What Is A Pictish Beast?

Pictish Beast Publications is named after an enigmatic carving found on Scottish standing stones that were erected by the Picts, an ancient tribe native to the most northern reaches of the British Isles. While archaeologists have had some luck interpreting many of the symbols on these Pictish standing stones (some of which are remarkably life-like), one remains a mystery. This symbol is commonly referred to as the Pictish Beast and it accounts for approximately 40% of all animal symbols found on Pictish standing stomes. Some have speculated that it might simply be a representation of a mythical creature (like a kelpie – also known as a water-horse), others have suggested that it might be based on a real animal, such as a seahorse, or even an elephant. However, here at Pictish Beast Publications, we think that all the evidence suggests that it’s actually based on a beaked whale, and specifically a species called Sowerby’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon bidens), and our founder, Dr Colin D. MacLeod, even published a paper on this possibility in the Tayside and Fife Journal of Archaeology in 2001. So, when it came to establishing a publishing imprint based in Scotland, it seemed only logical to use the name Pictish Beast Publications.