The Tain -Conor MacNessa ruled Ulster; Queen Maeve and her husband Ailill ruled in Connacht. One night Maeve and Ailill were boasting about their riches. Ailill also boasted about his great white bull. Maeve had no bull and she was jealous. The next day Maeve called her messenger MacRoth. Maeve asked him if there was any bull in Ireland equal to Ailill’s bull.
MacRoth said, “Not one as good but twice as good.” Maeve was delighted when she heard this. MacRoth said, “The bull’s name is the Brown Bull of Cooley. He belongs to the Daire of Cooley in the province of Ulster.”
Maeve sent MacRoth and other messengers to Daire to ask for the loan of his brown bull. Maeve said she would give a gift of cows and return the brown bull at the end of the year.
Daire agreed to lend the bull to Maeve. One of Maeve’s men boasted, foolishly saying Daire was a wise man to give the bull because if he had not given it Maeve would have taken it by force. Daire was furious when he heard this. “Tell your queen,” he said, “if she wants my bull she had better take it by force.”
When MacRoth told Queen Maeve about this, she was raging. Maeve gathered all her fighting men and marched to Ulster. Then Queen Maeve and Daire had a battle. Queen Maeve won the battle and she took the bull.
This is how the great Cattle Raid of Cooley, The Táin took place.
Thank you Sarah for adding to the story, it makes more sense now.
There is a place in the Cooley Mountains called Maeve’s Gap and it’s told this is where she passed through with her army. It is a great place for a slightly adventurous walk.
It is important to add that after Queen Maeve won the bull, and was brought to her home, The brown bull attacked Ailill’s white bull, and after killing the white bull, the Brown Bull ran all the way back to Ulster and when it got there, it’s heart gave out and it died. In the End, both Ailill and Maeve were equal in possession and neither could say they had more than the other.