[Illustration: HEADS OF IRISH WOLF DOGS.]
The most formidable, if not the largest, of the carnivora in this island, was the brown bear. The wolf lingered on until the beginning of the last century; and the Irish greyhound has passed with it also. The gigantic Irish elk, Cervus megaseros, belongs more to the palaeontologist than to the historian, as it is supposed to have existed only in pre-historic times. A smaller variety has been found in peat overlaying the clay, from which it is inferred that some species may have been contemporary with the human race. The horse co-existed with the elephant. The red deer was the principal object of chase from an early period. The wild boar found abundant food from our noble oaks; and the hare, the rabbit, the goat, and the sheep supplied the wants of the Celt in ancient as in modern times. But the great wealth of Ireland consisted in her cows, which then, as now, formed a staple article of commerce. Indeed, most of the ancient feuds were simply cattle raids, and the successful party signalized his victory by bearing off the bovine wealth of the vanquished enemy.
It is impossible exactly to estimate the population of Ireland at this period with any degree of reliable exactitude. The only method of approximating thereto should be based on a calculation of the known or asserted number of men in arms at any given time. When Roderic and his allies invested the Normans in Dublin, he is said to have had 50,000 fighting men. Supposing this to include one-fourth of all the men of the military age in the country, and to bear the proportion of one-fifth to the total number of the inhabitants, it would give a population of about a million, which would probably be rather under than over the correct estimate.