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What the Cow Says

True cow sounds are rendered differently in many languages.

Cow sounds and proverbs. Jersey Cow

Bengali: hamba
Chinese (Mandarin): mu mu
Danish: muh
Dutch: boeh
English: moo
Finnish: ammuu
French: meuh
German: mmuuh
Greek and Hebrew: moo
Hindi: moo-mo
Hungarian: bu
Norwegian: (pronounced as in French)

Cows bellow for many reasons. One is to warn intruders or scare them off. Another is to give vent to suffering and hardship. Another is to communicate with the flock - or calf. Perhaps to show they are afraid, even confused. There are many other possible reasons too.

Cows in Norway - facts

When the cow licks you, it is a friendly token.

The cows sleeps only 20 minutes a day. She eats for 4-6 hours and ruminates for 10 to 14 hours.

The cow has no front teeth in the upper jaw, and chews her food sideways.

The cow produces 100 liters of saliva (spittle) a day while ruminating.

The cow drinks fast and much: about 130 litres of water a day - 20-25 litres a minute.

Cows develop friendships that may last long. A cow can recognise and remember 50-70 others.

The cow eyes have pupils shaped as rectangles. Thus they can better see possible threats that appear or come closer in their surroundings.

The average cow (at least in Norway) produces 7,000 litres of milk a year now. It is twice as much as 60 years ago.

[Note 1]

Cow Proverbs

The cows of others always have bigger udders [German, Sx].

Who does not have a cow, can milk the cat [German, Sx, mod].

The old cow too has been a calf [Norwegian].

A black cow too gives white milk [German, Sx].

The cow must graze where she is tied [American, Ap 596].

You cannot sell the cow and sup the milk [British, Dp 28].

The more cows, the less milk [American, Ap 123]. Compare: The fewer cows, the less milk [German].

Don't swallow the cow and worry with the tail [American, Ap 122].

The cow does not cost more because it is many-coloured [German, Sx].

Each farmer's wife praises her own cow [German, Sx].

One milks the cow and not the ox [German].

It helps little that the cow yields milk when she kicks the milk pail over. [Norwegian, Go 85].

The cow never goes so far that its tail won't follow [Norwegian].

The cow may die while the grass grows [Norwegian].

The older the cow, the prettier the calf [German, Sx].

"It was no cow either," said the man, he lost his wife. [Norwegian, Go 104].

What is born of the cow, cattle remains [German, Sx].

It all depends on whose ox is gored. [American, Rdp 164] (Comment: The proverb was used by Martin Luther. To decide if the outcome of a fight or dispute is good or bad, depends on the side you are on. The losing side is "the gored ox".)

Always drink upstream from the herd. [American, Dpr 120] (Comment: The water is hopefully cleaner there.)

It is not all butter which comes from cows [German, Sx].


Cows, cow sounds, cow proverbs, Literature  

Dasa, Sahadeva. Cows Are Cool: Love 'em! Soul Science University Press, 2009. ⍽▢⍽ Dr. Dasa tells us what to do, but probably not all the details of how, where and when. All the same, we may end up becoming more humane or considerate after reading books like this. Dr Dasa tells of: Ways to cool down an angry bull — Cows never forget a place or a face — The social lives of cows — Cows are intensely emotional — Some facts about cows — Kids and cows — Sweet music for milking — Happy cows, happy society — Cows - fussy about cleanliness — Cows moo with a regional accent — Cows form cliques — Cowlick - the way to give 'solace' — Cows have a strange sixth sense — Ignorance - a prerequisite of the standard Western diet.

Ap: Mieder, Wolfgang, main ed., (main ed.), Stewart A. Kingsbury, and Kelsie E. Harder: A Dictionary of American Proverbs.(Paperback ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996 (1992). ⍽▢⍽ A comprehensive, top-notch work for general readers and scholars of literature alike. More than 15,000 sayings, adages, and maxims that are commonly used.

Dp: Fergusson, Rosalind. The Penguin Dictionary of Proverbs. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983.

Dpr: Doyle, Charles Clay, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro. The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012. ⍽▢⍽ Here are over 1,400 colourful, recent proverbs.

EB: Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, yearly DVD.

Go: Christiansen, Reidar. Gamle norske visdomsord. Norske ordspråk i utvalg. Oslo: Cappelen, 1992.

Oy: Aasen, Ivar. Norske Ordsprog samlede og ordnede af I. Aasen. 2. utg. Christiania (Oslo): Mallings Boghandels Forlag, 1881.

Rdp: Titelman, Gregory. Random House Dictionary of America's Popular Proverbs and Sayings. 2nd ed. New York: Random House, 2000. ⍽▢⍽ The chosen proverbs in it are made easy to understand through some likable explanations, with historical examples of their uses.

Sx: Beyer, Horst, und Annelies Beyer. Sprichtwörterlexikon: Sprichwörter und Sprichwörterliche Ausdrücke aus Deutchen Sammlungen vom 16. Jahrhundert bis zus Gegenwart. München: Bech, 1985. ⍽▢⍽ 15,000 proverbs and proverbial sayings.

  1. Reidar Kjæstad and Mari Grafsrønningen. "Ti ting du kanskje ikkje visste om ei ku". NRK Hedmark og Oppland, 30 Aug. 2016. ◦Article]

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