NORWAY-L ArchivesArchiver > NORWAY > 2000-09 > 0970335665
Subject: Cow Racing
Date: Sat, 30 Sep 2000 10:41:05 -0700
A long lost Sognefjord Edda was recently discovered in the lower
recesses of the Sogn og Fjordane Archives named Herfrids Saga by Snert
Snarllsson, the premier poet and historian of Norwegian Vikings. This
remarkable find reveals the astounding fact that cow racing was a
significant sport during Viking times. While pillaging was certainly the
favorite sport, cow racing was wide spread and enjoyed. When it was
first developed shortly after the invention of the Norwegian Fjord Cow,
it was called Stort Kveg Lp (large cattle running) to distinguish it
from the popular Sm Dyr Lp (small animal running) which was prevalent
at the time. Vikings enjoyed racing goats, sheep, and pigs but it was
difficult to keep a full field of these small animals all running in the
correct direction toward the finish line because they were too small to
carry jockeys for any significant distance. They also tended to stop and
graze or root. Some short sprinting races were conducted using children
as jockeys, but there was a desire to see longer races and there were
adults who wanted to be jockeys as well. The Fjord Cow was invented to
solve this problem and improve the quality of racing.
Viking scientists designed and developed the Fjord Cow to meet specific
sporting and domestic criteria. The cow had to be big enough to carry an
adult rider and have sufficient speed and stamina to race for distances
up to about 1.609 kilometers, or, to use Viking terminology, 8 furlongs,
as the kilometer hadnt been invented yet either. The cow also had be to
able to thrive on a diet of grass, hay, and moss as the Viking production
of grain was so small that all of it was needed for making bread. The
potato had not been introduced into Norway so a potato eating cow was not
considered, although later evidence shows that the Norwegians have always
needed all the potatoes they could grow to be used for human consumption,
as very few Norwegians are hardy enough to survive for long on a diet of
hay, grass, and moss. So, this wouldnt have been a viable option during
Viking times. There was some discussion of making a cow that could
survive on fish. However, the supply of fish was not large enough in
some of the inland areas where racing was popular.
The final design criteria demonstrated the practical nature of the
Vikings and Norwegians. The Fjord Cow had to have domestic attributes as
well. Goats and sheep gave milk that not only people could drink, but
that also could be made into cheese and butter. Goats, sheep, and pigs
could also provide nourishment when eaten. The cow had to be capable of
producing milk and being eaten. In fact, the Vikings produced a cow that
gave significantly more milk than either goats or sheep and was at least
as tasty and nourishing when eaten.
As an aside, Herfrids Saga also revealed a hither to unknown fact. The
Vikings had been drying cod and other fish in the sun to preserve it for
consumption on voyages as well as domestic use. After they invented the
Fjord Cow they started drying strips of cow as well and therefore
invented beef jerky.
The Fjord Cow was an immediate success and only Viking spirit and
stamina enabled them to keep the production lines running fast enough to
supply the demand. Soon almost every Viking family in Norway has at
least one cow, and some had fairly large herds. Most people didnt use
their cows in racing but only for domestic purposes. Only the larger
gard owners could afford to spend the time and effort to train their cows
and transport them to the new type of race tracks around the country.
Sm dyr lp was conducted mostly and straightaways. Stort kveg lp
required races of much longer distances. Point to point races of long
distance made it impossible for the spectators to see the entire race.
So the Vikings invented the oval race track still in use today for horse
Of course, the other innovation was the use of jockeys riding on the
backs of the cows. Initially some experiments were conducted in harness
racing. A type of Fjord Cow was developed that was named a
kaldblodstraver (coldblood trotter). These were harnessed to a sulky and
some trotting races were held. The results were not good. The races
were interesting and at times humorous to watch, but were thoroughly
unsatisfactory to the sulky drivers. It was clear that very few people
would be willing to ride behind trotting cows. It was decided that cow
racing would be limited to thoroughbreds that would gallop at full speed
with a jockey riding on the cows back. The jockeys job was to guide
the cow and urge it to full speed. Vikings were quite kind to their
animals and whipping a racing cow was not allowed. Each jockey carried a
wooden milk bucket of uniform size. This bucket was used to thump the
cow on one side of the head or the other to guide it and well as to thump
the cows side to encourage maximum speed.
