True/false target practice

Read the passage on the word  and Fun Facts and then play a game of True/False Target Practice based on the following statements. Pupils listen to each statement in turn and throw something at the target which they think is the correct answer. The first pupil to hit the correct target wins but will have to justify their decision.

  • When people in early Ireland received cows as payment, they slaughtered the animals and ate them
  • Cattle were brought to Domhnall Ó Conchobhair’s burial because he was so fond of them
  • In medieval times, it was probably easier to travel between different parts of Ireland by sea than by land
  • In early Ireland, cattle were used for pulling and carrying things from one place to another


Medieval Irish scholars claimed that the sound made by cows was bu, buo or boo and so the word for a cow in Irish is . This is not the correct origin of the Irish word and the medieval scholars in question might have been joking when they suggested it, but most languages have words which mimic the sounds they refer to. This is known as onomatopoeia.

Examples in English include: sizzle, burp, hum, shush, vroom, splash, gurgle, mumble

Examples in Irish include: cnag ‘knock’, plab ‘slam’, spalp ‘burst’, casacht ‘cough’, trup trup ‘clip clop’

The sounds made by animals and other creatures are usually onomatopoeic: in English cows moo, ducks quack and cats meow. Although animals make the same sounds wherever they are found in the world, different languages have different ways of writing those sounds.

Download the posters from Images and encourage the class to think about the spelling of the Irish words.


Researching local traditions

Use the National Folklore Archive ( to find local traditions and stories about cows. Hold your own story-telling event, inviting family, friends and members of the community, at which each student takes a turn at passing on the traditions and stories they have found. The content can be varied by including material about other animals or birds.