The Cowbell

The humble cowbell was first introduced to help farmers locate their livestock and warn off would-be predators. The simple, four-sided metal bell was fixed around the necks of the animals. The size and pitch of the bell was directly related to the size and type of animal that wore it, allowing farmers to locate and track specific animals by the unique ring of the cowbell.

The cowbell’s distinctive ring was destined for a greatness. In the 1960’s, the cowbell started appearing in American popular music. It was featured in the 1968 song “Grazing in the Grass” by Friends of Distinction. The cowbell continued to rise in popularity throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s. Def Leppard’s use of the cowbell in “Rock of Ages” is simply epic. And, of course, we all remember Will Ferrell’s SNL skit. More recently, the cowbell is featured in Robin Thicke’s hit single, “Blurred Lines.”

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Runners Love the Cowbell

Why is the cowbell linked with runners? Not every animal in the herd wears a cowbell around their neck. It is usually reserved for the fastest or strongest animals which naturally lead the others. So, it easy to see how a cowbell can represent the desire to move to the lead or run faster than the others.

Danga-Danga-Danga-Dang…Wahoo! Danga-Danga-Danga-Danga-Danga-Dang… Go Runners!

Of course, most runners simply react to the clanging sound of the cowbell as a sign of the crowd’s enthusiasm. I heard cowbells for the first time when I ran in the state x-country championships as a high school sophomore. Spectators lined the course and clapped, whistled, yelled, and clanged their cowbells with fervor. Ever since that time, the cowbell causes a reaction in me similar to that of Pavlov’s dog. Thankfully it’s a boost of adrenaline, and not spontaneous drooling.

There are no time-outs, team huddles, or half-time pep talks for runners. Once the race begins, the shades come down and it becomes a test of physical and mental fortitude. The volume and intensity of the cowbell is enough to break through and remind runners that they’re not alone. So, the next time you hear a cowbell ringing during your race, dig a little deeper and enjoy the adoration of the fans who came to support your efforts. Runners love the cowbell.

Danga-Danga-Danga-Dang…Wahoo! Danga-Danga-Danga-Danga-Danga-Dang… Go Runners!

Thoughts?