History of Old MacDonald

There are numerous songs in history that are similar to the present day Old MacDonald.

The earliest recorded member of this family of songs may be a number from an opera called The Kingdom of the Birds, published in 1719-1720 in Thomas D'Urfey's Wit and Mirth, or Pills to Purge Melancholy:

    In the Fields in Frost and Snows,
    Watching late and early;
    There I keep my Father's Cows,
    There I Milk 'em Yearly:
    Booing here, Booing there,
    Here a Boo, there a Boo, every where a Boo,
    We defy all Care and Strife,
    In a Charming Country-Life.

In the 1917 book Tommy's Tunes, a collection of World War I era songs by F. T. Nettleingham, the song "Ohio (Old Macdougal Had a Farm)" has quite similar lyrics—though with a slightly different farmer's name and refrain:

    Old Macdougal had a farm in Ohio-i-o,
    And on that farm he had some dogs in Ohio-i-o,
    With a bow-wow here, and a bow-wow there,
    Here a bow, there a wow, everywhere a bow-wow.

The Traditional Ballad Index consider the "Tommy's Tunes" version to be the earliest known version of "Old Macdonald Had a Farm", though it cites numerous variations, some of them much older.

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