Why Are There No Snakes In Ireland?

The coast of Ireland.

In case you were wondering whether there really are snakes in Ireland or not then the answer is that it is true: there are no snakes in Ireland. That said, I am sure you have heard of the myths and stories as to why there are no snakes in the country as of now. The myth is that the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, chased away all the snakes from the Emerald Isle back when he was introducing Christianity in the region. The legend is that Patrick chased away the snakes when they attacked him while he was on a forty-day fasting journey on a hill. However, Ireland is not the only place on Earth where there are no snakes. include New Zealand, Antarctica, Greenland, and Iceland also do not host any snakes. Notice anything common with these places? Cold weather. This still does not answer the question as to why there are no snakes in Ireland so, let us find out.

Why Are There No Snakes In Ireland?

The answer to that seemingly hard question: there were never any snakes in the Emerald Isle. According to research, there is no evidence that suggest that snakes ever lived in Ireland.

Scientists suggest that there were never any snakes because they could not reach the island. To make it simpler, during the last Ice Age period, the Emerald Isle was way too cold for the cold-blooded animals to be able to survive and therefore did not try to inhabit the region. 10,000 years ago, however, the ice and glaciers started to melt which started to put an end to the Ice Age period. The melting of ice allowed for land that connected Europe, Britain, and Ireland to be exposed which now gave a chance to the cold-blooded animals to migrate. Evidence shows that the only animals that managed to reach Ireland when the migration was possible were brown bears, lynx, and wild boars. Snakes did not make it because they are slow to colonize alien regions. The only reptile said to have made it was the common lizard.

The reason as to why the snakes did not make it was because the melting glaciers expanded seas all around Ireland-an island-and, therefore, the long swim would be impossible for a non-aquatic animal. But why does Britain have snakes then? The land bridge that connected Ireland with Britain was buried in water 8,500 years ago while the land between Britain and Europe was covered 6,500 years later. This gap of 2,000 years, therefore, allowed snakes to colonize Britain. Only the venomous adder, smooth snake, and the grass snake managed to reach Britain.

Due to the absence of snakes in Ireland, owning a snake is somewhat seen as a symbol of status even though there have been reports of snakes being released or escaping but as of yet, none is present in Ireland. The 2008 economic depression, however, forced people to let the animals loose due to the high cost of caring for them.

Debunking The Myth

The story that St. Patrick banished snakes from the island might have been misunderstood. The “snakes” in the legend probably refer to the pagan culture that the patron saint abolished and defeated while introducing Christianity. The pagan cultures were also related to the snakes in their heathen activities.


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