“Three Jolly Huntsmen”


Three jolly (Frenchmen/Welshmen/other) go hunting. Periodically they see things (barn, frog, moon) which they cannot identify. In each case they propound their theories and move on. Finally they see an owl. One says it is the "evil one"; they flee


What appears to be a stanza of this piece is quoted in the Shakespeare/Fletcher play "The Two Noble Kinsmen" (c. 1611). In III.v.67-71, immediately after singing a snatch of "The George Aloe and the Sweepstake," the mad jailer's daughter sings,

There was three fools, fell out about an howlet,

The one sed it was an owl, the other he sed nay,

The third he sed it was a hawk,

and her bels were cut away.

A stanza in William Davenant's 1668 play "The Rivals" seems to be on the same theme, though it uses a different metrical pattern:

There were three Fools at Mid-summer run mad

About an Howlet, a quarrel they had.

The one said 't was an Owle, the other he said nay,

The third said it was a Haek but the Bells were cutt away. - RBW

The "Cape Ann" versions of the song should not be confused with Gordon Bok's recent composition of the same name. - PJS

Cross references


  • Jack Elliott, "We Went Along a Bit Further" (on Elliotts01)
  • George Endicott, "Three Scamping Rogues" (on FieldTrip1)
  • Byrd Moore & his Hot Shots, "Three Men Went A-Hunting" (Columbia 15496-D, 1929, sung to the tune of "Wish I'd Stayed in the Wagon Yard")
  • New Lost City Ramblers, "Three Men Went a-Hunting" (on NLCR03)
  • Hywel Wood, "Three Men Went a-Hunting" (on FSB10)


  1. Belden, pp. 246-248, "Three Jolly Welshmen" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Randolph 77, "We Hunted and Hollered" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Randolph-Legman I, pp. 306-307, "Three Jolly Huntsmen" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Eddy 87, "Three Jolly Frenchmen" (1 text)
  5. McNeil-SFB2, pp. 55-57, "Three Jolly Welshmen" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Fuson, pp. 183-184, "Three Jolly Welchmen" (1 text)
  7. FSCatskills 152, "The Three Huntsmen" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. BrownII 190, "Three Jolly Welshmen" (5 text, but only "A" and "B" go here; the rest are "The Bold Ranger")
  9. Scarborough-NegroFS, pp. 57-58, "So We Hunted and We Hollered," "Old Circus Song" (2 texts, the second from a newspaper)
  10. Flanders/Brown, pp. 125-126, "We Hunted and We Hallooed" (1 text)
  11. Linscott, pp. 290-292, "Three Jovial Huntsmen" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. Lomax-FSNA 2, "Cape Ann" (1 text, 1 tune)
  13. Kennedy 306, "Three Men Went A-Hunting" (1 text, 1 tune)
  14. Creighton-NovaScotia 93, "Three Men Went A-Hunting" (1 text, 1 tune)
  15. Cohen/Seeger/Wood, p. 168, "Three Men Went A-Hunting" (1 text, 1 tune)
  16. Botkin-NEFolklr, pp. 529-530, "Cape Ann" (1 text, 1 tune)
  17. JHCox 165, "The Three Farmers" (1 text, 2 tunes)
  18. Opie-Oxford2 524, "There were three jovial Welshmen" (5 texts)
  19. Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #348, pp. 183-184, "(There were three jovial Welshmen)"
  20. Silber-FSWB, p. 243, "Cape Ann" (1 text)
  22. Roud #283
  23. BI, R077


Alternate titles: “We Hunted and We Halloed”; “Look Ye There, Now”; “Three Jolly Hunters”; “The Three Huntsmen”; “Twas of Three Jolly Welshmen”; “Three Jovial Welshmen”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1613 (broadside, "Choice of Inventions, Or Seuerall sort of the figure of three"; earliest complete form 1219?)
Found in: Britain(England(South),Wales) US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,SE,So) Canada(Mar)