Grouse are a group of birds from
the order Galliformes. Grouse inhabit temperate and
subarctic regions of the northern hemisphere. These heavily
built birds have legs feathered to the toes. The Red Grouse
is considered a game bird and is shot in large numbers
during the shooting season which traditionally starts on the
12th of August, known as the Glorious Twelfth. Shooting can
take the form of 'walked up' (where hunters walk across the
moor to flush grouse and take a shot) or 'driven' (where
grouse are driven, often in large numbers by 'beaters'
towards the guns who are hiding behind a line of 'butts').
Many moors are intensively managed to increase the density
of grouse. Areas of heather are subjected to controlled
burning; this allows fresh young shoots to regenerate which
are favored by the grouse.
Wearing the grouse
foot is supposed to bring good luck to the hunt (not to the
Grouse). Examples of the Grouse-foot kilt pin appear as
early as the 1800s and may have been part of the Victorian
resurgence of Highland attire. Elaborate examples include
sterling silver mounts.
Some examples are
stamped with the term MIZPAH. Mizpah
is an emotional bond between people who are separated
(either physically or by death). Mizpah jewellery is worn to
signify this bond. Mizpah is a Hebrew word meaning:
"wherever you are, may good fortune be with you".
An unreliable source told
me that the Grouse-foot kilt pin was a sign of defiance
since hunting on the Lairds land was an offense with heavy
punishments, and that the “ring” on the middle “finger” of
the foot was the origins of “flipping the bird.” Well…it’s
a good story.