The Hedley Kow is one of the strangest creatures of folklore.
Hedley on the Hill is a small village in Northumberland, a few miles south of Newcastle. The Kow was well known in the area and written accounts of its tricks date back 300 years.
It favoured schoolboy pranks on unwitting victims, usually adopting a different guise each time then revealing itself by its strange braying laughter.
An old woman in the 19th century found a bundle of straw in the road and picked it up to take home. It got heavier and heavier as she went until she was forced to put it down. She set off again, but the same thing happened. Then the bundle jumped up and danced a jig in the road, laughing its braying laugh. It then flew off never to be seen again.
A farmer around the same time harnessed his mare to go to market, but the horse kept shying along the lane then refused to go any further. The farmer suspected the Kow and went a different route, but the same thing happened again. He tried to calm the horse to no avail and she smashed from the cart and took off. Then he heard the laughter coming from mare itself. It was the Kow in disguise. He walked home and found the mare in the stables where she had been all along.
These are just two of many equally bizarre stories about this creature, which thankfully seems to appear no more.