a freshwater eel that has just grown to gigantic

These horse eels have long been sought after by crypto-
zoologists. Even today you can find wandering scientists in
the bogs trying to get some hard evidence that these
creatures do indeed exist.

A horse eel is generally described as a long serpentine
creature with what looks like a mane. But that is not the
only "Horse Eel" that may exist. Often some people describe
something that looks more like a horse. Amphibious in
nature, these quadruped animals roam the marshes and bogs.

Thomas Crofton Crocker, an Irish antiquarian, collected
songs and legends of Ireland during his travels in Southern
Ireland from 1812 to 1816. One of the fantastic creatures
about which he collected stories was the "horse eel". Mr.
Crocker worked in the merchant trade and was the son of an
army general. Although he had little education he was still
broadly read. It is his description of the horse eel that is
often quoted today - that of a wide bodied creature with
black skin and a mane.

In 1954, Georgina Carberry, a librarian, reported that she
and her friends, while fishing in Lough Fadda in County
Galway, spotted a creature that swam near enough to the
shore that they could see that its long neck was raised high
above the surface and ended with a wide open mouth full of
teeth. She described the body as eel-like, but said that
when it turned to swim away they could see that the tail was
divided like a fish's.

In 1965 a Captain Lionel Leslie set off an explosive charge
in the water in the same area of Lough Fadda, and something
large and alive began thrashing the water, unfortunately
nothing was actually seen nor caught in the net set across
the Lough.

These sightings have been going on for hundreds of years, in
fact, stories of horse-eel sights can be tracked back to the
tenth century, and in all that time the descriptions have
remained remarkably consistent. There may not be hard
evidence except for witness stories, old newspaper articles,
and hand written accounts but it is certainly possible that
such a creature could exist.

"There is more in heaven and earth than we know of Horatio."
-Shakespeare from Hamlet.

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