King Puck – Killorglin, Ireland - Atlas Obscura
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Killorglin, Ireland

King Puck

A proud bronze billy stands as an eternal symbol of Ireland's oldest festival, where a goat is made king. 

All hail King Puck, Lord Goat of Killorglin! Staring off into the future as proudly as a goat can, the statue of King Puck in Killorglin, Ireland is a monument to the country’s oldest festival, the Puck Fair.

During this ancient celebration, a wild male goat (known as a “puck”) is crowned king of the town for three days before being returned to his normal life in the Irish hills, his royalty all but ignored by his fellow goats. The festival begins each year on August 10th when the captured goat is brought to the town square where he is crowned by the “Queen of Puck,” who is not another goat, but a young girl from the town. His worldly station raised, “King Puck” is then put in a cage on a high scaffold where he may survey his kingdom for the duration of the festival. The bars are allowed to stay open extra late during the fair, so his majesty generally gets to see some drunkenness. At the end of the three days, the king goat is deposed and led back to into the wilderness.

The origin of the festival is lost to time, but it dates back to at least the 1600s, and is likely much older. Some say that the festival has its origins in pagan symbolism and ritual, but the most popular theory of how the fair began involves Oliver Cromwell and a heroic billy. As the story goes, Cromwell’s English raiders were making their way towards Killorglin when they spooked a herd of goats. One of the beasts hoofed it into the town, and when it arrived, tired and agitated, the citizens of Killorglin realized that something was up. They were able to fortify their town against the oncoming force, and the day was saved. The Puck Fair is said to have been established in honor of that Paul Revere of goats.

The Puck Fair is still celebrated in Killorglin each year, and the statue of King Puck that stands in the town makes sure that in the time between each festival, no one forgets who is really king.     

In recent years, a ban or alteration to the festival has been called for because of animal welfare concerns. This has met strong local resistance.