At first it was planned to allow only women to be jockeys. In the
Viking and Norwegian domestic scene the women had always cared for the
animals and it seemed natural to assume they would be the ones to be
jockeys. While the Viking men had no interest in caring for animals,
making dairy products, or being sulky drivers, they did think that being
a jockey riding a thoroughbred and galloping along sounded like fun.
They protested and were allowed to be jockeys as well as women.
Therefore Norway was the first country to give men cow suffrage. This was
even before New Zealand did.
Although cow races were initially conducted only in Norway, inevitably
thoroughbred cow racing spread to other counties as well. Soon each
country was inventing its own special breed of cow. The Danes were the
first, developing the Holstein during a period when they controlled
Schleswig-Holstein. The Scots quickly came up with the Aberdeen Angus.
The growth of the sport in England was nothing short of phenomenal.
Within a century there were Herefords, Ayrshires, Guernseys, Jerseys,
Devons, and Durhams. Then came the Brown Swiss and the Dutch Belted.
While all these breeds have survived to modern times, the Germans breed
named the Prussian has vanished. The Germans never got it quite right.
The Prussian breed had very little speed because it was only able to
goose step. It did enjoy a short period of popularity because the
Germans could train the Prussian to goose step in unison. They liked
parades and the sight of several hundred Prussians goose stepping down
the street with their tails erect was quite unusual. However, the
novelty wore off and the Germans finally ate them all.
The Swedes developed the Stockholm breed, but it was a failure. It was
a beautiful light blue in color with a yellow cross on each side and a
blond mane. While it was attractive to look at, it was useless as a
racing cow. It would always finish last because at the start of the race
against any other breeds, it would turn and run the opposite direction
from the rest of the field. It would continue in this direction until it
met the rest of the field on the back stretch. Then it would turn and
run rapidly enough to reach the finish line first, but had another
complete lap to run. This trait was not noticed at first because in early
Swedish cow racing the entire field would be made up of Stockholms and
the Swedes started races by waving a flag. Once international
competition began, the Stockholms were an embarrassment and the breed
died out. It has never been clear if the cause of their unusual behavior
was the presence of other breeds in the field or the fact that
international races were started by firing a gun.
The French invented large horses that they could eat and milk and never
got involved in cow racing.
As international cow racing developed it was fraught with scandals.
First it was noticed that Norwegian Fjord Cows won almost every race. As
great national pride had sprung up in each country for their particular
breeds, there was an uproar of protest that the Norwegians were doing
something illegal. Nobody knew what, but if their breed didnt win as
often as Fjord Cows they couldnt believe that the Fjord Cows were just
faster and had more stamina. All kinds of investigations were held and
nothing could be proven. In addition to superior construction, the Fjord
Cows were trained in seters/stler in the mountains because of the summer
supply of grass and hay. This was essentially high altitude training
which did give them a competitive advantage, but nobody ever realized
this fact. When the owners of cow racing barns in other countries finally
recognized the superiority of the Fjord Cows they began to buy and race
them and relegated their own breeds almost entirely to beef and dairy
Gradually the fields at races would be made up of Fjord Cows with an
occasional other breed or two entered. Sometimes one of the other breeds
would win a race, which was a real upset. Over time a trend developed so
that more and more upsets took place. Officials of the Norwegian Animal
Training Organization (NATO) became suspicious and conducted a secret
investigation that uncovered a ring of gamblers led by a Swede named
Sven, the Sinful. Sven and a small group of owners worked together. On
selected races an owner would enter a non-Fjord Cow breed. As anything
but a Fjord Cow winning seemed quite unlikely, the odds on any non-Fjord
Cow entrant would be very high. Sven, the Sinful, would then bribe all
of the jockeys to throw the race and Sven and his gang would clean up.
NATO reported their findings to the World Track Organization (WTO) who
set the international rules and regulations for cow racing. The WTO
immediately banned Sven, his gang, and all bribed jockeys from cow racing
and made a further rule outlawing anything but Fjord Cows from
competitive racing. It was thought that this would remove the threat of
any further race fixing.
