When the Cows Come Home

Cow in Viscri, Romania
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“… until the cows come home.”

It's probably a phrase that you've heard used before. Not often, but I'm sure you've heard it.

The phrase is usually used to mean “a long time,” or to refer to being out really late. (For example, if you're going to party until the cows come home, you're probably going to have a crazy late night.) But do you actually know where the phrase comes from?

Back when cows were sent out to pasture each day away from the farm, they usually would not return to be milked until the wee hours of the morning. Hence the phrase.

I personally just thought it was an antiquated phrase — cows don't really “come home” anymore, right?

Well actually they do!

In the small village of Viscri, Romania, I got to witness “when the cows come home” for myself. We had jut finished a delicious home-cooked meal when our hosts shoo'd us outside and told us we would want to see this daily tradition.

In Viscri, the cows (and goats and horses and sometimes sheep) are brought home each evening around 8 p.m. for milking.

The shepherds herd the animals from the fields to the main street in Viscri, and then the animals take themselves home. Literally. They mosey down the street, stopping for a bite of grass here and there, and eventually turn in at their farms.

The animals have done it so many times (and are so ready to be milked) that no real “herding” need to be done at all.

It's entertaining to watch, and a perfect illustration of present-day village life in Romania.

Did you know the cows actually still “come home” like this in some parts of the world?

 

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