Y Fuwch Frech The Freckled Cow

: Welsh Folk-lore

In ages long gone by, my informant knew not how long ago, a wonderful cow

had her pasture land on the hill close to the farm, called Cefn Bannog,

after the mountain ridge so named. It would seem that the cow was

carefully looked after, as indicated by the names of places bearing her

name. The site of the cow house is still pointed out, and retains its

name, Preseb y Fuwch Frech--the Crib of the Freckled Cow. Close to

this place are traces of a small enclosure called Gwal Erw y Fuwch

Frech, or the Freckled Cow's Meadow. There is what was once a track way

leading from the ruins of the cow house to a spring called Ffynon y

Fuwch Frech, or the Freckled Cow's Well, and it was, tradition says, at

this well that the cow quenched her thirst. The well is about 150 yards

from the cow house. Then there is the feeding ground of the cow called,

Waen Banawg, which is about half a mile from the cow house. There are

traces of walls several feet thick in these places. The spot is a lonely

one, but ferns and heather flourish luxuriantly all about this ancient

homestead. It is also said that this cow was the mother of the Ychain

Banawg, or large-horned oxen. But now to proceed to the tradition that

makes the memory of this cow dear to the inhabitants of the Denbighshire


Old people have transmitted from generation to generation the following

strange tale of the Freckled Cow. Whenever any one was in want of milk

they went to this cow, taking with them a vessel into which they milked

the cow, and, however big this vessel was, they always departed with the

pail filled with rich milk, and it made no difference, however often she

was milked, she could never be milked dry. This continued for a long

time, and glad indeed the people were to avail themselves of the

inexhaustible supply of new milk, freely given to them all. At last a

wicked hag, filled with envy at the people's prosperity, determined to

milk the cow dry, and for this purpose she took a riddle with her, and

milked and milked the cow, until at last she could get no more milk from

her. But, sad to say, the cow immediately, upon this treatment, left the

country, and was never more seen. Such is the local history of the

Freckled Cow.

Tradition further states that she went straight to a lake four miles off,

bellowing as she went, and that she was followed by her two children the

Dau Eidion Banawg, the two long-horned oxen, to Llyn dau ychain, the

Lake of the Two Oxen, in the parish of Cerrig-y-drudion, and that she

entered the lake and the two long-horned oxen, bellowing horribly, went,

one on either side the lake, and with their mother disappeared within its

waters, and none were ever afterwards seen.

Notwithstanding that tradition buries these celebrated cattle in this

lake, I find in a book published by Dr. John Williams, the father of the

Rev. John Williams, M.A., Vicar of Llanwddyn, in the year 1830, on the

Natural History of Llanrwst, the following statement. The author in

page 17, when speaking of Gwydir, says:--

In the middle court (which was once surrounded by the house), there is a

large bone, which appears to be the rib of some species of whale, but

according to the vulgar opinion, it is the rib of the Dun Cow (y Fuwch

Frech), killed by the Earl of Warwick.

It may be stated that Llanrwst is not many miles distant from

Cerrig-y-drudion and yet we have in these places conflicting traditions,

which I will not endeavour to reconcile.

The Shropshire tale of the Fairy Cow is much the same as the preceding.

There she is known as The White Cow of Mitchell's Fold. This place

is situated on the Corndon Hill, a bare moorland in the extreme west of

Shropshire. To this day there is to be seen there a stone circle known

as Mitchell's Fold.

The story of the Shropshire Cow is this. There was a dire famine in

those parts, and the people depended for support on a beautiful white

cow, a Fairy cow, that gave milk to everybody, and it mattered not how

many came, there was always enough for all, and it was to be so, so long

as every one who came only took one pailful. The cow came night and

morning to be milked, and it made no difference what size the vessel was

that was brought by each person, for she always gave enough milk to fill

it, and all the other pails. At last, there came an old witch to

Mitchell's Fold, and in spite and malice she brought a riddle and milked

the cow into it; she milked and milked, and at last she milked her dry,

and after that the cow was never seen. Folk say she was turned into a


I am indebted to Miss Burne's Shropshire Folk-Lore for the particulars

above given.

A like tale is to be heard in Warwickshire, and also in Lancashire, near

Preston, where the Dun cow gave freely her milk to all in time of

drought, and disappeared on being subjected to the treatment of the Welsh

and Shropshire cow.

Mr. Lloyd, Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr, gave me a different tale of the Dau

ychain Banawg to that already related. His story is as follows:--