The cow racing sport was clean for several years before the next scandal
occurred. Sven, the Sinfuls, son was named Albert, the Noble. He was a
misnamed scoundrel who had learned all kinds of nasty tricks from his
father. He discovered a new way to fix cow races. He invented doping.
Albert had a brilliant mind and over time he had developed an additive to
be put in the feed of cows just before races. The additive was an early
form of what is now called nitroglycerin. A few drops added to the hay
an hour or two before a race greatly enhanced the speed of any cow and
they would almost always win any race they were entered in. Albert had
learned from his father Svens mistake and did not get greedy. Only on
rare occasions would he dope a cow with nitroglycerin. On these
occasions he would make a lot of money but, because he did it so seldom,
nobody became suspicious. On some occasions he would even dope a cow
that he didnt bet on just to divert suspicion that he was up to
something. Alberts activity could have gone on for years more if it
werent for a slip up that revealed something very strange was going on.
Albert and a crooked owner got mixed up on who was going to add the
nitroglycerin to the hay. They both thought it was their turn and
therefore the cow, strangely named Bror Atle, received a double dose.
All appeared normal until coming down the home stretch when the jockey
named Elin thumped Bror Atle on the side with her milking bucket. Bror
Atle exploded and seriously injured the cows on both sides of her.
Several jockeys were blown off their mounts by pieces of flying Bror
Atle. Fortunately no one was killed and only minor injuries were
sustained. Miraculously even the jockey Elin survived, although she gave
up competitive racing. The poor woman had no idea that the Bror Atle had
been doped and she didnt want to take the chance of another explosive
ride. Besides, her lucky milk bucket was destroyed in the mishap.
The WTO sent in a team to investigate the accident. They tried to
collect as many pieces of Bror Atle as they could in order to reconstruct
the carcass and try to figure out what happened. Unfortunately they were
unable to do this because many of the spectators had taken the choicer
bits of Bror Atle home for dinner. To their astonishment when they
sauted Bror Atle steaks or stewed pieces in a pot, the meat severely
corroded the pan or pot. However, they discovered that when the meat was
fully and thoroughly cooked it lost its corrosive properties and could be
safety eaten and was quite tasty.
They never would have figured out what happened had not the owner of
Bror Atle sued Albert for cow abuse. Even when the cause of the
explosion was known, the WTO took no action. There were no rules against
feeding the cows anything. Performance enhancing drugs were unknown at
the time and actually seemed a good idea, in moderation. Faster races
were more exciting and if everyone was allowed to dope their
thoroughbreds, no one had a disadvantage. Severe fines were established
to discourage any more exploding cows, but doping became part of the
The experience gained from cooking Bror Atle pieces came into play as
doping with nitroglycerin became commonplace. When cows that had ever
been doped were butchered for eating, there remained the problem of how
to cook them without damaging pots and pans. The doped beef wasnt as
corrosive as the over dosed Bror Atle pieces, but it could do damage with
repeated usage. Norwegian cooks experimented and discovered that in
addition to thorough cooking the corrosiveness could be further lessened
by cooking the cow with vegetables. Potatoes, carrots, onions, and
swedes (rutabagas) seemed to work best. They also discovered that lefse
seemed to be impervious to the corrosion and made an interesting flavor
combination. This combination was cleverly combined into a dish that was
made by lining the bottom of a shallow pan with lefse then filling the
pan with doped cow pieces, chopped potato, carrot, onion, and swede. To
further safeguard against any corrosive splattering the top of the dish
was covered with yet more lefse and baked in a moderate oven for 2 hours.
Thus the tangy and nourishing Norwegian cow pie came into existence.
A variation of this taste sensation was developed in which stewed cow
and vegetables were rolled into a lefse and eaten with the hands. It was
called a cow pie burrito but it never caught on. Conservative older
Norwegians had a prejudice against physically touching their food and
preferred to eat everything with a fork in the left hand and a knife in
the right hand, or vice versa for those left handed. An enterprising
husmans wife named Margit started a fast food restaurant on the
outskirts of Bergen, named it Burrito Oles , and started selling
burritos with various concoctions wrapped in lefse and was building a
good business with teenagers. The under 20 crowd will eat almost anything
and enjoyed eating with their hands as a sort of a protest to shock their
parents and older Norwegians. Then the owner of a Der Plserschnitzel
franchise, whose business had been hurt by Margits success, started the
rumor that her secret recipe was actually French and burritos contained
burro meat rather than doped cow. Margits denials were not believed and
the fickle teenagers deserted her for a new franchise opened by an
Italian immigrant named Steadi. Steadis served flatbrd covered with a
sauce made from a newly invented vegetable called the tomato and covered
with goat cheese and various toppings. Steadi called this interesting
gastronomic delight Pisa to honor the town he was born in. This name was
quickly Norwegianized to Pizza.
