Academics ponder Orkney’s fox-farming past

Were Iron Age Orcadians farming foxes?

They’ve not been seen on Orkney soil in recorded history, but did Iron Age Orcadians breed foxes for their fur?

An archaeological analysis of animal remains found at settlements in Orkney suggests that non-native species were imported and farmed specifically for their pelts.

A study, co-authored by Dr James Barrett and Eva Fairnell, of the University of York, has concluded a flourishing fox population in Orkney, during the late Iron Age, was introduced to the islands because their fur was highly prized.

By examining the bones found at  sites, Ms Fairnell could ascertain whether the animals had been skinned for their fur rather than butchered.

Because the animals were not found in other Scottish islands, it would imply that the fox was either significant to the Iron Age Orcadians – whether spiritually or simply economically, remains open to question.

A full report on the study is due to be published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

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