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.)

  • 1
    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!
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 23:11
  • 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.
    – MT_Head
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 23:30
  • 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.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 23:37

6 Answers 6


Pecos Bill

Pecos Bill is is legendary cowboy in the American West.

Pecos Bill (Steven Kellog) is a wonderful children's illustrated book. (Kellog also wrote books of Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed.)

To avoid the problem of season cattle herding, Pecos Bill builds a mountain that is winter at the top and summer at the bottom.

Bill's plan worked fine except that Pinnacle Peak was so steep the steers fell right off whenever there was a breeze. The men had to work harder than ever carrying the cattle back up the hill.

Bill solved that problem by inventing steers with very short legs on one side of their bodies. Even in a windstorm these cattle could stand securely on the sloop as long as they kept their short-legged sides uphill.

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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.


They are commomnly known in my region as Sidehill Grantlers. Most people are unaware there are right and lefthand versions and if the two meet, they stand there until they starve.


My faint impression is that Pecos Bill had a herd of such creatures. To catch them, all you had to do was turn them around and they would fall over.


My grandfather told me these stores 30+ years ago. He loved telling tall tales and convinced me they were real when I was little.

His story was they were called Aracarebas (no idea how it’s spelled) and they had two legs shorter than the other two so they could walk on hills. Only problem was they couldn’t turn around so they would have to circle the entire hill to get back to their barn at the end of the day.

He also told me stories about jackalope hunting and Naugas (small creatures that went extinct due to the popularity of naugahyde so they started having to make faux leather naugahyde) and I think a few others.

I actually found this post trying to get some reference for the old story. Thought I’d add my recollection.


there is an appalachian story and children's picture book about mountain cows.

they had shorter front legs than regular cows and holes in their ears.

the short legs make it easier to graze going uphill. When they got to the top, they'd put their front legs into through the holes in their ears, roll down to the bottom and repeat. There was another one about giant potatoes but I can't remember the details.


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