What is the Dogcow?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The dogcow is an innocent enough seeming creature that is familiar to most fans of the Macintosh and Apple&reg: computer systems. In 1983, Susan Kare was inventing various dingbat symbols for the Cairo font, and used a small white dog with black spots, similar to those of a cow, for the letter z. Known affectionately as Clarus by some Mac users, the symbols was suggested as an icon for printing options on several MAC operating systems (OS) for laser printers. The name dogcow didn’t come until 1987, when Scott Zimmerman coined it. Up until OS 9, when you clicked on the options for printing pages, you could see the small dogcow oriented in different directions.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

Another feature of the dogcow that many people enjoyed was what it said when it was clicked on. A click of the mouse would cause the animal to say “Moof!” a nice blend of dog and cow sounds. For many the dogcow was yet another one of the humorous and enjoyable aspects of Mac computers. Yet when OS 10 was introduced the dogcow was left out, leaving many to beg for it to come back.

You can find some downloadable patches and “haxies” that allow you to bring the animal back to your Mac computer if you’re running OS 10. Some Mac users wouldn’t feel the same without Clarus’ image in their printer options, and refer to the new picture of a person showing the different printing orientations as “boring guy.” If you’re content to live without the dogcow on your operating system, you should know that the animal is gone but not forgotten.

Clarus is still a mascot for Apple’s Developer Tech Support Group, and Microsoft® tried to jump on board by using a slightly different dogcow drawing in PowerPoint®. The sound the animal makes, that recognizable and silly “Moof!” and the original drawing are trademarks of Apple, and as such, you can’t use them without permission, though the number of pages devoted to both seem to violate copyright on a frequent basis.

Unfortunately, Clarus is destined to be lonely, even if she’s well loved by Mac users. According to Internet myth and legend, dogcows, and there is really only Clarus, are always female, since dogbull sounds way too much like bulldog and engenders confusion. Other phrases that have sprung up around Clarus’ advent include the idea of having “Moof! in mind,” which means being creative, thinking outside of the box, and essentially living the “Apple” way of life, predicated on simplicity.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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