Animals In Appalachia Appalachian Dialect Folklore

Grandaddy Longlegs


I call it a Granddaddy. Some folks call them Daddy Long-Legs or even Granddaddy Long-legs. When the girls were babies I didn’t want them to be overly scared of creepy crawlies so when they pointed one out, I didn’t make a big deal out of it even though I didn’t like them myself.

Over the years I’ve wished more than once that I had passed my fears on to them. Like the time they brought me a handful of hairless baby mice they found in the wood pile or the time I saw two long kicking granddaddy legs sticking out of the corner of Chitter’s mouth. I never found the rest of him I’m positive it’s cause she ate him.

I’ve heard the story of the granddaddy being the most poisonous spider ever, but not being able to bite you because it’s mouth is too small. You can go here to find out if it’s true or not (it’s not). Frank C. Brown’s collection of North Carolina Folklore has this to say about Granddaddies:

7611 When ones cows have strayed from home they can be located by saying this to the granddaddy spider: “Granddaddy, Granddaddy where are my cows?” He will point one foot in the direction in which they are. 

I asked Pap if he’d ever heard of a granddaddy helping you find your cows. After he quit laughing he said no he must have missed that one.



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  • Reply
    April 19, 2021 at 1:25 pm

    I have an absolute phobia of them. My grandfather used to throw them on me when I was a little kid (5 years old). Thanks for an aversion to them 60 years later . I know in my mind that they can’t hurt me but I can get hysterical over them……thankfully, I never see any where I live now but getting ready to move to the country and am really dreading them hanging around…..I know people think I’m crazy for being so repulsed by them… is just a trauma that I don’t seem to be able to let go of nor forget….

  • Reply
    T. Williams
    September 3, 2018 at 10:21 am

    I heard about “granddaddy” long legs pointing toward cows from my dad, son of a sharecropper, who grew up in 1930’s southwest Georgia. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Bob McArthur
    June 30, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Growing up outside Kansas City, Mo, we always called them granddaddy longlegs. Is that not their name?

    • Reply
      July 2, 2018 at 11:48 am

      Bob-Yes for some folks 🙂 funny how what you called something differed by where you live.

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette-Dean
    September 8, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    My grandpa and grandma always told me that daddy long legs were most useful when you could not find your cows. I had completely forgotten about that until I read your post! <3

  • Reply
    Shirley Wright
    June 30, 2017 at 9:15 am

    Grew up with them in MS and always called them Granddaddy Longlegs. Never saw any when I moved to Florida, and was happy to see them again when we bought our place up here in NC. I sprayed the exterior of the house a few years back to keep the big ants from invading the interior, and then my Granddaddy’s disappeared as well. Haven’t sprayed anymore, and they’re back again – in smaller quantities so far, but glad they’re here. Read somewhere they like to eat the “no-see-ums” and the year they disappeared I started having problems with those on our deck in the evenings. Now they’re back I’m hoping that population disappears!

  • Reply
    June 30, 2017 at 5:37 am

    Setting here at 4:30 a.m eating my breakfast trying to imagine seeing a child with spider legs sticking out of her mouth is hilarious.. Sounds like they need to be more afraid of her than the other way around. Good story.

  • Reply
    June 30, 2017 at 3:24 am

    tipper I really love the story of the daddy long legs pointing out where the lost cow is…even tho I am deathly afraid of all spiders…as I have 4 older brothers who threw them on me when I was young…ewwww
    thank you for your stories and time spent with us..i know you are truly loved…
    love and big ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    James Foreman
    June 29, 2017 at 11:42 pm

    Yes, they’re arachnids, but they’re actually more closely related to scorpions than they are to spiders. They don’t produce silk, have just one pair of eyes, and have a fused body (unlike spiders, which have a narrow “waist” between their front and rear).

  • Reply
    June 29, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    About 20 years ago, I had something that had to go out that day at the shop. My daughter Jennifer was there with her firstborn, Traci. She wanted to vacuum a little and said she’d be down after awhile. Jennifer was vacuuming when she noticed Traci being real still in the corner. She cut off the vacuum cleaner and asked Traci what she had in her mouth. Traci opened her mouth and grinning like a Chessy-Cat stuck out her tongue. Jennifer called me and was still gaging, saying “Daddy, Traci just ate a bunch of them little specked Voltzwagons. When she opened her mouth, it looked like the Constellations all sparkling and different colors.” She was alright. …Ken

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 29, 2017 at 11:19 am

    We call them DaddyLongLegs. Always were told not to get too close or they would spit in your. Never heard t he one about the cows.

  • Reply
    wanda Devers
    June 29, 2017 at 11:14 am

    I always take them outside. As much as I misplace things lately I need to keep one on hand!
    Little toddlers are liable to eat anything! There’s a family story about my cousin who toddled around looking for chicken poop to put in his mouth. maybe he had a vitamin deficiency.
    I may have mentioned this before–one of the horrors of the outhouse was the giant spiders who lived in there. My baby brother called them toilet spiders.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    June 29, 2017 at 11:04 am

