'De Koeieschieter' ('Cow Shooter') – Leuven, Belgium - Atlas Obscura

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'De Koeieschieter' ('Cow Shooter')

A small statue commemorates a centuries-old event that still hangs over the people of Leuven. 


Leuven is a university city, which always results in all kinds of shenanigans. But the nickname of people living in Leuven has nothing to do with this, but rather with the city’s 17th-century past.

The story takes place in 1691, in the midst of the Nine Years’ War when France was trying to expand its territory. All neighboring countries were on edge for French invasions and surprise attacks, and most cities had posted guards on the lookout at all times. One night, the guards in Leuven were seemingly more on edge than usual and got spooked by some rustling in the treeline ahead. They opened fire and mowed down all of the intruders, celebrating their victory. However, the next morning they discovered that the invading force beyond the treeline was in fact a herd of cows returning to the stable.

News of this event quickly spread throughout the country, earning the people of Leuven their nickname of Koeschieters, or cow-shooters. This statue made by P. Vanbekbergen in 1991 commemorates the story and the nickname. In line with the gentle mockery connected to the tale, the statue depicts a proud man with his foot planted atop a cow’s head.

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The statue is freely accessible.

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