The Brown Bull of Cooley

Táin Bó Cuailgne

The story of The Brown Bull of Cooley and the march to capture it, known as The Táin is one of the great epics of Irish mythology. 

The story happened 2000 years ago and is based on medieval manuscripts. 

Queen Maeve of Connaught from the West of Ireland in the County of Roscommon compared her possessions with those of her husband King Ailaill. 

They had equal possessions with one exception, King Ailaill had a white bull called Finn Bennach and Maeve had none.

 She was insanely jealous and sought a bigger and better bull than that of her husband. 

He was told that there was such a bull in Cooley in Co Louth.

 With her army she marched to Cooley and the army of Ulster was sent against her.

 A curse was placed on them, and they fell asleep leaving only one warrior to defend Ulster and the brown bull against them. 

This man was Cúchullain. 

He fought all of them off till the men of Ulster awoke and joined him to drive Maeve and her army back towards Roscommon.

 However she managed to capture the brown bull. 

As Maeve marched home with her prize the white bull confronted the brown bull at Athlone. 

They fought furiously for days and the white bull was eventually killed by the brown one. 

When the fight ended the brown bull turned and ran back to Cooley where it succumbed to its injuries and lay down and died.

The moral of the story is really about the futility of war and the curse of possessions. 

The book “The Táin” is a translation by Thomas Kinsella of Medieval manuscripts and is the first attempt to present a `living version’ of the story.

 It’s available in the local Tourist office.

 Illustrated children’s books on the story are also available.