Monday, August 13, 2007

Goat crowned king of Ireland at ancient fair

Jimmy, a feisty white mountain goat, was crowned king of Ireland on August 10 at one of the country's oldest fairs.

Dating back centuries, the Puck Fair is an annual festival of drinking, music and dancing celebrated in the town of Killorglin in southern Ireland. Each year a male goat is caught in the surrounding mountains, paraded through the town to a beat of drums and pipes, and then placed in a 40-feet (12 metre) stand where he reigns as king for three days.

The origins of the fair are not totally known, but it always falls on August 10-12. One theory suggests mountain goats alerted residents of the town to an impending attack by English leader Oliver Cromwell's forces in the 17th century.

Another theory says it may have pre-Christian links due to the goat being a pagan fertility symbol like the god Pan.

Around 100,000 to 150,000 visitors are expected to attend this year. Precautions have been taken at the event, which also features separate horse and cattle fairs, due to a foot and mouth outbreak in England. Disinfectants have been used, and mats have been placed wherever there animals are displayed.

Jimmy himself will receive regal treatment, being fed regularly and checked by his own personal vet. At the end of 3 days, when he is dethroned, he is brought back up to the mountains and released to join his fellow nanny goats to resume his pastoral duties.