Dun Cow

As to the tradition of the "Old Dun Cow," it is related that once there wandered over the elevated and dark moors of Parlick, Bleasdale, Bowland, and Browsholme, a dun cow of stupendous size, and withal of most generous and extraordinary nature; and it is supposed in its daily pasturing to have been quenching its thirst at "Nick's Water-Pot," — a well on the summit of Parlick. The great merit of this wonderful cow was, that to all comers she gave an abundant supply of milk. Hence her fame spread; and from the heights of Browsholme, the brows of Leagrim, the valley of Chipping — from lofty Bleasdale and lowly Thornley, from haughty Parlick and humble Goosnargh, came milk-seekers in plenty, and none went empty-handed away. No matter how large the pail, it was always filled to the brim.

It is conjectured that one of the far-famed Pendle witches (perhaps bribed and instigated by some envious milk-seller who had lost his custom, and wished to destroy the opposition shop) took, instead of a milk-pail, a large riddle or sieve, and went up to milk the old dun cow. At work she kept all day; the milk flowed in rich and copious streams; but at night the riddle was still empty. In vain the bountiful milk-giver taxed her powers to fill the old hag's strange milk-pail; the effort was too much; the fountain that had never failed before at last became dry; and either through the exhaustion of nature, or from vexation and disappointment at being outwitted by an old woman, the old cow gave up the ghost, and those dreary moors ceased for ever to be "a land flowing with milk."

An old farm in the township of Whittingham, in the parish of Kirkham, five miles north of Preston, was named "Old Rib." The name was, so it was said, derived from an extraordinary rib, which was taken from the old dun cow; the rib was placed over the door of the farmhouse, as a monument to the excellence of the defunct animal.



  • Harland, J. and T. Wilkinson. (1873). Lancashire Legends. London: George Routledge and Sons, pp. 16-19.

This article incorporates text from Lancashire Legends (1873) by J. Harland and T. Wilkinson, which is in the public domain.