Scottish Folk Beliefs
Faerie Cattle – a Water-Bull
Folk-belief. Skye, Inner Hebrides, Scotland.
A water-bull was seen emerging from the sea at night.
There is a lingering belief on the island of Skye, in northwest Scotland, that creatures live in a world that lies beneath the waters of the lochs and streams, and the sea. These creatures are feared if they emerge into the upper air. Water-bulls, for example, might father sinister calves which have quickly to be slaughtered.
Once, within living memory at the time the story was recorded by Otta Swire in the 1950s, a water-bull was seen emerging from the sea at night, dripping wet, feeding upon valuable crops and then disappearing into the water again before dawn. Such was the fear of this creature that no one dared to challenge it or even to fence around the corn, for fear of angering the beast.
The truth came to light many years later when the son of one of the local farmers returned from Australia where he had emigrated with his wife. The water-bull, the man revealed, had been the black bull of a herd that his father-in-law had once kept on Flodigarry Island, that lay a kilometer from the mainland of northern Skye. The bull had swum across to the opposite shore every night – which the man knew because he had regularly made this same nocturnal crossing himself, whilst courting his future wife, and had met with the creature on more than one occasion as it swam past him in the opposite direction!