Purple Cow

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Purple cow initially became famous as a chimerical referent in a short humorous verse by Gelett Burgess :

I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one.[1]

Burgess became somewhat exasperated with the success of his poem, of which he was constantly reminded. A few years later, he penned a riposte that became almost as well known as the original. It was titled "Confession: and a Portrait Too, Upon a Background that I Rue" and appeared in The Lark, number 24 (April 1, 1897):

The 1895 issue of The Lark in which Burgess's "Purple Cow" first appeared

Ah, yes, I wrote the "Purple Cow"—
I'm Sorry, now, I wrote it;
But I can tell you Anyhow
I'll Kill you if you Quote it![2]

However, the original has, in its own small way, become a classic, and parodic versions are common.[3]

In competition[edit]

The University of Montevallo holds College Night every year for homecoming, in which the Purple Team (Cows) competes against the Gold Team (Lions).

The Purple Cow is also the mascot for Williams College and for one of the four classes at Russell Sage College.

Food and beverage[edit]

Purple Cow also refers to an ice cream flavor that consists of black raspberry ice cream with white chocolate and milk chocolate chunks. Friendly's offered a limited edition Purple Cow flavor, and it is a standard on the menu at Lickety Split ice cream stores.

Purple Cow is also the name of the ice cream shop found inside many Meijer stores, although Purple Cows were more commonly found in Meijer stores in the 1980s. Founder Fred Meijer would commonly hand out cards for free ice cream at any Meijer Purple Cow to customers or as ice breakers and has reportedly given such cards to Jimmy Carter, Generals Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf, and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.[4]

Kraft Foods' best-selling brand of milk chocolate, Milka, also has used a purple cow as a well-known symbol in its print and TV advertisements for several decades. The "Milka Cow" is a lilac and white colored Swiss Simmental cow sporting a bell around her neck, usually shown in an Alpine meadow. The name Milka is derived from combining Milch and Kakao (the German terms for milk and cocoa, its primary ingredients). The chocolates are also distinctively packaged in purple wrapping paper, which is even protected by trademark in Europe.[citation needed]

Purple Cow is also the name of a company in the Philippines that is known for its milkshakes. Its milkshakes come in chocolate, vanilla, cookies and cream, cheese and mocha. The company sells in fairs, bazaars, children's parties and corporate events. It was founded by seven seniors of the Ateneo de Manila University as a business thesis.

HappyCow, the world's largest vegan/vegetarian/vegetarian-friendly restaurant and health food store guide has used a purple cow logo since the company's inception in 1999. HappyCow also has a purple cow mascot.[5]

An award-winning restaurant chain in the southern United States, The Purple Cow has locations in several states and features burgers, shakes and other traditional "diner" foods.

The Purple Cow has also been made famous by iconic math teacher Mike Keating who has taught in Northern Delaware, Northern California, and presently in North Idaho. Approximately 2000 of his students have been rewarded with a Purple Cow upon mastery of their multiplication facts and many continue to enjoy purple cows in their own homes for years to come. A Purple Cow is simply vanilla ice cream and grape juice. However, the exact proportions of vanilla ice cream to grape juice are a closely guarded secret known only by Keating and a select few confidants. Purple Cow Day is typically held around Thanksgiving. The Purple Cow is a special treat that Keating enjoyed as a child and attributes to his maternal grandfather, Tom Posipanko.

In the late 1960s, there was a grape-flavored taffy lollipop called Purple Cow. It was similar to a Sugar Daddy.

For many years, in Crimora, Virginia, home town of bluegrass legend Mac Wiseman, there was a drive-in called "The Purple Cow" and it is memorialized with a local road off US 340 called "Purple Cow Road," though the original drive-in is now a used-car lot.

Collectible figurines[edit]

In the 1950s the Purple Cow Family was created by Andy Anderson of the Brayton Laugune studio of Laguna Beach, California. Dorland Brayton, an alumnus of Hollywood High School in Chicago Art Institute began his pottery in Laguna Beach, California, in 1927. His home pottery studio turned into a thriving business and is awarded the first Disney license to create figurines based on Disney characters. Brayton Laguna kept the license until 1941. During World War II, Brayton Laguna thrived as did many potters in the United States. The embargo on imported goods from Europe and Japan helped focus buyers on domestic artisans.

Brayton Laguna hired Andy Anderson as his first out of house designer while working for Brayton Laguna in the 1950s. Anderson designed the purple cow family set which include in a bull, a cow, and a calf. Anderson took his inspiration for the set from Gelett Burgess' first purple cow poem, "The Purple Cow: Reflections on a Mythic Beast Who's Quite Remarkable, at Least." The poem was included on the cow, printed on a sticker and it goes like this. "I never saw a purple cow, I never hope to see one but I can tell anyhow, I rather see than be one."

Today, the most coveted piece from the collection is the bulls. For some reason, not as many of the bulls have survived as have the cows and calves. A complete set that was painted by the same Brayton Laguna decorator is very impressive. Many pieces of the pottery appeared to be unmarked or have lost their original stickers. So the clue to discovering if it is Brayton Laguna is if you find the decorators initial written in pencil on the bottom of the piece. After the passing of Dorland Brayton in 1968, the pottery closed and the factory buildings now houses the Laguna Art Center.[6]


  1. ^ "The Purple Cow". Poetry Archive. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  2. ^ "Gutenberg etext". Infomotions.com. 2006-05-28. Retrieved 2012-06-26. 
  3. ^ "Purple Cow Parodies". Angryox.com. Retrieved 2012-06-26. 
  4. ^ "Excerpts from Fred Meijer Stor". Mlive.com. Retrieved 2012-06-26. 
  5. ^ "HappyCow Logo". happycow.com. Retrieved 1999-12-26. 
  6. ^ Learn About Brayton Laguna Pottery