It was not certain if the teenagers were turned off burritos because
they were French or allegedly had burro meat in them. They readily
admitted that their attraction to Pisa was because tomato sauce was
rumored to be an aphrodisiac. This upset adults and made Pisa even more
desirable with the teenagers. There were also rumors that a secret
ingredient of tomato sauce was nitroglycerin. This was not true but was
result of an urban legend that a teenager had exploded after a Pisa
A more remunerative use of nitroglycerin was not discovered until the
late 1800s when a descendant of Albert, the Noble, also named Albert and
who lived in Switzerland, came across the formula and a write up about
the exploding Bror Atle in family papers. The formula had remained a
secret and the family had supported itself for hundreds of years by
producing it until cow racing was replaced by horse racing. As
nitroglycerin had no performance enhancing capability for horses,
production ceased and the discovery languished in old family papers and
lore. In a flash of brilliance the descendant Albert realized he had
discovered a way to make a lot of money. He invented dynamite and his
family produced it and sold it to counties on both sides of every
conflict since. Albert made so much money that he established a series
of prizes for various fields of endeavor and established a foundation in
Sweden to administrate the awards.
Cow racing continued to the end of the Viking period. By this time
horses had been invented and were used in horse racing. International cow
racing declined. Ironically, the success of the Fjord Cow encouraged the
invention of the horse in other counties. Nationalist pride always made
other countries jealous of the fact that the only cows successful at
racing were Fjord Cows. The Norwegians had little interest in horses and
were satisfied with their traditional cow races. It is true that the
Norwegians did invent a Fjord Horse that is used in horse fighting, but
the sport never gained popularity outside of Norway.
By the 1400s the WTO dropped cow racing as a sport and it only existed
in Norway and was controlled by NATO. At this time a discovery was made
that had an effect on cow racing and led to the final scandal that killed
cow racing for good. As reported in the history 10,000 Swedes,
Valdjmer, the Vatchful discovered the repellent properties of wolf urine
and subsequent studies by the Norwegian Association of Scientists and
Alchemists (NASA) determined the many other beneficial uses of this
remarkable fluid. One of the major uses discovered was that it produced
excellent performance enhancement in animals and plants, although not in
humans. However, humans used it as a flavor additive and preservative.
Remember that cow doping was not banned. It had disappeared in normal
use because every owner was doping his cows and there was no advantage to
do this when everyone was. It just cost extra money to provide the drug,
and there were also safety concerns. Exploding cows were not a pretty
sight. However, Norwegian cow racers discovered one by one the effect
that wolf urine had on cows given on drop in their hay before a race.
The cow would not gallop as fast during the first part of the race and
would generally be trailing the field down the backstretch. Going into
to final turn and coming down the homestretch the doped cow would
accelerate rapidly to win the race. As instances of this distinctive
racing performance increased, finally all the owners realized what was
going on, began doping their cows, and any competitive advantage was
lost. NATO and the Norwegian government stepped in and banned any
further doping because it was producing dull races with slow starts and
fast finishes. Wolf urine was also considered too valuable a product to
waste it enhancing cows.
The final scandal in cow racing involved another Swede named Albert.
All the owners of cow racing barns were Norwegians, except for one Swede
who had purchased a small cow racing barn and seter in which to conduct
training. All Swedes considered cow racing to be an inferior sport and
beneath their dignity. Albert couldnt explain his interest and passion
for the sport. He did not realize it was genetic. He was a distant
descendant of Albert, the Noble, and Sven, the Sinful. There were rumors
of this ancestry in his family, but just shrugged them off as he did
about the claims of relationship to Harald, the Fairhaired, and Julius
Albert only had a small barn of racing cows and none of them were very
fast. His barn was losing money. In order to reduce expenses he hired a
rather dimwitted young pike named Herfrid to be his only staff member.
