Everyone knows that the great bustard was hunted to extinction in Britain at about the time the phrase was first used in comedy movies, probably by Sid James. That is, around the start of the 19th century – although we are still waiting the results from the carbon dating of some of the earlier Carry On films.
A warm welcome, therefore, for the latest plans to import the formerly native giants of Salisbury Plain (wingspan up to 2.4m, weight up to 17kg) from the Steppes of the Volga. Whatever it does for local property prices it is a shot in the arm for a tradition of British humour on the endangered species list.
If the bustard takes, we can only hope that ornithologists move on to more ambitious projects with other interestingly named birds, such as the great auk and the dodo – which, as every schoolchild ought to know, is a corruption of the Dutch for big bottom.Reuse content