Beithir

Large water Snake of Scotland.

Etymology: Gaelic and Irish, "serpent," "beast," or "bear," often with a supernatural connotation.

Physical description: Length, 9-10 feet. Behavior: Active in summer. Habitat: Lakes, caves.

Distribution: Around Loch a' Mhuillidh, Highland, Scotland. Possible explanations: (1) The Grass snake (Natrix natrix) is a greenish-olive snake with a yellowish collar around the neck. It occasionally grows up to

6 feet 6 inches long in Southern Europe, but in England and Wales, it generally attains a length of only 5 feet 9 inches. It likely inhabited the lowlands of Scotland at one time. It favors areas near lakes or streams. (2) The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) rarely grows longer than 4 feet. The fishes spawn in the Atlantic Ocean, and the larvae transform into elvers on their migration route to freshwater streams and rivers in Europe, where they live for many years. Sources: John Gregorson Campbell, Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland (Glasgow, Scotland: J. MacLehose and Sons, 1900), pp. 223-224; Karl Shuker, "Sideshow," Strange Magazine, no. 15 (Spring 1995): 32.

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