The Many Animals of Ireland

Elizabeth Wampler is a student at Georgia College & State University and is an ISA Photo Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Galway, Ireland

As an animal lover, I thought that this post was necessary. As I was looking through my photos that I had taken within the first week of being here in Ireland, I realized just how often I take random pictures of animals whenever I see them.

One of things I have noticed and adored most about Ireland and her inhabitants is that everything and everyone coexists very peacefully. Nearly every tour guide I have had has mentioned how there really are no predatory creatures in Ireland; no snakes, bears, wolves, etc. The only deadly problem you might face outdoors is hitting a rouge sheep or cow. Each and every one of the animals I have seen during my travels of the Emerald Isle live harmoniously with one another and seem to not mind being close to humans in any way. Here are a few animals that really caught my attention.

Ravens: These beautiful birds look very similar to their distant relation the crow, but have a few distinct features that I had to research that allows you to tell them apart. One of these features is that while crows prefer to travel in large groups, a raven enjoys the company of only one or two others. I enjoyed learning about that fact because, personally, crows freak me out, particularly because there are always so many of them! Also, a group of crows is called a murder… coincidence? I think not. But really these birds are all over Ireland and their feathers are just so beautiful against the green grass and cloudy skies.

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Sighting a raven down by the Salthill Promenade, Galway.

Seagulls: The other common bird throughout Ireland, specifically Galway, is the seagull. Ireland itself is obviously an island but just because it is it’s own country, or two in fact, does not mean it is big. Seagulls are found all over the country even in the center! Galway, being a port city, just has a lot of them. I love going for walks down by the bay and the Salthill Prom where you can admire the rushing waves and these nosy little buggers in all of their splendor.

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Seagulls scattering to find bread just thrown to them. Across from the Long Walk, Galway.

Dogs: I mean, I obviously had to incorporate man’s best friend. No matter where you go in Ireland, you will see at least one dog. Every day of the week, no matter how rainy, people enjoy taking their daily walks with their dogs. Some people prefer a leash, while others allow their dog to roam free. The best thing about these animals, is that even without a leash, they never stray too far from their owner. Because of this, when they are not allowed into a store, the person will just tell them to stay and go in without the dog. These precious animals, will wait patently outside and watch through doors and windows to see how their person is doing.

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Golden Retriever playing in the sand and water on the Salthill Prom and asking for belly rubs.

This fluffy boy was running around on the Salthill Prom with his friend, splashing through the water, and chasing birds. My friends and I saw him and immediately fell in love. Eventually, he found his way to us and as soon as he come over, he fell down, rolled onto his back and waited for us to scratch his belly.

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Pup posing for us on her picnic table. Cleggan, Co. Galway.

While waiting for a horseback ride in Cleggan, my friend and I spent a few hours walking around and looking at the sites. This little beauty kept following us. Anytime we came near her picnic table, she would hop down and run to my legs and sit down on my foot waiting for ear scratches. When we walked her back to her table, she hopped right back up and posed for us like a L’Oréal model. Honestly, she was the highlight of my day.

Cows: Oh yeah, there are a lot of them here. I will say though, they look slightly different from our Georgian cows. They are so much fluffier! I always want to stop and pet one when I see them. They are also very sociable, as much as a cow can be, I suppose. There was one calf in particular that kept running up to the rock wall to get a closer look at me and watch to see what I was doing. She was adorable! Unfortunately I was not able to get a picture of her.

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A small herd of cows relaxing on a misty February day. The Burren, Co. Clare.

Sheep: I was so lucky when I started to look for flocks of sheep to photograph. I was told at the beginning of the semester by a local that the birthing season for sheep did not start until St. Patrick’s Day. And this is a true fact. I did not see a lamb until right after the Irish festivities, upon which day, they seemed to be everywhere. I don’t know if you know, but sheep don’t really do much. They mill about, eat some grass, sleep, grow some wool, eat some more grass, and that’s about it. However, being able to get up close to them, I saw how interested they are in people. Anytime I made a noise to get their attention they would look up at me and start to baa. I do not know if it was out of interest or irritation, but it made my day!

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A very photogenic flock of sheep kept wondering why I was so interested in them. Co. Galway.

Donkeys: I am sorry, but look at that face! That is possibly the cutest face I have ever seen in my life. Of course, he only wanted food, but either way he was adorable. These little guys were easily the most sociable animals I have encountered since being here, not taking into account domestic dogs. As soon as I walked up to their gate, all three of these little guys walked directly over to me and stuck their heads through that gate to get a better look. They were just so interested in what I was doing and were not afraid to get close.

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A very curious donkey wondering where the food is. Co. Mayo.

Horses: How can I not mention these magnificent creatures? I was lucky enough to meet both domestic horses as well as wild horses during my time here in Ireland. During my time in Cleggan, I was able to embark on a 3-hour trek to Omey Island on a mare named Boots. She was actually the oldest horse in their stables and apparently the feistiest. In fact, throughout our ride, she kept catching up to the lead horse Oskar which seemed to make him nervous. I later learned that she has learned to unlock and sneak out of her stall at night and then she will stick her head in his stall and stare at him all night to make him uncomfortable. Talk about a boss lady!

On a drive to the Cliffs of Moher, my family and I spotted a few summer homes and in the backyard of one of them were four wild horses. It was so funny to see these humongous beauties grazing right next to a child’s swing set! While the other three horses were not very interested in having their pictures taken, this one was adamant on being the center of attention. Not only did she walk over to me, but she stopped and posed for a few different shots.

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A wild horse ready for its close up. Co. Clare.

If you ever have the chance to come see this amazing island, I highly recommend taking your time when driving through the countryside or going for a walk to enjoy the splendor of all of Ireland’s creatures. Pet a dog, feed a donkey, or talk to some sheep. I promise, it will make your day!

Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.

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