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Quantities of Bog Butter continue to be found as indicated by the following report..

 “Workmen engaged on a bog this week unearthed a lump of butter weighing about 10 stone. It was wrapped in cloth and was contained in a wicker basket. The butter was as hard as cheese. It is believed that it was buried in the bog at least 20 years ago. Its state of preservation, in view of this belief is astonishing.”        Leinster Leader 14/06/1941

From time to time quantities of  “Bog Butter “  continue to be found through out the bogs of Ireland and there is a collection of these in the National Museum, Dublin. The practice of burying fats was not confined to Ireland for evidence has also been found in Scotland, Finland and the Faroe Islands

Samples usually bear little resemblance to butter as we know it today which isn’t really surprising considering the storage conditions. Often it is a white substance with the look of paraffin wax. Though it is not possible to date many of the finds the custom of burying butter in bogs seems to have been known in early Christian times. The practice died out most likely in the early 19th century. However, examples continue to be found, sometimes in very good condition considering their age

For dating purposes, it is the actual container in which the butter was buried that is of most use. The vessels were made of a variety of materials- wood, cloth, wicker work and animal skins, with a detachable lid or handle. Highly ornate wooden containers have been found indicating how highly regarded they were

It is not definitely known why butter was buried in the bogs and there may have been several reasons. Commentators have written of the practice of using garlic “to give it a high taste for Lent” and thus it may have been a special type of butter for a certain season. Alternatively it may simply have been an attempt to preserve the summer excess for more lean times. The bog offered a suitable means of storage under cool and air tight conditions acting as a very early fridge. In times of war security of food reserves was even more important
The butter was mainly made from cows’ milk- goats’ milk may also have been used. Normal butter is over 80% fats, 3% curd and 12% water with added salt. In the case of bog butter the water content is obviously much higher and the sample does not look like the butter we are used to
If anyone has additional information or indeed come across some samples we would be delighted to hear from you


Mario Corrigan, Local Studies Department, Kildare County Library
Journal of the Kildare Archaeological Society