Cows

Cows: Humorous Approaches to Life

I am inspired to write this page about cows because of my one-year-old daughter's love of Moo, her stuffed Holstein cow toy animal.

When I was gathering many stories and poems about cows for my daughter, I noticed the different ways that cows are portrayed from meek grass-munchers to bold adventurers. These literary cows represent different humorous approaches to life.

Relaxed Ruminators I have observed cows outdoors sauntering along in favorite meadows and then pausing to chew and think. The image of relaxed ruminators is probably one of the most popular in the literature I have found. My daughter associates her Moo Cow with naptime, so she seems to take the relaxed view of cows as well.

Some lines from Cows by James Reeves illustrate this approach:

Half the time they munched the grass, and all the time they lay
Down in the water-meadows, the lazy month of May,
   A-chewing,
   A-mooing,
To pass the hours away

"Nice weather," said the brown cow.
   "Ah," said the white.
"Grass is very tasty."
"Grass is all right."

While written about the closely-related ox, Carmen Bernos De Gasztold's poem (translated by Rumer Godden), The Prayer of the Ox paints the entire bovine world as focused on philosophizing and eating:

Dear God, give me time.
Men are always so driven!
Make them understand that I can never hurry.
Give me time to eat.
Give me time to plod.
Give me time to sleep.
Give me time to think.

Fearless Adventurers Other stories portray cows as the opposite of meadow-bound ruminators. A well-known nursery rhyme sums it up:

Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such fun
And the dish ran away with the spoon!

Any soul brave enough to jump over the moon-- what happens on the other side?-- is clearly a first-rate adventurer.

The rhyme was first published in England in 1765. The "Hey Diddle Diddle" phrase is similar to the "Hey Nonny No" of many English folksongs.

A fun activity for children is imitate the cow jumping over the moon. I taped cow-like spots to my daughter and to myself. Then we jumped over a big yellow moon while I sang the song.

Rebels on Strike The hysterical children's book Click Clack Moo, written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin, tells the story of cows who not only gain the ability to type but decide to go on strike until their farmer gives them electric blankets for their cold barn. As the farmer resists, the cows stir up more rebellion by encouraging chickens to strike as well. It is interesting to think what would happen when animals gain a voice. My favorite line is "Duck was a neutral party, so he brought the ultimatum to the cows." Through collective action, the cows eventually achieve their objective.

So which kind of cow would you be? Please email your thoughts.