Old Macdonald Had a Farm Nursery Rhyme Lyrics, History, Video, Lesson Plans & More

Simply writing the song title Old MacDonald had a Farm has it drumming around in my head already!

It is such a well-known song, but how well do we all know the history and background of this song, or the various lyrics that can be sung?

Researching this rhyme, a wave of nostalgia hit as I remembered singing this song as a child washed over me, as I looked at everything there is to know about Old MacDonald and his farm of many animals.

I’m sure it will hit you that hard too as I take you on this journey to the origins of the famous nursery rhyme.


The modern version names a different animal for each stanza while inserting the corresponding animal voices.

Modern Lyrics

Old MacDonald had a farm. E-I-E-I-O.
And on that farm, he had a pig. E-I-E-I-O.
With an oink oink here.
And an oink oink there.
Here an oink.
There an oink.
Everywhere an oink oink.
Old MacDonald had a farm. E-I-E-I-O.

Old MacDonald had a farm. E-I-E-I-O.
And on that farm, he had a duck. E-I-E-I-O.
With a quack quack here.
And a quack quack there.
Here a quack.
There a quack.
Everywhere a quack quack.
Old MacDonald had a farm. E-I-E-I-O.

Old MacDonald had a farm. E-I-E-I-O.
And on that farm, he had a horse. E-I-E-I-O.
With a neigh neigh here.
And a neigh neigh there.
Here a neigh.
There a neigh.
Everywhere a neigh neigh.
Old MacDonald had a farm. E-I-E-I-O.

Old MacDonald had a farm. E-I-E-I-O.
And on that farm, he had a cow. E-I-E-I-O.
With a moo moo here.
And a moo moo there.
Here a moo.
There a moo.
Everywhere a moo moo.
Old MacDonald had a farm. E-I-E-I-O.

Continue by adding different farm animals such as a chicken – cluck, Turkey – Gobble, goat – bleat, dog – woof, cat – miaow.

Full Original Lyrics

The Old Macdonald song has a vast history, with several versions have added up to the modern lyrics or rhyme.

Old MacDougal had a farm. Ee-I-Ee-I-O,
And on that farm, he had some dogs. Ee-I-Ee-I-O,
With a bow-wow here and a bow-wow there,
Here a bow, there a bow, everywhere a bow-wow.

This is thought to be the song’s original version, although it didn’t come earlier than some versions. The farmer’s name is different in this version, but it still lists nine animals.

This version of the lyrics is credited to Frederick Thomas Nettleingham.

Variations of Original Song Lyrics

In the Fields in Frost and Snows,
Watching late and early;
There I keep my Father’s Cows,
There I Milk ’em Yearly:
Booing here, Booing there,
Here a Boo, there a Boo, everywhere a Boo,
We defy all Care and Strife,
In a Charming Country-Life.

That version is from The Kingdom of the birds or Wonders of the Sun by Thomas d’Urfey.

Traditional English Version

Up was I on my father’s farm
On a May Day morning early;
Feeding of my father’s cows
On a May Day morning early,
With a moo-moo here and a moo moo there,
Here a moo, there a moo, here a pretty moo.
Six pretty maids come and gang a-long o’ me
To the merry green fields of the farmyard.

The Traditional Ozark Version

Old Missouri had a mule, he-hi-he-hi-ho,
And on this mule, there were two ears, he-hi-he-hi-ho.
With a flip-flop here and a flip-flop there,
And here a flop and there a flop and everywhere a flip-flop
Old Missouri had a mule, he-hi-he-hi-ho.


Grandfather and Boy looking through encyclopedias together

Who Wrote Old Macdonald Had a Farm?

The history of most nursery rhymes is usually sketchy. The same applies to Old Macdonald, whose writer is unknown. However, the different sources combine well to form the song as we know it today.

Thomas d’Urfey wrote the song’s first variation in 1706. The variation was in his book The Kingdom of the Birds or Wonders of the Sun. d’Urfey was an English composer and songwriter.

His version of the song also had animals changing with each changing stanza. The song stayed in the memory of most English people. That might explain why it found its way into the Old Macdonald Song.

The next version of the Old Macdonald song is attributed to Cecil Sharp, a folksong collector. His version was called the Farmyard song and included the distinct sounds of each animal.

The most compelling version of the song is Frederick Thomas Nettleingham’s version in his book Tommy’s Tunes. The song is the closest to the version we sing today only because the farmer’s name isn’t old Macdonald but old MacDougal.

Old Missouri is another song that’s thought to be related to the Old Macdonald song. This is the Ozark version that mentioned a mule and the sounds it makes.

Old Macdonald might have come from many variations, but all that matters is that we have a version we can enjoy singing today.


What is a Farm?

A farm is a piece or an area of land used to plant crops and keep animals. In this song, Old Macdonald lives on his farm with his animals.

Who is Old McDonald?

Old Macdonald is the farm owner on which all the animals live.

What Does the Song Mean?

Old MacDonald has a rather direct meaning. It has no hidden meaning since it only talks about an old man and the animals on his farm.

What Is the Purpose of This Song?

The song is perfect for teaching children the names of animals and the associated sounds. It is also ideal for entertainment purposes. Most people sing it for their children to entertain or bond with them.


How Many Animals Were on Old MacDonald’s Farm?

Although it’s tempting only to count the names of the animals mentioned in the song, the exact number of animals in Old Macdonald’s song is unknown. Different versions use different animals, which muddies the pool when you want to count the animals he had.

For instance, some versions include even wild animals such as the lion, as you can see in this video.

Therefore, it is impossible to know the total number of animals Old MacDonald had.

Bingo is the nursery rhyme that people think is related to Old Macdonald. Bingo is a song about a dog that lives on a farm. Because the Old Macdonald song mentions a dog, some people think the dog is Bingo.

That’s not true, though, because the two songs aren’t related. The songs have different origins and are linked to different authors.

Most nursery rhymes are usually quite popular. However, Old Macdonald is one of the most popular rhymes.

Its reach goes beyond the American borders and right into non-English-speaking countries. For instance, the Afrikaans of South Africa has their version they call Uncle Claus (for Old MacDonald).

The song has been translated into many other languages from French, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hebrew, Italian, and Japanese.

Its popularity has also seen it appear in several media, starting with Walt Disney’s 1941 film Old Macdonald Duck.

Is Old MacDonald in the Public Domain?

Yes, Old MacDonald is in the public domain. You can use the song in your work without fearing copyright issues. (Disclaimer: This is a general–not a legally confirmed fact, and you need to do more research into the laws in your jurisdiction/country to ensure you may use this song)

You shouldn’t use other people’s versions of the song.

How Do You Sing Old MacDonald in Sign Language?

The following is a great resource video from YouTube that can teach you how to sign Old Macdonald


The following is a selection of Lesson Plans. You need to click on the images to go to the websites to learn more and download the resources.


What’s the Time Signature for Old Macdonald Had A Farm?

Old MacDonalds is played in the 4/4-time signature. The melody is simple and easy to follow hence the reason it is one of the most popular nursery rhymes.


You can play Old Macdonald on most instruments. The following are some instructional videos from YouTube that you can follow!


Samantha Bellerose has a Bachelor of Education as well as a Diploma in Performing Arts. She is a mom to four children and is passionate about education and learning. Samantha created Nursery Rhyme Central as the go to place for parents, teachers and carers about all things to do with Nursery Rhymes. She is also the Main Author and creator for websites Dance Parent 101 and Move Dance Learn, where she shares her knowledge and expertise for dance and learning through movement.

Recent Posts