All About the Moof!

Meet the Dogcow
Learn the Truth about Moof!

Moof! is the sound made by a creature known as a dogcow. To understand why Moof! is such an important sound, you need to know a little about what it means to be a dogcow---which requires a bit of insight into its creation.

The dogcow was born in the early eighties at Apple Computer. As the Apple developers were working on the original version of the Macintosh Operating System (MacOS), they realized a few things. First off, they knew they were on the cutting edge of the computer industry---developing a computer that anyone (not just other programmers) would be able to use. They also realized that not a single one of them could draw worth beans.

That's when Andy Hertzfeld, one of the MacOS programmers, called his high school friend Susan Kare. He explained Apple's situation. They needed small images to represent common activities on the computer: starting up, deleting files, showing your printer paper orientation, and waiting for things to happen (this was the early '80s, when waiting tended to be a very common activity). Mr. Hertzfeld instructed his friend to go to the store, buy some graph paper, and fill in the squares to make pictures.

Ms. Kare did as he asked, and she was soon a full-fledged developer on the Macintosh team (and probably the one with the funnest job). She came up with several of the now-famous icon-sized images found on the Macintosh. She drew a happy-faced Mac to tell the user all was well when the computer was coming on (as well as the sad-faced Mac to tell you when things had gone haywire). Appropriately, she designed the trash can, where users dumped unwanted files, and a small wristwatch which appeared when things were taking time (the only drawback was that you couldn't tap this wristwatch impatiently in anticipation).

Ms. Kare also designed many of the Macintosh's fonts, including Chicago, Geneva and New York. These fonts all had one or two little pictures which she added to spice things up. "Right before the Mac shipped in 1984, I had added a hieroglyphic sort of character to each of the original Macintosh bitmap fonts," Ms. Kare says.

She liked this idea so much, she decided to develop a whole font full of these hieroglyphic characters. It seems like it would be a meticulous process choosing the images to place in a font, but Ms. Kare approached the task with an attitude befitting an Apple developer. "Most of the images in Cairo are just things I thought would be fun (not very scientific!)."

One of the fun images Ms. Kare decided to place inside Cairo was that of a tiny dog. An image that, little did she know, was soon to become her most legendary icon of all.

Not long afterward, Apple developers completed work on the Laserwriter printer, and they realized they needed something to represent a printed page's orientation in the new Page Setup dialog. With the notions of simplicity (and fun!) in mind, they turned yet again to Ms. Kare---after all, her other icons had worked extremely well in the Macintosh's user interface, so it made sense to seek her inspiration once more. Though she'd already left the company for NeXT computer corporation, the developers still had somewhere to go, and go they did---to Cairo!

By a stroke of genius, someone decided that the Cairo dog had the perfect mix of clarity (it's obvious to almost anyone when a dog is standing on its head) and cuteness for the job. But, unfortunately, what the dog did not have was the perfect mix of width and height---it was too small to fit in the dialog.

The solution, of course, was simple, just blow the dog up! Well, that sounded too cruel, and an ASPCA lawsuit was the last thing the Apple developers wanted, so they decided to completely redraw the image, making it large enough for their needs. With this new drawing (similar to, but not exactly the same as the Cairo dogcow)---made by person(s) unknown at Apple---the "correct" dogcow came to life.

With the Page Setup dialog began the legend of the dogcow. A legend which goes something like this...

Once the Mac was in the hands of the people, it soon became apparent that one little problem had occurred. Many users mistakenly identified the little spotted dog as a cow.

Executives at Apple flew into a tizzy, and the developers were up in arms. Company-wide, the question was asked: Is this little black-and-white image actually a dog, or had they been deceived and was it really a cow? The debate raged. Heated conversations erupted everywhere, usually consisting of just two words hollered back and forth. "Dog!" "Cow!" "Dog!" "Cow!" (Okay, maybe this is an exaggeration.)

Finally, before things got too ugly, the factions worked out a compromise. The solution was simple. This little black-and-white image wasn't a dog---but it wasn't a cow either. It was a dogcow!

