Home Animals The Tarroo Ushtey (Water Bull)

The Tarroo Ushtey (Water Bull)

by Bernadette Weyde

From ‘A HISTORY OF THE ISLE OF MAN’ by Joseph Train (1844): A neighbour of mine who kept cattle, had his fields very much infested with this animal, by which he had lost several cows; he therefore placed a man continually to watch, who bringing him word one day that a strange bull was among the cows, he doubted not that it was the Water-bull, and having called a good number of lusty men to his assistance, who were all armed with great poles, pitchforks, and other weapons proper to defend themselves of this dangerous enemy; they went to the place where they were told he was, and run altogether at him, but he was too nimble for their pursuit, and after tiring them over mountains and rocks and a great space of stony ground, he took a river and avoided any further chase, by diving down into it, though every now and then he would show his head above water, as if to mock their skill.

The belief in this imaginary animal is not yet become extinct. Only a few years ago, the farmer of Slieu Mayll in the parish of Onchan, was on a Sunday evening returning home from a place of worship, when at the garee (wasteland) of Slegaby a wild looking animal, with large eyes sparkling like fire, crossed the road before him and went flapping away. This he knew to be a tarroo-ushtey, for his father had seen one at nearly the same place, over the back of this animal he broke his walking stick, so lazy was it to get out of his way.

This man’s brother had also seen a tarroo-ushtey, at Lhanjaghyn, in the same neighbourhood. When proceeding to the fold very early one morning in the month of June, to let the cattle out to feed before the heat of the day came on, he saw a water-bull standing outside the fold, when the bull that was within with the cattle perceived him, he instantly broke through the fence and ran at him, roaring and tearing up the ground with his feet, but the tarroo-ushtey scampered away seeming quite unconcerned, and leaping over an adjoining precipice, plunged into deep water, and after swimming about a little, evidently amusing himself, he gave a loud bellow and disappeared.


From ‘CELTIC FOLKLORE, WELSH & MANX’ by John Rhys (1901): It is said that a Tarroo-ushtey, a fabulous water-bull, lived until recent times in the curragh (marshland) below Ballalough. Old people there about tell how they often heard it bellow in the dead hours of night.

One night two lads, after stealing some apples out of some gardens on the Patrick road, made a bee-line for Ballalough to shorten their way home. When they came to Cronk Lammag, something big and clumsy, roaring so as to shake the ground, with “eyes the size of cups, lit up as if by candles,” came out of the curragh at the foot of the Cronk (hill), and made for them. At once they knew that the thing must be the Tarroo-ushtey of Ballalough; so they dropped their apples and fled for their lives to the highroad, close at hand. As they reached Ballalough Gate, the thing gave an awful bellow and plunged into the swamp.


From ‘A THIRD MANX SCRAPBOOK’ by WW Gill (1963): Rhenab Glen was haunted by a black Tarroo-ushtey which was greatly disliked. At the cascades below the gatehouse the ivy at one time hung down into the water, and a number of wild cherry-trees grew there. These made convenient roosts for the hundreds of woodpigeons that came over from Cumberland every year at the beginning of harvest to feed among the stocks and the cherries. They had to be discouraged with shotguns, so one evening when the moon was full two men went with their guns to thin them out and get something for the next day’s dinner. One man had his foot on the stone wall to get over it, when he saw a dark shape like a bear coming up the path just below him, and it began roaring like a bull. It was the Rhenab Tarroo-ushtey. The two men went away in a hurry and left the pigeons alone.

The same black Water-bull used to be seen near the beach at Port Cornaa, in the little swampy clump of sallies which borders a wooden bridge across the Rhenab river. This was probably one of its lairs. Young Jimmy Fayle, who lived in the stone but just above the beach, was coining home before dark by the Glen road. He happened to look down at the shore, and saw the Tarroo lying out on the bank of pebbles. And that was not the first or the last time he saw it round there either!


(photo is a wallpaper composite http://bit.ly/1pP84lH)

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