Informant is a Pre-Med transfer student at USC who grew up in North Dakota. He shared this game with me when we saw cows outside our windows on a bus going on tour with our choir. I later interviewed him again to get an accurate transcription of this game.
“I was in high school, I don’t know what year, and I went to Bible camp in North Dakota called Park River Bible camp. And one of the games we would play on the bus, actually I think the only game we would play on the bus – I don’t remember – it was called “Hey, Cow”.
“Basically whenever you saw cows, the people on that side of the bus that the cows were on would yell “Hey Cow” out the window and would try to count how many cows looked at them. This wasn’t a very strict game, obviously, I don’t think there were judges or anything.
“And then I guess whatever side of the bus had the most cows would win – I don’t know what they would win, they would just win the game. The game goes throughout the bus ride. You would try to get everyone on your side to yell it so that you get the most volume so that you get the most cows [looking at you].”
The camp was for high school students and the informant says that a lot of people would play the game. The informant enjoyed the game and thought it was fun but “not very seriously obviously because one side could have more cows than the other, therefore they have an unfair advantage. It was like very casual competition.”
When asked to interpret why this game is played, the informant said “’cause there’s nothing else in North Dakota!”
While that is amusing, it is not completely true. There are references online for this game being played all over America. There is even a website claiming to have the “official “Hey Cow” rules”. I think this game probably rose with the rise in long distance road trips. When driving through the grain belt of America, the landscape can often start to feel repetitive and, especially for young kids in the car, might get boring. Seeing a cow becomes an excitement (especially if you are a city kid) and being able to bother the cow in a casually competitive game could definitely help alleviate the boredom of long drives.