The Far Side Cartoon Nobody Understood

In 1982, famous cartoonist Gary Larson published a cartoon called “Cow tools” that depicted a cow standing behind a table of bizarre, misshapen implements, with the caption “cow tools.” Immediately, readers were confused and began to write or call Chronicle Features, which syndicated The Far Side, seeking an explanation of the cartoon. In response to the controversy, Larson issued a press release clarifying that the thrust of the cartoon was simply that — if a cow were to make tools, they would “lack something in sophistication.” It has been described as “arguably the most loathed Far Side strip ever,” while becoming a popular Internet meme. Reflecting on the cartoon’s reception, Larson suggested that he had erred in making one of the tools resemble a crude saw, which misled many readers into believing that to understand the cartoon’s message, they needed to decipher the identities of the other three tools.