The Herdsman and The Lost Bull

A herdsman prayed to find his herd. Found with a lion, the herdsman further prayed for his escape.

Be careful what you wish for; your wish may be granted.

A Herdsman lost a Calf from the fold. He searched far and wide but could not find the Calf. As a last hope he prayed to the Gods to find the Calf. Shortly thereafter he rounded a hill and came upon a Lion feeding on the Calf. He quickly further prayed: “You have answered my prayer, but now I would willingly add a full-grown Bull to the Calf I have lost, if only I might secure my own escape.”

Aesop For ChildrenAesop For Children (The Shepherd and The Lion)

Shepherd Lion

Milo Winter (1919)

A Shepherd, counting his Sheep one day, discovered that a number of them were missing.

Much irritated, he very loudly and boastfully declared that he would catch the thief and punish him as he deserved. The Shepherd suspected a Wolf of the deed and so set out toward a rocky region among the hills, where there were caves infested by Wolves. But before starting out he made a vow to Jupiter that if he would help him find the thief he would offer a fat Calf as a sacrifice.

The Shepherd searched a long time without finding any Wolves, but just as he was passing near a large cave on the mountain side, a huge Lion stalked out, carrying a Sheep. In great terror the Shepherd fell on his knees.

“Alas, O Jupiter, man does not know what he asks! To find the thief I offered to sacrifice a fat Calf. Now I promise you a full-grown Bull, if you but make the thief go away!”


We are often not so eager for what we seek, after we have found it.

Do not foolishly ask for things that would bring ruin if they were granted.

Townsend VersionTownsend version

A herdsman tending his flock in a forest lost a Bull-calf from the fold. After a long and fruitless search, he made a vow that, if he could only discover the thief who had stolen the Calf, he would offer a lamb in sacrifice to Hermes, Pan, and the Guardian Deities of the forest. Not long afterwards, as he ascended a small hillock, he saw at its foot a Lion feeding on the Calf. Terrified at the sight, he lifted his eyes and his hands to heaven, and said: “Just now I vowed to offer a lamb to the Guardian Deities of the forest if I could only find out who had robbed me; but now that I have discovered the thief, I would willingly add a full-grown Bull to the Calf I have lost, if I may only secure my own escape from him in safety.”

Samuel CroxallSamuel Croxall (Jupiter and the Herdsman)

Croxall - Jupiter and HerdsmanA HERDSMAN, missing a young heifer that belonged to his herd, went up and down the forest to seek it. And having walked a great deal of ground to no purpose, he fell a praying to Jupiter for relief; promising to sacrifice a kid to him, if he would help him to a discovery of the thief. After this, he went on a little farther, and came near a grove of oaks, where he found the carcase of his heifer, and a lion grumbling over it, and feeding upon it. The sight almost scared him out of his wits; so down he fell upon his knees once more, and addressing himself to Jupiter; O Jupiter! says he, I promised thee a kid to show me the thief, but now I promise thee a bull, if thou wilt be so merciful as to deliver me out of his clutches.


How ignorant and stupid are some people, who form their notions of the Supreme Being from their own poor shallow conceptions; and then, like froward [forward] children with their nurses, think it consistent with infinite wisdom, and unerring justice, to comply with all their whimsical petitions, Let men but live as justly as they: can, and just Providence will give them what they ought to have. Of all the involuntary sins which men commit, scarce any are more frequent, than that of their praying absurdly and improperly, as well as unseasonably, when their time might have been employed so much better. The many private collections sold up and down the nation, do not a little contribute to this injudicious practice; which is the more to be condemned, in that we have so incomparable a public liturgy; one single address whereof (except the Lord’s prayer) may be pronounced to be the best that ever was compiled; and alone preferable to all the various manuals of occasional devotion, which are vended by hawkers and pedlars about our streets. It is as follows.

“Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, who knowest our necessities before we ask, and our ignorance in asking; we beseech thee to have compassion upon our infirmities; and those things which to our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask, vouchsafe to give us, for the worthiness of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Taylor RhymesJefferys Taylor (The Herdsman)

Taylor - Herdsman 0055A HERDSMAN, who lived at a time and a place
Which, should you not know, is but little disgrace,
Discover’d one morning, on counting his stock,
That a sheep had been stolen that night from the flock.

“O, I wish I had caught ye, whoever ye be,
I’d have soon let you know, I’d have soon let you see,
What ye had to expect,” said the herdsman, “I trow;
But I’ve thought of a scheme that will trouble you now.’

So what did he do, sir, but put up a board,
Describing the theft, and proposed a reward
Of a lamb to the man who would give information
Concerning the thief, and his true designation.

The project succeeded; for soon there applied
A certain near neighbour, with others beside.
“But tell me the thief!” said the herdsman, “at least;”
“Come hither,” said they, “and we’ll show you the beast.”

“The beast!” said the rustic, who thought he should die on
The spot, when he found that the thief was a lion!
“I’ll luck to my hurry! what now shall I do?
I promised a lamb to detect you, ’tis true;
But now I’d consent all my substance to pay,
If I could but with safety get out of your way.”

Silly people ask things that would ruin, if sent;
They demand them in haste, and at leisure repent.

JBR CollectionJBR Collection (Jupiter and The Herdsman)

A Herdsman missing a young Heifer that belonged to the herd, went up and down the forest to seek it. Not being able to find it, he prayed to Jupiter, and promised to sacrifice a Kid if he would help him to find the thief. He then went on a little further, and suddenly came upon a Lion, grumbling over the carcase of the Heifer, and feeding upon it. “Great Jupiter!” cried the Man, “I promised thee a Kid, if thou wouldst show me the thief. I now offer thee a full-grown Bull, if thou wilt mercifully deliver me safe from his clutches.”

L'Estrange VersionL’Estrange version (Jupiter and a Herds-man)

A herds-man that had lost a calf out of his grounds, sent up and down after it; and when he could get no tydings on’t, he betook himself at last to his prayers, according to the custom of the world, when people are brought to a forc’d put. Great Jupiter (says he) do but shew me the thief that stole my calf, and I’ll give thee a kid for a sacrifice. The word was no sooner pass’d; but the thief appear’d; which was indeed a lyon. This discovery put him to his prayers once again. I have not forgotten my vow, says he, but now thou hast brought me to the thief, I’ll make that kid a bull, if thou’lt but set me quit of him again.


We cannot be too careful and considerate what vows, and promises we make; for the very granting of our prayers turns many times to our utter ruine.

Crane Poetry VisualCrane Poetry Visual


Herdsman Vows

A Kid vowed to Jove, so might he
Find his herd, & his herd did he see
Soon, of lions the prey
Then ’twas “Get me away,
And a goat of the best take for fee.”

How often would we mend our wishes!

1001Iuppiter et Bubulcus

Bubulcus amiserat vitulum de armento quod custodire debebat. Tum ille silvas et solitudines omnes obibat et requirebat vitulum. Sed, multa opera et labore magno nequicquam asumpto, votum Iovi fecit se haedum illi caesurum, si esset sibi fur ostensus qui vitulum rapuisset. Ibi forte delatus in saltum, videt leonem a quo mandebatur vitulus. Ad cuius conspectum ingenti formidine percitus, bubulcus “Magne,” inquit, “Iuppiter, reperto vituli fure, haedum me tibi ex voto debere confiteor, sed nunc opimum bovem a me accipe, et ex illius vi atque unguibus me eripe.”

Perry #049