The Great Cow Race is the second book in the Bone series. It collects issues 7-11 of Jeff Smith's self-published Bone comic books, along with the short story "Up on the Roof" which was originally published in Wizard Presents: Bone 13½. The book was first published by Cartoon Books in its original black-and-white form in 1996. Paperback and hardback coloured editions were released in 2005 by Scholastic.
This volume focuses on Gran'ma Ben's annual race against the town's cows, and Phoney and Smiley Bone's attempts to fix the race. It also delves into the deepening mystery of Thorn's past, and the brooding unrest between the valley folk and the Rat Creature tribe, between whom there has been an uneasy treaty.
The Spring Fair
Thorn, Gran'ma Ben and the Bone cousins attend the spring fair, an annual market and festival in the town that culminates in the Great Cow Race, a race which Gran'ma Ben always wins. Fone Bone is driven to jealousy when Tom, the handsome honey seller flirts with Thorn, so he decides to get some honey for her himself. However, a gigantic bee defends his hive, getting into a fight with Fone Bone. He eventually gets the honey, but sees Thorn sharing some honey with Tom. Phoney and Smiley Bone continue their work at The Barrelhaven, with Phoney concocting a scheme to fix the cow race by sowing seeds of disquiet about Gran'ma Ben's fitness to compete. At the end, Thorn meets Tom at the fair, but finds he is with another girl.
Phoney Bone's race-fixing scheme continues as he hypes his "Mystery Cow" (who is in fact Smiley Bone in an unconvincing cow costume) to draw bets from the townsfolk. That night, Thorn has a vivid dream in which she sees herself as a young child in a cave and surrounded by dragons. She tells Fone Bone the dream is a recurring one which has only started again since seeing his map. She is certain now that she was the one who drew it, many years earlier, and that her dream is in fact a childhood memory.
The Mystery Cow
The day of the Great Cow Race arrives, and Phoney Bone's scheme is threatened as Lucius Down convinces the townsfolk the Bones are deceiving them. This forces Phoney and Smiley to put on a charade to convince people the Mystery Cow is indeed a real, vicious and wild animal. Meanwhile, Fone Bone's attempt to write a love poem to Thorn is interrupted when the two Stupid, Stupid Rat Creatures catch up with him once again.
The Great Cow Race
Phoney's scheme is foiled when Lucius Down bets his entire tavern on Gran'ma Ben; with odds of 100-1 the greedy Bone will be ruined if he lets her win, so he and Smiley are forced to run the race (in the Mystery Cow costume) to win! The race turns into a terrifying stampede when it crosses paths with a pack of Rat Creatures.
After the disastrous Cow Race, Phoney and Smiley are forced to work off their debts working at the Barrelhaven and repairing Gran'ma Ben's farm house. Lucius and Ben discuss the situation with the Bone cousins, the Rat Creatures and the Great Red Dragon. They suspect that although their arrival in the valley may have set off the attacks, they are not themselves to blame.
Up on the Roof
A vignette centering on Smiley Bone and Lucius Down as they fix the roof of the farm house. Lucius is driven crazy by Smiley's half-witted cluelessness. Smiley reflects that his "village idiot" role hasn't changed much since leaving Boneville.