    North Carolina does seem to have their share of Granddaddy Longlegs. I never seed’ the short legged variety myownself but I’m sure they are out there somewhere! Could they be Grandmammy Short Longlegs? I guess I’ll just have to keep pondering on that one….
    We have noticed here on our little E. TN hill the Granddaddy Longlegs seem to have years of great abundance and years that you only see a few.
    We used to ask a Granddaddy how old it was….sometimes it would raise one leg and then another. so we would count the times it raised it’s legs…My Uncle said it didn’t know how old it was, it was only good at pointing to the cow pasture….After today’s post I understand now it was telling us where the cows were! ha They maneuver using their legs or hair and vibrations on their legs to tell of danger, prey etc…Sooo, when the air from your question comes in contact with their legs, they raise them in that direction….much like a doodlebug does when your trying to get it out of it’s vortex sandy hole…
    I used to love walking behind my Aunts house in Canton and watch the many huge Granddaddies doing their morning pushups on that old white siding….have you ever seen them do that?
    This is what they look like…..Put your hands together, with all fingers and thumbs touching and spread apart….now then raise them up together and back down…Count them…mine can do at least ten even with these old arthritic fingers! Ha
    Tipper, show this to little ones about the Granddaddy pushups they love it….older adults will just roll their eyes…Ha
    Great post….have a great day!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 29, 2017 at 11:03 am

    I don’t like spiders and snakes
    And that ain’t what it takes to love me
    You fool, you fool
    I don’t like spiders and snakes
    And that ain’t what it takes to love me
    Like I want to be loved by you.
    Jim Stafford

    • Reply
      Johnnie Hawks
      July 16, 2019 at 2:27 pm

      Ieas always told if you killed one the cow would go dry, if you killed a road frog the well would go dry

    • Reply
      Terry Wright
      June 13, 2021 at 6:15 pm

      I’ll see you after school

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 29, 2017 at 10:39 am

    A lot of people don’t know this but the venom of most spiders and snakes is not poisonous if you eat or drink it. It is when they bite you and inject it under your skin that you are harmed. Only if you have cuts inside your mouth or throat will you be harmed from ingesting it. So, there wasn’t a likelihood of danger to Chitter but you can be almost certain there was repercussions for the spider.
    I’m not saying there are no animals that if you eat them you will die. Some toads and fish come to mind. But the ones that can bite you and make you get sick or die, you can safely do the same to them.
    Lobsters and crabs are nothing but glorified spiders. Their leg meat is considered a delicacy. Tell Chitter to eat the legs too. That’s the best part.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    June 29, 2017 at 9:42 am

    I like those little creatures and I do not harm them. If one gets inside I just take him back out. I’ve never heard the one about finding lost cows but I like it.
    Next time I have one inside I’ll ask it to point to which door it wants to go out and see if it tell me by lifting a leg.
    I found an informative article about them and they are related more to scorpions than spiders but they are harmless. I’ll attach the link below if anyone wants to know more about them.
    I had one of the largest Black Widow spiders I’ve ever seen in my garage the other day. Those things give me the heebie jeebies but they are beautiful to look at. Too bad I had to dispose of her before she found her way into a pair of our shoes.

  • Reply
    June 29, 2017 at 9:29 am

    Grandaddy Long Legs has helped me find more than lost cows. He will also point toward missing shoes, toys or just about anything a mean sister has hidden. They never scared me because I grew up thinking they had some sort of magical powers of locating things that were missing. I’m glad I never developed the same fondness for bats as they had the same magical powers, even when they were unseen. We would put a few drops of liquid in the palm of our hand and splatter it with a finger on the other hand while saying, “bitty, bitty bat tell me where my shoes are at.” My older male cousin used to spit in his hand when seeking help from bitty bitty bat. That was disgusting, but he was so mischievous it was expected from him. He grew up to be one of my most respected cousins as he earned high ranking in his long career with the US Army.

  • Reply
    June 29, 2017 at 8:58 am

    I always heard not to kill granddaddys because they eat other bad stuff. Unlike your Chitter and Chatter, my grandson would beg me to get rid of the spiders. I would try to comply while teaching him they are gentle, and placing them on a piece of paper to relocate. I leave them if found in basement or yard.

  • Reply
    Pam Danner
    June 29, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Daddy Long Legs never have frightened me, in fact I have picked them up before (and lived to tell about it).

  • Reply
    June 29, 2017 at 8:49 am

    Adding to the mythlology: I’ve been told that Daddy long legs spiders were most poisonous in proportion to their size but rarely bit; however, if they did bite a human, they’d do no more damage than a “common” ant. (Maybe fire ants hadn’t entered the U.S. when that story began circulating!)
    Around Central Texas they often gather in and around new home construction and will mass in some high corner or where wall meets ceiling. I’ve never seen a web with any of them but when they gather in a large (approximately 2 to 3 ft square) mass and the mass starts to “pulsate” as they do whatever dance they do entertwined as they are, it can be kind of freaky!!!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 29, 2017 at 8:15 am

    When I was young and reckless I once went head first without a light into a hole under a jumble of sandstone boulders. Once under there in the darkness, I felt somethings crawling on the back of my neck. I squirmed around and got a candle lit and there above my head about eighteen inches the ceiling was crawling with daddy long legs.
    In spite of that, they do not give me the heebie jeebies like the praying mantis does. If I find one in the house I just catch it and take it outside.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    June 29, 2017 at 7:58 am

    The Daddy Long Legs finding your lost cows is the one thing I associate with them. I’m not sure if it was my mom or dad (or both) who taught me that.
    A few years ago my dad demonstrated to my daughter how it worked. Sure enough, the Daddy Long Leg lifted a leg. My daughter said “But Pap, you don’t have any cows.”
    “Well,” my dad said, “he found somebody’s. They ain’t real smart that way.”

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 29, 2017 at 6:44 am

    I see lots of granddaddy spiders as I’m working in the yard and yes, I’ve heard that non-since of them being poisonous…never believed it for a minute! To be so spooky looking they always seemed so gentle to me.
    Tip I prefer to thing Chitter didn’t eat the granddaddy she just accidentally got the legs sticking out of her mouth!
    Pap had such a beautiful laugh and a wonderful perspective on life!

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