cowsay/cowthink - configurable speaking/thinking cow (and a bit more)
cowsay [-e eye_string] [-f cowfile] [-h] [-l] [-n] [-T tongue_string]
[-W column] [-bdgpstwy]
Cowsay generates an ASCII picture of a cow saying something provided by
the user. If run with no arguments, it accepts standard input, word-
wraps the message given at about 40 columns, and prints the cow saying
the given message on standard output.
To aid in the use of arbitrary messages with arbitrary whitespace, use
the -n option. If it is specified, the given message will not be word-
wrapped. This is possibly useful if you want to make the cow think or
speak in figlet(6). If -n is specified, there must not be any command-
line arguments left after all the switches have been processed.
The -W specifies roughly where the message should be wrapped. The
default is equivalent to -W 40 i.e. wrap words at or before the 40th
If any command-line arguments are left over after all switches have
been processed, they become the cow’s message. The program will not
accept standard input for a message in this case.
There are several provided modes which change the appearance of the cow
depending on its particular emotional/physical state. The -b option
initiates Borg mode; -d causes the cow to appear dead; -g invokes
greedy mode; -p causes a state of paranoia to come over the cow; -s
makes the cow appear thoroughly stoned; -t yields a tired cow; -w is
somewhat the opposite of -t, and initiates wired mode; -y brings on the
cow’s youthful appearance.
The user may specify the -e option to select the appearance of the
cow’s eyes, in which case the first two characters of the argument
string eye_string will be used. The default eyes are ’oo’. The tongue
is similarly configurable through -T and tongue_string; it must be two
characters and does not appear by default. However, it does appear in
the ’dead’ and ’stoned’ modes. Any configuration done by -e and -T
will be lost if one of the provided modes is used.
The -f option specifies a particular cow picture file (‘‘cowfile’’) to
use. If the cowfile spec contains ’/’ then it will be interpreted as a
path relative to the current directory. Otherwise, cowsay will search
the path specified in the COWPATH environment variable. To list all
cowfiles on the current COWPATH, invoke cowsay with the -l switch.
If the program is invoked as cowthink then the cow will think its
message instead of saying it.
A cowfile is made up of a simple block of perl(1) code, which assigns a
picture of a cow to the variable $the_cow. Should you wish to
customize the eyes or the tongue of the cow, then the variables $eyes
and $tongue may be used. The trail leading up to the cow’s message
balloon is composed of the character(s) in the $thoughts variable. Any
backslashes must be reduplicated to prevent interpolation. The name of
a cowfile should end with .cow, otherwise it is assumed not to be a
cowfile. Also, at-signs (‘‘@’’) must be backslashed because that is
what Perl 5 expects.
COMPATIBILITY WITH OLDER VERSIONS
What older versions? :-)
Version 3.x is fully backward-compatible with 2.x versions. If you’re
still using a 1.x version, consider upgrading. And tell me where you
got the older versions, since I didn’t exactly put them up for world-
Oh, just so you know, this manual page documents version 3.03 of
The COWPATH environment variable, if present, will be used to search
for cowfiles. It contains a colon-separated list of directories, much
like PATH or MANPATH. It should always contain the
/usr/share/cowsay/cows directory, or at least a directory with a file
called default.cow in it.
/usr/share/cowsay/cows holds a sample set of cowfiles. If your COWPATH
is not explicitly set, it automatically contains this directory.
If there are any, please notify the author at the address below.
Tony Monroe (firstname.lastname@example.org), with suggestions from Shannon Appel
(appel@CSUA.Berkeley.EDU) and contributions from Anthony Polito
perl(1), wall(1), nwrite(1), figlet(6)
$Date: 1999/11/04 19:50:40 $ cowsay(6)