Old MacDonald Had a Farm

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"Old MacDonald Had a Farm"
Nursery rhyme
Published 1917

"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[edit]

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 (oink oink), 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.

  • An Egyptian Arabic version of the song exists, with Geddo Ali (Grandpa Ali, Egyptian Arabic: جدو على) being the farmer character.
  • The Italian version is Nella vecchia fattoria (In The Old Farm). The farmer is Zio Tobia (uncle Tobias).
  • The German version is Onkel Jörg hat einen Bauernhof.[4] An alternative version is Old MacDonald hat 'ne Farm (short for eine Farm), keeping the English name of the farmer, and translating the rest quite literally.
  • In Spanish it is En la granja de Pepito, El granjero tenía un campo or En la vieja factoría.
  • In Danish it is Jens Hansen havde en bondegård (literally "Jens Hansen had a farm") and in Swedish it goes Per Olsson hade en bonnagård.
  • In Portuguese, the most common version is Na quinta do tio Manel (meaning "On the farm of Uncle Manel"), with alternate versions Seu Lobato tinha um sítio or even O velho McDonald tinha uma fazenda (literally "Old MacDonald Had a Farm").
  • In Polish it is Stary Donald farmę miał (meaning "Old Donald had a farm") or Pan McDonald farmę miał (meaning "Mr. McDonald had a farm").
  • In French, Dans la ferme de Mathurin (literally "In Mathurin's Farm").
  • In Turkish version "Ali Baba'nın Bir Çiftliği Var" (literally: "Ali Baba Has A Farm")
  • In Slovene version Na kmetiji je lepo (literally: On a farm it is beautiful), it can be a children's song, a naughty song or, at least in some versions of the song, the lyrics have been made from childish into vulgar, like a drinking song.
  • In Hebrew לדוד משה הייתה חווה (LaDod Moshe hayta hava) or Uncle Moshe Had a Farm. This version was translated by Avraham Broshi.
  • In Chinese there are several versions of the song in same tune. The most popular is 王老先生有块地 (Wáng lǎo xiānshēng yǒu kuài dì), or Old Mr. Wang Had Some Land.
  • In Japanese version ゆかいな牧場 (Yukai-na Makiba, literally: "Happy Farm"), Ichiro, Jiro and Saburo are the farmers who have animals.
  • In Japanese version マックのおじさん (Makku no Ojisan, literally: "Old man Mac"), sounds playfully like the Western version.
  • In Kansai Japanese, there is a parody song called 大阪うまいもんの歌 (Osaka Umaimon no Uta, literally: "Yummy foods in Osaka") made by an Osakan puppet play troupe in 1993.
  • In Malay version Pak Atan Ada Ladang ( Uncle Atan Had a Farm)
  • In Serbian Svako jutro jedno jaje organizmu snagu daje (One egg per day gives the strength to human organism) has the same melody.
  • In Korean version '그래 그래서' (geulae geulaeseo, literally: "So And"). Old Mr. Park had a farm and animals.
  • In Finnish version "Piippolan vaarilla oli talo" (literally: "Grandpa Piippola had a house")
  • In Czech it's called "Strýček Donald farmu měl" which translates to "Uncle Donald had a farm"
  • In Persian version it's called "پیرمرد مهربون " meaning "kind old man" instead of old Mac Donald.

Recordings and appearances in media[edit]

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).[5] 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,[6] The Three Stooges, Sesame Street cast, Gene Autry, The Kelly Family[7] and Nikki Yanofsky.[8]

The multi-platinum selling Kidsongs recorded "A Day At Old MacDonald's Farm" for video and CD release in 1985.[9] 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.[10]

The song is played (with some cast participation) in the 1951 movie The Lavender Hill Mob.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Old MacDonald Had a Farm". www.csufresno.edu. 
  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. 84–85.
  4. ^ "Onkel Jörg hat einen Bauernhof". Retrieved 24 August 2016. 
  5. ^ "Old macdonald had a farm". 
  6. ^ alan moores (10 July 2009). "Old MacDonald Had A Farm - Spike Jones" – via YouTube. 
  7. ^ "Wonderful World! | The Kelly Family Album | Yahoo! Music". New.music.yahoo.com. Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  8. ^ "Old MacDonald | Ella...of Thee I Swing". 
  9. ^ [1] Archived March 24, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ "Commercials - 1952 - Let's Not Forget the Farmer". The Living Room Candidate. 29 March 1952. Retrieved 25 June 2016. 
  11. ^ "IMDb Lavender Hill Mob soundtracks". Retrieved 3 February 2017.