She served as caretaker, trainer, and jockey. Alfred was fairly good
looking for a Swede and Herfrid clearly had poor taste because she was
smitten by him. Thus encouraged he began a dalliance with her that soon
led to serious bundling, which was an accepted custom.
Swedes were repelled by wolf urine and therefore knew nothing of the
various beneficial properties of it. Norwegian considered it a state
secret and no one in their right mind would reveal anything to any
foreigner, much less a Swede. Herfrid was extremely enamored with Alfred
and was afraid that if he didnt make some money racing he would sell out
and move back to Sweden. Fear of losing Alfred was enough to drive her
over the brink and during a particularly amorous tryst in the seter, she
revealed that wolf urine could make cows run faster. Alfred reverted to
genetic form and decided to fix a race and make a bundle of kroner.
He talked Herfrid into buying some wolf urine on the pretext of using it
to drive away an errant moose/elg and to enhance potato production in her
potato patch. She delivered the goods to Alfred and he entered his
fastest Fjord Cow named FullSpeedAhead in the 7th race on August 10 at
Bergen Downs, the biggest cow racing track in the western Norway. Two
days before the race he loaded Herfrid and FullSpeedAhead into a rowboat
and proceeded to Bergen.
The day of the race dawned bright and clear. Alfred was in high spirits.
Herfrid was in love. FullSpeedAhead was ready and willing. Then
disaster struck. Alfred and Herfrid repeated the same misunderstanding
that had occurred centuries before. They both thought they were supposed
to put the wolf urine in the hay. It is understandable why Herfrid might
be confused. She had been rolling in the hay so much that her mind was
addled when she saw hay, but Alfred should have supervised better. After
all, as top dog in this enterprise the final responsibility was his.
Herfrid carefully put one drop of the wolf urine into the hay 2 hours
before the race and went to the ladies room to freshen up. Alfred came
into the barn and picked up the vial containing the wolf urine. Being a
Swede he had no idea how much to put in the hay, so he put in several
drops and considered putting in more. He didnt because he realized he
had enough left to try again in another race if FullSpeedAhead didnt
win, or better yet, to fix a second race.
The 7th at Bergen Downs on August 10th is still a legend in the fjord
country. FullSpeedAhead with Herfrid up got off to a typically slow start
and trailed the field by several lengths going down the backstretch.
Going into the far turn FullSpeedAhead began to accelerate dramatically,
caught up with the field and began to pass other cows. As FullSpeedAhead
entered the homestretch what appeared to be a loud clap of thunder was
heard and FullSpeedAhead accelerated at an astonishing rate and crossed
the finish line over 100 meters ahead and at an altitude of 3 meters.
Herfrid was terrified and put her bucket over FullSpeedAheads nose in an
effort to slow her down. It didnt work. FullSpeedAhead gained speed.
The spectators were horrified because it seemed that FullSpeedAhead would
certainly crash into the grandstand at the first turn and cause serious
damage to herself, Herfrid, and many innocent spectators. Herfrids
efforts to slow FullSpeedAhead by pulling back on the bucket over her
nose caused FullSpeedAheads head to rise. The produced an aerodynamic
profile that made her quickly gain altitude and she and Herfrid soared
over the grandstand and out of Bergen Downs. They continued to gain
altitude and cleared the mountains in a northeasterly direction. Herfrid
seemed to possess some natural instincts as a pilot and eased up on the
bucket which produced level flight and reduced the risk of icing up.
They continued on a northeasterly flight until they reached the
Sognefjord where FullSpeedAhead ran out of gas, to use the American idiom
for began to decelerate. At this point Herfrid eased the bucket to the
right and they began gliding downward going east over the Sognefjord.
They hit the water at an oblique angle and skipped airborne again to
return to the fjord about a kilometer further on. They skipped a total
of 17 times with the distance between skips shortening until
FullSpeedAhead beached at Hovland in Vikedalen in the kommune of rdal.
