From the Connemara pony to the mighty red deer, here is our list of 10 amazing animal species native to Ireland.
Ireland, as we know it now, is roughly 10,000 years old. Upon breaking apart from mainland Europe after the last ice age, it only then began to flourish into the rich, temperate island it is today.
Due to its relative youth, it has fewer plant and animal species when compared to Britain or mainland Europe. But don’t think this means there’s any shortage of compelling creatures native to the Emerald Isle.
From tiny nocturnal creatures to the mighty red deer, here is our list of 10 amazing animal species native to Ireland.
IB4UD’s top 5 fun facts about wildlife in Ireland
- The red fox is the only species of wild canid in Ireland and is the country’s most common predator, being found in both rural and urban areas.
- The native red squirrel is an iconic mammal in Ireland but is rarer and smaller than the common grey squirrel.
- The coast of Ireland is a vital habitat for marine mammals. Common seals, grey seals, and harbour porpoises can be spotted along the shores.
- Ireland has several species of bats, which play an important role in the ecosystem by controlling insect populations.
- The Irish coast is a popular breeding ground for seals, with thousands of pups born each year. Seal colonies can be found on remote islands and along the coastline of the mainland.
10. Irish hare
One of the oldest species in Ireland, the Irish hare is an allusive creature, usually found grazing woodland areas. Considerably larger than its rabbit cousin, the hare isn’t here by coincidence.
According to the Hare Preservation Trust, the species had survived the most recent ice age by taking refuge in the tundra-like landscape of the south of Ireland.
Although found throughout Europe, badgers are mainly residential to Ireland. If you’re planning a walk in the countryside, hedgerows, grasslands, or woodlands around the island after sunset, you may just be lucky enough to spot one of these nocturnal creatures.
They’re usually wary of humans, so respect their desire for space or else you’ll risk the animal getting aggressive.
8. Irish setter
The beautiful Irish setter is a much-loved breed of dog that originates from, you guessed it, Ireland. Although known for their russet-red coat, records indicate that this wasn’t always the case.
Around 400 years ago, the breed used to be red and white, two colours that made it easier for hunters to spot them in their fields. It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that the breed, as we know them today, became popular.
7. Connemara pony
These majestic creatures are known for their gentle nature and the strong bonds they are able to form with their owners.
Standing at 12.2 to 14.2 hands high, Connemara ponies are the largest breed of pony out there.
6. Red fox
The largest of all the foxes, the red fox is one of the most amazing animal species native to Ireland—and a beautiful sight to behold in woodland areas of Ireland. They’ve even been spotted in urban areas at times, as they are highly adaptive.
Red foxes tend to stay out of the path of humans, which is understandable given the level to which this striking animal has been hunted by us in the past.
5. Pygmy shrew
The minute pygmy shrew takes the title of Ireland’s smallest mammal, measuring only between 4.5 and 6cm. Although often mistaken for a mouse, these creatures can be distinguished by their smaller body size, more velvet-like fur and slightly furred tail.
Although largely absent from heavily forested areas, you can find them in grasslands, heaths, and peatlands across the emerald isle.
Adored by cute animal lovers everywhere, hedgehogs have reached “native” status in Ireland. These gentle creatures are non-territorial and are more at risk from human behaviour than other animals.
Although a common household pet, hedgehogs can be seen in the wild after dark in the countryside. Be careful, though; due to their size and colouring, they can often be missed on the ground beneath your feet.
3. The great Irish elk
The great Irish elk is one of the largest deer to have ever lived in Ireland. Unfortunately, these towering creatures have long been extinct, with most of their antlers and skeletons being found in the country’s bogs.
One theory for their extinction is that their wide-spanning antlers became so big that the animals could no longer support them on their heads. You can see these beauties recreated in many natural history museums across the country, such as the Ulster Museum in Belfast.
2. The viviparous lizard
It’s a well-known legend that Saint Patrick banished snakes from Ireland, and whether or not you believe that to be true, you won’t find any slithering serpents here. In fact, the closest thing you’ll find is the viviparous lizard, Ireland’s only lizard.
Small in size, but with a long tail, this reptile has the ability to regrow its tail should it ever be ripped off by predators.
1. Red deer
Believed to have been present in Ireland for at least 12,000 years, the mighty red deer is Ireland’s biggest land mammal, and the only current species of deer considered “native” to here.
If you’re looking to photograph one of these, you’ll get your best snaps in late September to November and during the winter months, particularly when there is snow on the ground.
Your questions answered about animal species native to Ireland
Want to know more about animal species native to Ireland? Fear not. We’ve got you covered! In the below section, we’ve addressed some of our readers’ most frequently asked questions about this interesting topic.
Are there any animals unique to Ireland?
The Irish Stoat and the Irish Hare are both animals which are unique to Ireland.
What is the rarest wildlife in Ireland?
The Pine Martin is one of the most elusive and rare animal species in Ireland. They can only be found in a few isolated areas, mainly in the west of the island.
Is there a national animal of Ireland?
The Irish Mountain Hare is the national animal of Ireland.