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Original author(s)Tony Monroe
Stable release
3.04[1] Edit this on Wikidata / 25 June 2016; 6 years ago (25 June 2016)
Written inPerl
Operating systemCross-platform
Available inEnglish
LicenseArtistic License / GNU General Public License (archived)

cowsay is a program that generates ASCII art pictures of a cow with a message.[2] It can also generate pictures using pre-made images of other animals, such as Tux the Penguin, the Linux mascot. It is written in Perl. There is also a related program called cowthink, with cows with thought bubbles rather than speech bubbles. .cow files for cowsay exist which are able to produce different variants of "cows", with different kinds of "eyes", and so forth.[3] It is sometimes used on IRC, desktop screenshots, and in software documentation. It is more or less a joke within hacker culture, but has been around long enough that its use is rather widespread. In 2007, it was highlighted as a Debian package of the day.[4]


The Unix command fortune can also be piped into the cowsay command:

[user@hostname ~]$ fortune | cowsay
/ You have Egyptian flu: you're going to \
\ be a mummy.                            /
        \   ^__^
         \  (oo)\_______
            (__)\       )\/\
                ||----w |
                ||     ||

Using the parameter -f followed by tux, one can replace the cow with other beings, such as Tux, the Linux mascot:

[user@hostname ~]$ fortune | cowsay -f tux
/ You are only young once, but you can    \
\ stay immature indefinitely.             /
       |o_o |
       |:_/ |
      //   \ \
     (|     | )
    /'\_   _/`\

Using the parameter -l shows all available cowfiles:

[user@hostname ~]$ cowsay -l
Cow files in /usr/share/cowsay/cows:
apt beavis.zen bong bud-frogs bunny calvin cheese cock cower daemon default
dragon dragon-and-cow duck elephant elephant-in-snake eyes flaming-sheep
ghostbusters gnu head-in hellokitty kiss kitty koala kosh luke-koala
mech-and-cow meow milk moofasa moose mutilated pony pony-smaller ren sheep
skeleton snowman sodomized-sheep stegosaurus stimpy suse three-eyes turkey
turtle tux unipony unipony-smaller vader vader-koala www


Option Purpose
-n Disables word wrap, allowing the cow to speak FIGlet or to display other embedded ASCII art. Width in columns becomes that of the longest line, ignoring any value of -W.
-W Specifies width of the speech balloon in columns, i.e. characters in a monospace font. Default value is 40.
-b Borg mode”, uses == in place of oo for the cow′s eyes.
-d “Dead”, uses XX, plus a descending U to represent an extruded tongue, also used on Linux kernel oops.
-g “Greedy”, uses $$.
-p “Paranoid”, uses @@.
-s “Stoned”, uses ** to represent bloodshot eyes, plus a descending U to represent an extruded tongue.
-t “Tired”, uses --.
-w “Wired”, uses OO.
-y “Youthful”, uses .. to represent smaller eyes.
-e eye_string Manually specifies the cow′s eye-type, e.g. cowsay -e ^^ (see Eastern-style emoticon).[5]
-T tongue_string Manually specifies the cow′s tongue shape, e.g. cowsay -T \(\) for a pair of parentheses.[5]
-f cowfile Specifies a .cow file from which to load alternative ASCII art. Accepts both absolute file-paths and those relative to the environment variable COWPATH.
-l Lists the names of available cow-files in the COWPATH directory instead of displaying a quote.


  1. ^ "tnalpgge/rank-amateur-cowsay". Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  2. ^ Orr, Mike (June 2001). "cowsay--ASCII Art for Your Screen". Linux Gazette. Archived from the original on 2012-03-19. Retrieved 2012-04-24.
  3. ^ Newborough, Philip (2007-10-05). "A Virtual Richard Stallman for Cowsay Hack". Archived from the original on 2011-07-25.
  4. ^ Beshenov, Alexey (2007-10-28). "cowsay: a configurable talking and thinking cow". Debian Package of the Day. Archived from the original on 2007-10-30. Retrieved 2022-01-31.
  5. ^ a b Characters other than printable in C0 controls and basic Latin (U+0021–U+007E) will not display properly as these parameters accept only the first two bytes of input value. Using a pre-defined cow-face will over-ride any value of -e and -T.

External links[edit]