Sacred Cow Rights

Randall Stephens

I suppose many of you have seen the story making the rounds about Harvey Cox, his retirement cow, and the old tradition of grazing rights. If you haven't, though, this is well worth taking a look at! Sam Allis reported on the strangely arcane custom in the Boston Globe, "Holy Cow! Bovine to Visit Harvard Yard":

Al Vellucci, former mayor of Cambridge, famously wanted to pave over Harvard Yard for a parking lot. (He also wanted to turn the Lampoon building into a public urinal and reportedly said, “Well, that’s what it looks like, doesn’t it?’’)

But then asphalt would have ruined Harvey Cox’s grazing rights.

Cox, the celebrated Harvard religion professor, was the Hollis Professor of Divinity from 2002 until his retirement this past June after 44 distinguished years at Harvard. (He is now the Hollis Research Professor of Divinity.) The Hollis chair was endowed in 1721 and first occupied by Edward Wigglesworth the following year.

It is the oldest endowed chair in American higher education, and, more germane to this story, traditionally came with grazing rights in Harvard Yard for the cows of chair holders. Wigglesworth and his son who succeeded him exercised those rights. >>>

See also "Cow in the Yard," Harvard Magazine, 10 Septmeber, 2009.


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