As legends go, this one actually turns out to be quite a bit off the mark. According to Apple's Developer and Technical Support (DTS) member Mark "The Red" Harlan, the real story is very different.

From the beginning, nobody outside of Apple actually questioned the identity of the Page Setup dialog dog, it was Mr. Harlan himself who first began asking, "Just what is that animal supposed to be, anyway?" But he was just having some fun---he never really thought the image looked like a cow, he was simply making a joke out of the fact that it was so clearly a dog.

Yet, as Mr. Harlan soon found out, some jokes tend to take on a life of their own. "Everyone knew it was a dog," he says, "In fact, part of the joke early on was 'is this thing a cow?' because it so obviously wasn't. it's just that once you've had that idea planted it appears to be more cow-like... so now, that part of the joke has lost its impact. Everyone kind of accepts the ambiguity."

It was precisely Mr. Harlan's silliness that caused the debate over the Page Setup dialog dog's identity. Once everyone had the idea planted in their heads, they began seeing both a dog and a cow in the image.

Mr. Harlan is certainly right about one thing. The original Cairo dog really did look like a, well, dog. However, when it was redrawn for the Page Setup dialog, its features---especially its head---took on a decidedly different look; almost as though the person who drew the new dog deliberately made it more cow-like. The dogcow on the left comes from the Cairo font (enlarged 3x) while the one on the right is (you guessed it) from the Page Setup dialog (enlarged 2x).

Refusing to abandon his shenanigans at Apple, Mr. Harlan one day began pestering Scott Zimmerman, the "Printing Guy" in the DTS department---apparently the person you go to when you need someone to bug about printing dialogs---pressing him (facetiously) on the identity of the little dog. Did they have a heated conversation and holler "Dog!" "Cow!" "Dog!" "Cow!" back and forth? We may never know. But one thing is clear, Mr. Zimmerman finally gave in and said, "It's both, OK? It's called a 'dogcow.' Now will you get out of my office?"

That was October 15th, 1987, and Mr. Harlan recognizes this as the first use of the term dogcow.

Some people, however, claim that DTS member Ginger Jernigan actually coined the term herself at a meeting of Apple's Print Shop---before the 15th of October. To this day, Mr. Harlan bows to that possibility, but he says, "Nevertheless, it was [Scott Zimmerman] who pressed [dogcow] into common usage, and he certainly was the first person I ever heard use the term."

What brought this common usage actually occurred in the "real" (ie, not computer) world. Mr. Harlan began circulating internal memos around Apple's DTS with a picture of the dogcow and the word "Moof!"---the sound every dogcow makes (which is, of course, "Moo" plus "Woof")---on them. After that, other DTS members took the proverbial ball and ran with it.

Developers handed out dogcow buttons in the debugging lab at the 1988 Worldwide Developers Conference. Recipients responded so favorably that, somehow, even John Sculley (Apple CEO at the time) showed up for his keynote speech wearing one. Afterwards came bumper stickers, T-shirts, and eventually the infamous Microsoft ad with a dogcow button in it ("Sacrilege!" you say? Absolutely!).

All this helped promote the dogcow, but what really brought it out of obscurity and into popularity was Mr. Harlan's "Tech Note 31." This document cataloged various items of note about the dogcow: its habitat (Page Setup dialogs), how to draw it correctly (which a picture that, strangely enough, actually showed the incorrect way to draw a dogcow), the plural form of dogcow (dogcattle), its sex (female), and its name.

As stated in the Tech Note, "Clarus" is the dogcow in the Page Setup dialog. Sound familiar? Mr Harlan says, "The name was intentionally poking fun at Claris, Apple's new software spin-off, because I had just had a small conflict with several of their employees and wanted to poke fun at them."

The Tech Note also mentions another dogcow: "Moofo, the psychic dogcow." Mr Harlan explains that Moofo "was a send-up of an act Penn and Teller used to use called 'Mofo, the psychic gorilla' (teller's license on his car in Vegas is 'mofo')."

But wait! There's more! Mr. Harlan admits to the existence of a third---yes, a third!---lesser known, dogcow "'Lackey, the obnoxious talisman dogcow,' this was a big cut-out that was hung above new members cubes in DTS."

