Cows are quite the unhurried animal. Kind of like the tortoise, as opposed to the hare. They take their own sweet long time making their way home. Thus the notorious phrase.
Did you know that the saying quite possibly originates from farmers because they are actually familiar with the time that cows really do come home to their barns? Apparently cows come home especially early in the morning because they want to be milked.
And because of this early morning timeframe, many people use the phrase to imply how late they might stay up at night in bars or nightclubs…or I suppose in pubs, too…
And I can attest to all this, having really experienced the cows coming home…and I am not a farmer. It was actually during my travels…
I was on a payphone using an international calling card (yes, not a cell phone) to talk to my mother from Doolin, Ireland. It was 7:00 am on July 9, 2004. It was a brisk and clear morning. The previous night, I had been at one of the three pubs in all of Doolin, listening to some great traditional Irish music, and talking with some local fisherman. (And probably having a Guinness.)
That morning, I was actually hoping to get on a fishing boat to experience fishing off the coast of Ireland. Ah, but no such luck (pun intended). It was not meant to be a day for being on the seas. But before I began the rest of my day (which turned out to be a wonderful bicycle ride), I called my mother instead to update her on my travels.
This payphone happened to be located on a quiet country Doolin road, literally just across the street from one of those three pubs. Surrounding this pub and me were green grassy fields and the blue ocean beyond.
When all of a sudden, I heard cowbells and mooing not too far off in the distance. I turned around and saw a farmer herding his cows down a nearby street. At first, I thought nothing of it. But then, slowly but surely, the sounds became louder, and the cows headed towards the road that I was on. The next thing I knew, they were strolling leisurely right in front of me, right between me on the phone and Gus O’Connor’s pub across the way.
I said to my mom, as we both heard more mooing, “Well, Mom, the cows are actually coming home….” I explained to her what was happening, and we both got a good laugh.
And I now that I know more about the origins of the phrase “till the cows come home,” it has been proven to me that the cows really do come home quite early in the morning. At 7:00 am, to be exact, in Doolin, Ireland. And, yes, at a snail’s pace, too.
And what is more appropriate is that not only do the cows come home early, they even pass by the pubs on their way…
And not only do they pass by pubs, they meander next to O’Brien’s crafts store as well.
History of the phrase compliments of urbandictionary.com and phrases.org.uk.