Game: “Cows”


During the informant’s childhood, kids would play a game where they pretended to be cows, and there was a “cow hierarchy” where at the top was the “cow master”. At the bottom of the ranking were the kids playing cows who had to eat the most grass, and as you went up in ranks, you would eat less grass. It should be noted that they didn’t usually actually eat the grass, since the kids would usually spit it out after “eating” it.


The informant comes from Idaho. they mentioned that this game may have appealed to him because he watched cows on ranches, and thought that not having to worry about much and looking down at the ground and minding your own business like a cow was a cool thing.


As Elliott Oring says, children’s folklore is often antithetical. Play is often where this antithesis is conducted through, and it’s hard to think of anything more antithetical to human life than literally acting like an animal. Especially when it comes to playing as cows specifically, the emphasis on not having to worry about stuff and minding one’s own business is a process that is somewhat of an “escape” from human life. The idea of a cow hierarchy exists in nature, but as far as I can tell it doesn’t seem to play that much of a role in the game. Especially since my informant didn’t really have much to say on the subject of the hierarchy beyond it just being a part of the game, where one cow was “higher up” than another. This could be a reflection of the real world, and a form of parody as well, by simply having a hierarchical structure that is arbitrary and otherwise absent in nature.