“The Crafty Farmer”


A farmer carrying money from/for a transaction is met by a robber. The robber demands his money; the farmer throws it on the grass. While the robber gathers it, the farmer makes off with the robber's horse and all the wealth in his saddlebags


Laws, obviously, considers "The Yorkshire Bite" to be distinct from "The Crafty Farmer." He may be right, but Coffin does not find any essential differences, and Bronson seems to regard them as subgroups. Even the three texts Laws gives for comparison have strong similarities in detail; it looks to me as if they are simply (bad) rewrites of the same original.

Given the degree of variation in the particular verses, it is hard to tell which texts go with which song. Since the versions are so close; I decided not to distinguish them.

It's just possible that this has a real-life origin, though I doubt it: David Brandon, in _Stand and Deliver! A History of Highway Robbery_, pp. 29-31, reports that one Isaac Atkinson held up a young woman, who -- apparently thinking he wanted something harder to recover than her money -- threw a bag of coins in the ditch. Atkinson, instead of either pursuing his seduction or doing anything to control the girl, simply jumped off his horse to pick up the coins.

The girl then flew away on her horse, and by chance his horse followed. She was able to report where she had left him, and he was taken and hanged.

Brandon, however, cites no sources; I almost wonder if his tale doesn't combine this one with something like "Lovely Joan." Or, even more likely, with "The Highwayman Outwitted." - RBW

Cross references


  • Warde Ford, "The Oxford Merchant (Hampshire Bite)" (AFS 4197 A, 1938; on LC58, in AMMEM/Cowell) {Bronson's #18}


  1. Child 283, "The Crafty Farmer" (1 text)
  2. Bronson 283, The Crafty Farmer" (43 versions)
  3. Laws L1, "The Yorkshire Bite" (Laws gives three broadside texts on pp. 73-77 of ABFBB)
  4. BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 406-413, "The Yorkshire Bite" (3 texts, 1 tune); also pp. 477-478, "The Crafty Farmer" (notes plus many stanzas from Child) {Bronson's #31}
  5. Flanders/Brown, pp. 234-235, "The Yorkshire Bite" (1 fragment, 1 tune) {Bronson's #20}
  6. Flanders/Olney, pp. 51-53, "The Yorkshire Boy" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #32}
  7. Flanders-Ancient4, pp. 139-175, "The Yorshire Bite" (9 texts plus 6 fragments, 9 tunes) {B=Bronson's #32, D=#29, K=#20}
  8. BrownII 46, "The Crafty Farmer" [incorrectly listed as Child #278] (1 text plus an excerpt)
  9. Creighton/Senior, pp. 237-239, "Well Sold the Cow" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #26}
  10. Creighton-NovaScotia 14, "Well Sold the Cow" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #19}
  11. Greenleaf/Mansfield 20, "The Little Yorkshire Boy" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #21}
  12. Leach-Labrador 60, "The Yorkshire Bite" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  13. Peacock, pp. 33-38, "The Yorkshire Boy" (2 texts, 3 tunes)
  14. Logan, pp. 127-133, "The Crafty Farmer" and "The Yorkshire Bite" (2 texts)
  15. Leach, pp. 662-665, "The Crafty Farmer" (2 texts)
  16. FSCatskills 117, "The Old Spotted Cow" (2 texts, 3 tunes) {Tune "B" is Bronson's #29}
  17. Gardner/Chickering 157, "John Sold the Cow Well" (1 text plus mention of 2 more)
  18. Sandburg, pp. 118-119, "Down, Down Derry Down" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #37}
  19. Combs/Wilgus 89, pp. 130-132, "The Crafty Farmer" (1 text)
  20. SHenry H51, pp. 129-130, "The Crafty Ploughboy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  21. JHCox 31, "The Crafty Farmer" (1 text)
  23. Roud #2640
  24. BI, C283


Alternate titles: “Jack the Plowboy”; “Jack the Cow Boy”; “Well Sold the Cow”; “Selling the Cow”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1769
Found in: Britain(England(All),Scotland(Aber,Hebr)) Ireland Canada(Mar,Newf) US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,NW,SE)