Tied by the Tooth /
Bridge’s number 324, page 124
Bridge explains that this proverb refers to the fact that “sheep and cattle will not break through fences or try to wander if the pasture of the field in which they are grazing is very good.” He had obviously not run into any pigs, which are extreme escape artists.
Bridge wonders which came first – the English or the Welsh version of the proverb, but both Cheshire and north Wales are prominent areas for the grazing of livestock, so it could have come from either. Certainly around many areas of the Cheshire Plain the fields are full of rich pasture favoured by cattle, and the Welsh foothills and highlands are much better for sheep that graze on much sparser vegetation.
It sounds very much like the better known proverb in which the route to the male heart is reputed to be via his stomach.
A similar proverb in Bridge is “Hanged hay never does cattle” (Bridge 159, page 64). The word “does” in this context derives from doesome, which means “thriving,” and hanged hay for is feed bought from a supplier and will probably be supplied very meanly to the cattle because of the cost, to the detriment to the cattle.
Both proverbs also resemble another of Bridge’s Cheshire proverbs (no. 208 on p.80, and no.159, p.64): “A doesome child paises its pasture,” meaning that the health and wellbeing of a thriving child is credit to his or her food, and perhaps, by extension, to the care of the parents that provide the food. The word “paise” comes from late Middle English and means to be “balanced” or “poised,” but in this context it may be a mistaken reading of “praise.”
For more about J.C. Bridge and this Cheshire Proverbs series, see Cheshire Proverbs 1.
For the other proverbs in the series, click on the Cheshire Proverbs label in the right hand margin.