A Brief History Of Bullshit

“The Cow” was an unanticipated subject of one of my junior school essays. But since I had only memorized stuff about trees, all I had to do was make the connection – “The cow is tied to a coconut tree..” and then went about describing how long coconut trees were and how great the fruit was. Although I remember basking in my creativity at the time, somehow, it did not go very well with my teacher. Having “bullshit” my way through school, I guess I am long overdue on the real topic of that essay.


According to the Wikipedia, “bullshit (also bullcrap, bullplop,..) is a common American English expletive which may be shortened to the euphemism bull or the initials B.S.” Bullshit however has a long history that continues to this day in Asia, Africa and parts of Europe. In India people still collect dung and fashion them into dung-cakes, which are then burned directly as fuel or composted for fertilizer.

Cow dung has been used as organic fertilizer ever since man domesticated cattle nearly 5000 years ago. Earthworms in the soil feed on cow dung along with other farm waste and pass it through their body and in the process convert it into vermi-compost. This improves soil texture, enhances aeration, and water holding capacity thus preventing soil erosion. This method is so flexible that it could be used in all stages of soil development and also helps catalyze the decomposition of organic matter in the soil.

Dung accounts for over 15% of total rural energy use in India, and as much as 30% in certain states. Biogas is a fuel produced by extracting chemical energy from cow dung and other organic matter. Since biogas (methane) burns much more efficiently than solid fuels, it leaves behind very few contaminants. During the 80s, the Indian government introduced Biogas plants in rural areas to make them self sustaining. Today India has 30% of the world’s cattle population, which is the world’s highest.

Ancient Indian scriptures such as Atharva Veda, Charaka Samhita, Bhavaprakash, Sushruta Samhita,etc..describe the medicinal benefits of cow urine. Recent scientific studies have shown the efficacy of cow urine treatment in diabetes, blood pressure, asthma, psoriasis, eczema, arteriosclerosis, thyroid and several other diseases. A blend of cow’s excretions, urine, dung, milk, curd, and ghee – five ingredients together known as Panchagawya is given to mothers post-delivery for its therapeutic qualities. Some communities even follow the practice of sprinkling water dispersed with cow dung at the entrance of their houses since it repels microbes and harmful bacteria.

In “advanced” agro-economies however, cows are mass bred in factory farms. They are genetically engineered, fed cheap protein supplements, sheep brains, spinal cords, animal bones and blood. This is a grossly unnatural means of boosting milk and meat production. Unfortunately, this is what makes a double cheeseburger at McDonalds cheaper than a bottle of water. Diseases that are born from such profit motivated experiments are fatal with no known cure and have incubation periods of up to 30 years. Even the disease nomenclature in the case of the “Mad Cow” for instance subtly places the blame on cows that somehow went crazy. Similarly, cow dung is considered an environmental contaminant and a contributor to global warming.

Given this attitude towards cattle, it is no surprise that the term bullshit is defined as “vulgar: nonsense; especially: foolish insolent talk.” Although I could not find much enlightenment on this subject in TS Elliott’s poem The Triumph of Bullshit, I found this passage rather off-topic but interesting.

Ladies, on whom my attentions have waited
If you consider my merits are small
Etiolated, alembicated,
Orotund, tasteless, fantastical,
Monotonous, crotchety, constipated,
Impotent galamatias
Affected, possibly imitated,
For Christ’s sake stick it up your ass

It amazes me that an animal that feeds on a patch of grass, gives us so much milk, cheese, meat, leather and dung. In my village deep in rural India, I have witnessed cows being prayed to and celebrated as a symbol of prosperity. I have seen bullshit being used as art on the walls of mud houses. In the classical Indian epic, also the world’s longest – the Mahabharata, gobar (bullshit) is described as the living place of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

So the next time you meet the lady on whom your attentions have waited, how about offering her flowers, a cup of cow urine and loads of bullshit.