Lochan A' Chait

The Scottish Wildcat

International Cat Day

Aug 8

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

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Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"Ah! Cats are a mysterious kind of folk. There is more passing in their minds than we are aware of." ~ Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)

There are more than 37 species of cats, including the big cats (lion, tiger, leopards, jaguar), the smaller indigenous cats (Canada lynx, ocelot, jaguarundi, Scottish wildcat and many more), and the domesticated cat, not to mention new designer breeds such as Bengals, Savannahs and Toygers! Loch A' Chait (Lake of the Cats), refers to a small upland lake on the edge of the Cairngorms, one of many place names in Scotland named for cats. There are three mountains called Beinn a’ Chait, half a dozen crags or hills called Creag a’ Chait, and waternfalls, burns, and other landscapes, all most likely referencing the native Scottish Wildcat, the "Highlands Tiger." Its current distribution includes Cairngorms, the Black Isle, Aberdeenshire, Angus Glens and Ardnamurchan. 🐈

Lochan A' Chait

International Cat Day is a full 24 hours of recognition and veneration of one of humanity’s oldest and most beloved pets (and their larger and wilder cousins).  There are more than 37 species of cats, including the big cats (lion, tiger, leopards, jaguar), the smaller indigenous cats (Canada lynx, ocelot, jaguarundi, Scottish wildcat and many more), and the domesticated cat.  Indigenous cats feature strongly in historical names for many geographic features of landscapes, particularly in Scotland, including the title of this dance, Loch A' Chait (Lake of the Cats), referring to a small upland lake on the edge of the Cairngorms.  

 

The Gaelic for cat almost always appears in the altered forms a’ chait (of the cat) or nan cat (of the cats).

 

There are three mountains called Beinn a’ Chait, half a dozen crags or hills called Creag a’ Chait, and other higher landscapes called Meall a’ Chait, Cnoc a’ Chait and Tom a’ Chait.

Sometimes cat names crop up in relation to water bodies, such as Eas nan Cat (the waterfall of the wildcats) in Kintyre and Allt a’ Chait (the burn of the wildcat) in Caithness.

 

Place names indicate a significant presence of this species in Perthshire in earlier times – there are no less than five lochans in the county named after the wildcat.

The earliest Gaelic name for the Shetland Isles was Insi Catt, meaning either the cat islands, or referring to a tribe whose totem was the wild cat. The name survives in Caithness and in the Gaelic name for Sutherland (Cataibh, meaning among the Cats).

For a fun look at domesticated cats with peculiar coat markings, click the photograph of Scottish Wildcat kittens, from the British Wildlife Centre.

Lochan A' Chait
Lochan A' Chait

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The majority of dance descriptions referenced on this site have been taken from the

 

Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary or the

Scottish Country Dancing Database 

 

Snapshots of dance descriptions are provided as an overview only.  As updates may have occurred, please click the dance description to be forwarded to a printable dance description or one of the official reference sources.

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