A husmans daughter, who had been staring dreamily over the fjord and
recalling the last nights bundling, spotted FullSpeedAhead and Herfrid
skipping up the fjord. She alerted the community and people began
running down to the fjord to see what was happening.
FullSpeedAhead waded ashore, walked about 10 meters inland, and gave out
with a tremendous MOOOO!! in the key of A minor, which echoed through
the valley. This was quite unusual because the Fjord Cow had been
developed to moo in C major. Herfrid recognized the moo as an indication
the FullSpeedAhead desired to be milked. She dismounted and placed her
bucket under FullSpeedAhead and went to the nearest husmans hut to
borrow a milking stool. When she got back FullSpeedAhead had almost
filled the bucket by herself and it was obvious she wasnt done yet.
Herfrid called for more buckets and the nearby husmans wives came
running with their buckets. FullSpeedAhead proceeded to deliver close to
50 liters of what turned out to be skimmed milk, followed by 5 kilos of
goat cheese, and finished by filling 2 laups with unsalted butter.
FullSpeedAhead then started grazing until she noticed the gard owners
prize bull named Ole in a nearby pasture. She wagged her tail
provocatively and Ole the bull jumped the fence and began chasing her.
She enjoyed the courtship and played hard to get by first trotting gaily
up the valley toward the nearest seter, or stl as they are called in
rdal. As the impatient Ole the bull began to gain on her, she switched
gaits to a pace and finally to a full gallop as they cleared the rise at
the head of the valley and disappeared from view. Three months later she
delivered quadruplet heifers each of whom were pregnant. This effort
seemed to use up the last performance enhancement of the overdose of wolf
urine and FullSpeedAhead reverted to being a normal Fjord Cow.
The law at this time gave salvage rights to the owner of a gard if a cow
washed ashore. The owner of Hovland was a magnanimous man. He kept the
4 heifers and Herfrid for himself but gave FullSpeedAhead to the husmen
living on Hovland. Herfrid settled down and produced 14 children by the
gard owner. They even got married after the first 5 when the gard
owners wife ran off with a lutefisk salesman from Troms.
Through some misunderstanding, FullSpeedAhead was always called Herfrid
in rdal so it is not clear if Snert Snarllson named Herfrids Saga after
Herfrid the cow, Herfrid the jockey, or both. She lived a happy and
productive life spending a week with each husmans family on a rotating
basis that ensured everyone shared in her dairy production. She never
raced again. Herfrid, the cow, was beloved in Vikedalen and all the
people appreciated and enjoyed her for years. When she finally died
another chapter was added to her legend. She was made into what everyone
agreed was the best tasting and most nourishing beef jerky ever produced.
When FullSpeedAhead and Herfrid roared out of Bergen Downs and over the
mountains, the spectators sat in stunned silence in awe of what they had
just witnessed. Then cheers of approval came forth. It was the most
exciting race anyone had ever seen and the people began clamoring for air
races using doped Fjord Cows. The Norwegian government and NATO stepped
in and the Storting passed a law outlawing the doping of Fjord Cows.
Wolf urine was just too valuable to be used purely for the egregious
pleasure of racing enthusiasts. This law was the death knell for cow
racing. As word of the 7th race at Bergen Downs spread around Norway,
ordinary cow racing seemed quite dull and people lost interest. Within
the short span of 5 years all the race tracks had closed and cow racing
ended. Fjord cow barn owners now benefited from the design criteria that
enabled the Fjord Cow to be a superior animal in dairying.
The saga of FullSpeedAhead and Herfrid lived on for generations. The
race was described in exquisite detail. Discussions were held about the
source of the thunderclap that occurred at the head of the homestretch.
Some people thought it was the worlds first sonic boom while others
doubted FullSpeedAhead broke the sound barrier while still in Bergen
Downs, although she clearly did on the flight to the Sognefjord. When
relating the saga, the better storytellers would always include the sound
of the hauntingly beautiful MOOOO!! that echoed through Vikedalen that
fateful day. The story was told again and again in Bergen. The saga was
immortalized forever when it became the inspiration for Edvard Griegs
descriptive piano composition, the Concerto in A Minor. It was the only
piano concerto that Grieg ever wrote because no story ever again inspired
him like the saga of FullSpeedAhead, Herfrid, and the MOOOO!! in A minor.
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