The Dun Cow Rib

A Very Natural Childhood

John Lister-Kaye

To a country boy this tapestry of colour, movement and mystery was an irresistible draw, a treasure trove wholly unimagined, each discovery bursting unforgettably into my consciousness: every newt a nugget of gold, every wren’s nest a gem, every slow worm a bracelet of silver
The Dun Cow Rib by John Lister-Kaye (Hardback ISBN 9781786891457) book cover

Available as Hardback, eBook

A fascinating and powerful memoir from one of the founding fathers of nature writing and one of Britain’s best-known naturalists and conservationists

John Lister-Kaye has spent a lifetime exploring, protecting and celebrating the British landscape and its wildlife. His memoir The Dun Cow Rib is the story of a boy’s awakening to the wonders of the natural world.

Lister-Kaye’s joyous childhood holidays - spent scrambling through hedges and ditches after birds and small beasts, keeping pigeons in the loft and tracking foxes around the edge of the garden - were the perfect apprenticeship for his two lifelong passions: exploring the wonders of nature, and writing about them. Threaded through his adventures - from moving to the Scottish Highlands to work with Gavin Maxwell, to founding the famous Aigas Field Centre - is an elegy to his remarkable mother, and a wise and affectionate celebration of Britain’s natural landscape.

“John Lister-Kaye is Scotland’s high priest of nature writing; it’s charming and moving to wander along with him … The Dun Cow Rib is a loving book”
the Times

See more reviews

“For my book of the year, however, there is only one contender. John Lister-Kaye is – and I am sure he won’t mind me saying this – an “old” nature writer, who has delighted his legion of readers since the early 70s. His memoir, The Dun Cow Rib, is the perfect winter read: funny, moving and packed with evocative recollections of a 50s childhood, lived under the shadow of his mother’s chronic illness. Never once does he succumb to self-pity. His accounts of adventures as a (mostly) free-range child exploring the wonders of the natural world are simply delightful.”
Stephen Moss

“I should love to pay a visit to and shake this fine author by the hand”
mail On Sunday

“A wise and affectionate celebration of Britain’s natural landscape”
the Week

“Utterly charming and captivating”
the Sunday Times

John Lister-Kaye

Sir John Lister-Kaye is one of Britain’s best-known naturalists and conservationists. He is the author of ten books on wildlife and the environment and has lectured all over the world. He has served prominently in the RSPB, the Nature Conservancy Council, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. In 2002 he was awarded an OBE for services to nature conservation. In 2016 he was awarded the Royal Scottish Geographical Society’s Geddes Medal for services to the environment. He lives with his wife and family among the mountains of the Scottish Highlands, where he runs the world-famous Aigas Field Centre. His book Gods of the Morning won the inaugural Richard Jefferies Prize.