When the Cows Come Home

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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!

Viscri, Romania

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.

Viscri, Romania

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.

Viscri, Romania

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.

Viscri, Romania

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?


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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38 Comments on “When the Cows Come Home

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  1. Well, this is such a nice story. Romania is my home country and your article reminds my of my childhood, when I was waiting every evening in front of our house to see and count the cows. Unfortunately this tradition is dying slowly.

      Watching it definitely made me feel as if I’d stepped back in time.

    I just discovered this blog searching reviews about a documentary about Romanians.. Anyways I want to leave a reply about this topic “when the cows come home”. I’m a Romanian, born in Bucharest ( over 30 years ago ) but raised at the country side until the age of 7 and until the age of 14 spend all my summers at the country side, going from one grandmother to another. I always wanted to discover more outside Romania, travel outside Romania and I was fortunate enough I could do that. Now, reading this article and seeing all the pictures i remember my experience at grandma’s house about the cows coming home. Indeed, back in the days all the cows came back home 🙂 I remember my grandma woking up at 5:00 AM because she had to take the cows from home ( like you take dogs for a walk in a leash ) to the top of the hill where the grass was fresh and green and she just left both of the cows there… Around 7 PM the cows came back home to be milked, to rest and sleep… and this happened every day.

    Another interesting method is having a dog that guards the animals, my other grandma had lots of birds: geese, ducks, turkeys and a watch dog. I named it “The bear” because it was a huge dog – a mixture between a stray dog and a shepherd dog. So his task was to guard the house, chase ferrets that came by the house to kill the birds and also go out find our birds and bring them home.

    These are few stories and experiences I grew up with, this is normality at the country side in Romania. I am happy to see that there are still places / villages in Romania doing this.

    Thank you for your story and pictures.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story, Simona! It’s funny the little things that make us feel nostalgic, isn’t it?

    I always say Romania starts where the asphalt ends and that’s the future I predict for a part of the Romanian tourism. I like to believe these villages will stay frozen in time exactly like now.

      I kind of hope they do – they really are the heart of Romania.

    His Majesty Prince Charles of Wales actually bought a house in Viscri 🙂 he often can be seen there

    Thank you Amanda for youre kind words.Also i would like to recommend with your permission :

    Transfagarasan road : https://youtube.com/watch?v=YQv-370jez8

    Transalpina road : https://youtube.com/watch?v=98jLMAEvlKs

    and of course the Danube Delta : https://youtube.com/watch?v=hoIplATlRH8

      Yes, I was told that Prince Charles has a house in Viscri (and actually it was pointed out to us when we were there), and I admit that I didn’t believe it at first. So cool, though. Clearly he recognizes how great Romania is, too!

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