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A Different Kind of Monster Mash

Art Gallery ErgsArt - by ErgSap on Flickr

Throughout history, there are many examples of “mash-ups”. Mashing up two or more things that don’t go together can create funny, interesting combinations. The ancient Egyptians had Bastet, with a cat head and a human body. In Russian folklore exists a creature called Alkonost, with the head of a woman and the body of a bird. In the US, we have jackalopes: rabbits with deer antlers!

Sylvar on Flickr

In computer history, an interesting and, sadly, mostly forgotten mashup is Clarus the Dogcow. Susan Kare created Clarus while creating a font called Cairo, which is full of odd characters called dingbats. Kare was a designer at Apple Computer in the 1980s and is responsible for the garbage can icon and many other icons which we still use today when we use a computer.

Clarus was a special case, however. It appeared only when printing from early Apple computers. The front half of Clarus is a cow while the back half is a dog. The dogcow also made the sound, “moof,” a mix of “Moo” and “Woof.” There was a purpose for Clarus beyond just silliness. It showed up in your Print dialog box to show how a print job would output. So Clarus did jump around, head pointed left or right, depending on the orientation of a document. When a disk was copied, Clarus wagged its tail and did flips.

Sadly, Clarus disappeared in the early 2000s after a few decades of existence. Rumor has it Clarus is in the current MacOS called Ventura but I’ve not seen it yet. And Apple’s Swift programming language documentation uses dogcow as a cute example while naming variables and constants.

Learn More

The History of Clarus the Dogcow




Macintosh Technical Notes #31: The Dogcow


Clarus the Dogcow: Moof Museum


List of Hybrid Creatures in Folklore


The Swift Programming Language: The Basics