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The dun cow is a common motif in English folklore. "Dun" is a dull shade of brownish grey.

Dunsmore Heath

The Dun Cow of Dunsmore Heath (an area west of Dunchurchmarker near Rugby in Warwickshire, England) was a savage beast slain by Guy of Warwick. A huge tusk, probably that of an elephant, is still shown at Warwickmarker Castle as one of the horns of the Dun Cow.

The fable is that this cow belonged to a giant, and was kept on Mitchell's Foldmarker (middle fold), Shropshiremarker. Its milk was inexhaustible; but one day an old woman who had filled her pail, wanted to fill her sieve as well. This so enraged the cow, that she broke loose from the fold and wandered to Dunsmore Heath, where she was slain by Guy of Warwick.

Isaac Taylor, in his Words and Places (p. 269), says the dun cow is a corruption of the Dena Gau (Danishmarker region) in the neighbourhood of Warwickmarker. Gau, in German, means region, country. If this explanation is correct, the great achievement of Guy of Warwick was a victory over the Danes, and taking from them their settlement near Warwickmarker.

(From the 1898 edition of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable).


Legend of founding of Durham
Local legend states that the city of Durham was founded in 995 AD by divine intervention. The 12th Century chronicler Symeon of Durham recounts in his Libellus de exordio atque procurso istius, hoc est Dunhelmensis that after wandering in the north, Saint Cuthbert’s bier came to a miraculous halt at the hill of Warden Lawmarker and, despite the effort of the congregation, would not move. Aldhun, Bishop of Chester-le-Streetmarker and leader of the order decreed an holy fast of three days, accompanied by prayers to the saint. Saint Bede recounts that during this fast Saint Cuthbert appeared to the monk Eadmer with instructions that the coffin should be taken to Dun Holm.

After Eadmer’s revelation, Aldhun found that he was able to move the bier, but did not know where Dun Holm was. By chance later that day the monks came across a milkmaid at Mount Joy who stated to she was seeking her lost dun cow which she had last seen at Dun Holm. The monks, realising that this was a sign from the saint, followed her. They settled at a: "wooded hill-island formed by a tight gorge-like meander of the River Wear" When they arrived at the destination they erected the vestiges of Durham Cathedral, a "modest building" none of which survives today having been supplanted by the Norman structure. Symeon states that this was the first building in the city.


There are many public houses in the United Kingdom called The Dun Cow.

A pub called The Dun Cow in Sedgefieldmarker, County Durham was visited jointly by Britishmarker Prime Minister Tony Blair and Americanmarker President George W. Bush in 2003.

The Dun Cow, Shrewsbury is one of the oldest public houses in the UK, built by Rodger De Montgomery, first Earl of Shrewsbury circa 1085 as a hostel for the highly skilled masons and master builders bought in to oversee the construction of St. Peter and St. Pauls, (later known as the Abbey).It continues to be a public house and claims to have accommodated many famous people.

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