Old MacDonald Had a Farm

For the science fiction story by Mike Resnick, see Old MacDonald Had a Farm (short story). For the 1946 Noveltoons cartoon, see Old Macdonald Had A Farm (cartoon).
"Old MacDonald Had a Farm"
Roud #745
Written United States
Published 1917
Form Nursery rhyme
Writer(s) Traditional
Language English
The song as recorded in 1927. Click icon to listen.

"Old MacDonald Had a Farm" is a children's song and nursery rhyme about a farmer named MacDonald (or McDonald, Macdonald) and the various animals he keeps on his farm. Each verse of the song changes the name of the animal and its respective noise. In many versions, the song is cumulative, with the animal sounds from all the earlier verses added to each subsequent verse.[1] It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 745. For example, the verse uses a cow as an animal and "moo" as the animal's sound.

Old MacDonald had a farm
And on his farm he had a cow
With a moo-moo here
And a moo-moo there
Here a moo, there a moo
Everywhere a moo-moo
Old MacDonald had a farm

Early versions

In the 1917 book Tommy's Tunes, a collection of World War I era songs by F. T. Nettleingham,[2] the song "Ohio" has quite similar lyrics—though with a slightly different farmer's name and refrain:

Old Macdougal had a farm in Ohio-i-o,
And on that farm he had some dogs in Ohio-i-o,
With a bow-wow here, and a bow-wow there,
Here a bow, there a wow, everywhere a bow-wow.

This version lists seven species of animal: some dogs (bow-wow), some hens (cluck cluck), some ducks (quack quack), some cows (moo moo), some pigs (grunt grunt), some cats (meow meow), and a donkey (hee-haw).[3]

The Traditional Ballad Index consider the Tommy's Tunes version to be the earliest known version of "Old Macdonald Had a Farm", though it cites numerous variants, some of them much older.[1]

Two of these variants were published in Vance Randolph's Ozark Folksongs in 1980. One was "Old Missouri", sung by a Mr. H. F. Walker of Missouri in 1922, a version that names different parts of the mule rather than different animals:

Old Missouri had a mule, he-hi-he-hi-ho,
And on this mule there were two ears, he-hi-he-hi-ho.
With a flip-flop here and a flip-flop there,
And here a flop and there a flop and everywhere a flip-flop
Old Missouri had a mule, he-hi-he-hi-ho.

A British version of the song, called "The Farmyard, or The Merry Green Fields," was collected in 1908 from a 74-year-old Mrs. Goodey at Marylebone Workhouse, London, and published in Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Songs.

Up was I on my fa-ther's farm
On a May day morn-ing ear-ly;
Feed-ing of my fa-ther's cows
On a May day morn-ing ear-ly,
With a moo moo here and a moo moo there,
Here a moo, there a moo, Here a pret-ty moo.
Six pret-ty maids come and gang a-long o' me
To the mer-ry green fields of the farm-yard.

Perhaps the earliest recorded member of this family of songs is a number from an opera called The Kingdom of the Birds, published in 1719-1720 in Thomas D'Urfey's Wit and Mirth, or Pills to Purge Melancholy:

In the Fields in Frost and Snows,
Watching late and early;
There I keep my Father's Cows,
There I Milk 'em Yearly:
Booing here, Booing there,
Here a Boo, there a Boo, every where a Boo,
We defy all Care and Strife,
In a Charming Country-Life.


The lyrics have been translated into other languages and modified slightly to fit rhythmic and cultural requirements. It is still sung as a children's song to the same tune.

Recordings and appearances in media

The oldest version listed in The Traditional Ballad Index is the Sam Patterson Trio's "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," released on the Edison label in 1925. This was followed by a version by Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers, "Old McDonald Had a Farm" (Columbia Records, 1927) and "McDonald's Farm" by Warren Caplinger's Cumberland Mountain Entertainers (Brunswick Records, 1928). In 1954, the composition was arranged for accordion sextet and recorded for RCA Thesaurus transcriptions by John Serry Sr. in the United States.

Other popular versions are by Frank Sinatra (Capitol, 1960), Harry Connick Jr., Elvis Presley (in his movie Double Trouble), Nat King Cole, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Ella Fitzgerald (on her 1967 Verve album Whisper Not)., Flatt & Scruggs, Spike Jones and his City Slickers,[5] The Three Stooges, Sesame Street cast, Gene Autry, The Kelly Family[6] and Nikki Yanofsky.[7]

The multi-platinum selling Kidsongs recorded "A Day At Old MacDonald's Farm" for video and CD release in 1985.[8] The Australian children's television show Play School recorded a version of this song on the album, There's A Bear In There.

A rock music version was recorded by The Isley Brothers in the 1950s, and in 1961 an instrumental version was recorded by The Piltdown Men as "McDonald's Cave."

The song was also sung in several episodes of Barney & Friends. In addition, the tune is also used for other songs, "Our Friend Barney Has a Face" and "Our Friend Barney Had A Band".

A variant was used in a 1952 campaign ad for Adlai Stevenson II's unsuccessful campaign for President with slightly altered lyrics promoting the Stevenson campaign's appeal to farmers.[9]

See also


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Old MacDonald Had a Farm.
  1. 1 2 "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" at The Traditional Ballad Index
  2. "Catalog Record: Tommy's tunes; a comprehensive collection of...". Catalog.hathitrust.org. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  3. "Ohio," Tommy's Tunes, collected and arranged by F. T. Nettleingham (London, W.C. 1: Erskine Macdonald, Ltd., October 1917), pp. 8485.
  4. "Onkel Jörg hat einen Bauernhof". Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  5. "Old MacDonald Had A Farm" - Spike Jones, YouTube
  6. "Wonderful World! | The Kelly Family Album | Yahoo! Music". New.music.yahoo.com. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  7. "Old MacDonald | Ella...of Thee I Swing".
  8. Archived March 24, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. "Commercials - 1952 - Let's Not Forget the Farmer". The Living Room Candidate. 29 March 1952. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
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