Cows adapted to life on a steep hillside

  • I'm trying to remember the details of a legend I read years ago - and I don't even remember which body of folklore it came from - about a hero with a herd of cows, all of whom had legs on one side longer than the other so that they could graze on the side of a very steep hill.

    My initial guess was Finn McCool, but a cursory search of the best-known Finn legends doesn't reveal any lopsided cows; my next guess is one of the semi-modern American tall tale heroes - but Paul Bunyan is the only one I can remember offhand, and he's not the one. It's also possible that I misremembered this entirely, and there never was such a legend or tale...

    Edit: it appears that this is A Thing in several parts of the world! The three that have been reported so far - the wild haggis, the dahu, the hillside gouger/ousel/dodger/etc. - all seem to be of the April Fool's joke or tourist prank variety; now I'm curious whether there ever was an "authentic" legendary occurrence. (Since the concept itself is patently ridiculous, it occurs to me that, even if a reference turns up in a 7th-century Irish illuminated manuscript, it might have been a joke even then... but at least it would be a really old joke.)

    Haha! Great question. (It brings to mind the *Atalanta-eque* woman from the Irish folkore whose legs were described as being backwards, like the hind legs of a stag or horse, to explain her swiftness.) Welcome to Mythology!

    Thanks! The more I think about it, the more I think it was a tall tale rather than an ancient legend... but I'm still no closer to remembering the actual source.

    It's been so long since I delved into the Irish legends, aside from Yeats' plays, but this one is pretty resonant. Will be great to get a source, regardless.

  • Sam

    Sam Correct answer

    5 years ago

    I think the animal is a sidehill gouger.

    Sidehill gougers are North American folkloric creatures adapted to living on hillsides by having legs on one side of their body shorter than the legs on the opposite side.

    Your ties of it to Paul Bunyan are probably right because if you look here you can find an entry on a "Sidehill Dodger" which is another name for the same creature.

    I can't find the exact myth though.

    Similar to the sidehill gouger, there is the dahu, a French mythical creature, and the wild haggis from Scotland.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM