“The Little Brown Bulls”


Bold McCluskey believes his steer can out-pull anything on the river, and backs his belief by betting that they can out-pull Gordon's little brown bulls. Despite McClusky's confidence, the bulls are victorious


According to Fred Bainter, who sang Rickaby's "A" text, "the ballad was composed in Mart Douglas's camp in northwestern Wisconsin in 1872 or 1873. It was in this camp and at this date... that the contest between the big spotted steers and the little brown bulls was held" (quotation from Botkin, not Bainter; Laws quotes this information from Rickaby, but without comment on its truth or falsehoodl Fowke notes that Beck had a different story).

Rickaby's second version lacks the Derry Down refrain, but the informant apparently knew it with the Derry Down tune. Fowke describes her tune as a "Villikens" variant. - RBW

Beck notes that some lumberjacks have suggested this song comes from Maine, but it is not included in R. P. Gray's collection _Songs and Ballads of the Maine Lumberjacks_. - PJS


  • Charles Bowlen, "The Little Brown Bulls" (AFS, 1941; on LC55)
  • Warde Ford, "The Little Brown Bulls" (AFS 4213 B, 1939; in AMMEM/Cowell)
  • Carl Lathrop, "The Little Brown Bulls" (AFS, 1938; on LC56)


  1. Laws C16, "The Little Brown Bulls"
  2. Rickaby 13, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text plus a fragment, 2 tunes)
  3. Gardner/Chickering 107, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text)
  4. Leach, pp. 775-777, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text)
  5. Lomax-FSNA 54, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Botkin-AmFolklr, pp. 849-851, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Beck 37, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Fowke-Lumbering #47, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Ives-NewBrunswick, pp. 168-171, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. Darling-NAS, pp. 178-179, "The Little Brown Bulls" (1 text)
  11. DT 603, BRWNBULL*
  12. Roud #2224
  13. BI, LC16


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1923 (Rickaby)
Found in: US(MW,NE) Canada(Mar,Ont)