These three names---Clarus, Moofo, and Lackey---are the only accepted dogcow names. ("Tech Note #256" contains a (probably) erroneous reference to "Clarus' evil twin brother, Oscar." However, since every dogcow is, by definition, female, Oscar cannot be a dogcow. Maybe that's why this Tech Note has been removed from circulation.)

And here rises yet another widespread legend.

It's commonly believed the dogcow is named "Moof!" (Who, I ask, could be so foolish as to believe this?) So widespread has this misunderstanding become, certain (to remain unspecified) Web Pages, and even a New York Times article from as recently as August, 1996 incorrectly referred to the poor little dogcow as "Moof!"

How did this misunderstanding arise? Mr Harlan offers the following insight: "I can't explain the psychology of why certain people get certain things wrong. My guess is that it comes from the dogcow buttons---they had Clarus and 'Moof!' on them so people just associated the name with the sound."

(In the For What It's Worth department. We find this tidbit from Susan Kare: "The [Cairo] dog never had a name from inception, but I kind of like 'Moof.'" Does that mean we now have the right to call the Cairo dogcow Moof! too? Ms. Kare is, after all, the dogcow's Mom! Be that as it may, we'll probably have to wait for another Tech Note for the official scoop on the issue.)

All speculations aside, the dogcow's story, doesn't end there. (It better not, since you're probably still wondering what the heck all this has to do with being Made with Moof! in Mind!)

Developers loved the dogcow so much, they began using it as a symbol for software that's either on the cutting edge or a hack (Could it be that Mr. Harlan's sense of humor actually rubbed off on them?). DTS started the wave with their Developer CD-ROMs. If they released a program that was not fully tested, or not necessarily approved by company higher-ups, they forewent the standard legalese you find today. Instead they'd stuff said program into a folder marked "Tools & Apps (Moof!)" or "Development Platforms (Moof!)." That way, anyone would know that the program was possibly something risky, but definitely something unique and worth checking out.

So the dogcow made the transition. She went from being a cute little doggy drawn on a piece graph paper to a symbol of all that's fun, cool and creative on a computer. Her cry, "Moof!" is a term of endearment for all the hackers out there who want to do something more, something better than their predecessors. She's come to represent a state of mind. Which is where we get the (extremely silly) slogan:

Moof! in Mind, it's an attitude!

Having Moof! in Mind!

Keeping with the attitude that created the world's coolest computer, Moof! in Mind! means taking the creative approach to life the universe and everything.

It means being different and unique---just like Apple was being different when they threw off the chains holding down the computer industry of the early '80s and came up with the MacOS.

It means doing things that are cool and cutting edge. Just like Moof!---the call of the dogcow----came to represent for software developers---maybe it's not blessed by the company higher-ups, and maybe it's a hack, but sometimes that's just what it takes.

It means being (sometimes) irreverent. (How the heck to do you think Mac people put up with all the flack from the anti-Apple press and the PC crowd? It's by keeping Moof! in Mind!)

Oh, and don't forget, it also means it was made on a Macintosh!


Laurence Zuckerman. "The Designer Who Made the Mac Smile." The New York Times, August 26, 1996.

Mark Harlan. "The History of the Dogcow, Part 2," develop, The Apple Technical Journal, Issue 18, June, 1994.

Mark Harlan. "The History of the Dogcow, Part 1," develop, The Apple Technical Journal, Issue 17, March, 1994.

Mark Harlan. "Macintosh Technical Notes #31: The Dogcow." Apple Developer Technical Support Macintosh Technical Notes, April, 1989.

Keith Rollin and Keithen Hayenga. "Macintosh Technical Notes #256: Globals in Stand-Alone Code?" Apple Developer Technical Support Macintosh Technical Notes. Phil & Dave's Excellent CD: The Release Version, October, 1989.

Unknown Author. "Jargon: Moof." The Jargon Lexicon.


The dogcow and Moof! are trademarks of Apple Computer. So be nice!

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Copyright © 1996-1997 Mark Stanley Bubien, All Rights Reserved.