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Wiktionary's entry for cock and bull story reads:

A far-fetched and fanciful story or tale of highly dubious validity.

I can't seem to find the original story with a cock (rooster) and a bull in it. Is it an idiom with "proof in itself" that we don't have a story at all?

The phrase has an entry on phrases.org.uk.

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General reference: etymonline.com/index.php?search=cock+and+bull ("first recorded 1620s, perhaps an allusion to Aesop's fables, with their incredible talking animals, or to a particular story, now forgotten") –  MετάEd Feb 6 '13 at 7:26
    
Another reference page –  user21497 Feb 6 '13 at 7:35
    
@MετάEd: The OP is in fact asking for the reference to the actual story, if there is any. –  KeyBrd Basher Feb 6 '13 at 7:59
    
I reckon this fairly comprehensive analysis is probably the best you're going to get. There's also a Wikipedia article. It's not an unreasonable question, and I've upvoted; but as everything says much the same thing this must be General Reference. –  Andrew Leach Feb 6 '13 at 8:13
    
Alternate explanation offered here : joe-ks.com/phrases/phrasesC.htm –  Autoresponder Feb 6 '13 at 9:19

2 Answers 2

Cock is possibly short for poppycock.

Hiss.in says:

It doesn’t seem that there is a direct link from ‘cock and bull’ to‘bullshit’, meaning rubbish or nonsense, which is a 20th century US term. ‘Bull’ is associated with made up stories from around the date of the earliest ‘cock and bull’ citation though, as in this quotation from J. Taylor, 1630:

“Wit and Mirth … Made vp, and fashioned into Clinches, Bulls, Quirkes, Yerkes, Quips, and Ierkes.”

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From Wikipedia:

Cock and Bull

A pair of coaching inns alongside the former A5 road or the old Roman road Watling Street in Stony Stratford (Buckinghamshire, England), named respectively 'The Cock' and 'The Bull', are said to have given rise to the term "cock and bull stories." Coaches or the Mail coach would stop in the town on their way from London to the North and many a traveller's tall tale would be further embellished as it passed between the two hostelries, fuelled by ale and an interested audience. Hence any suspiciously elaborate tale would become a cock and bull story. This is a cock-and bull story in itself, however; as there is no evidence to suggest that this is where the phrase originated. The phrase, first recorded in 1621, may instead be an allusion to Aesop's fables, with their incredible talking animals. As this slightly predates coaching inns, the names of the two inns could have been a reference to "Cock and Bull stories" as to encourage the passing of such anecdotes within their doors.

Edit:

Having investigated further, I think Wikipedia is being a bit harsh. Saying that there is no evidence suggests that there is no Cock or Bull coaching inns in Stony Stratford. In fact there are, and have been for donkey's years. Indeed, every year Stony Stratford hosts a story telling event to celebrate this fact. Not only that, but Watling Street is a very famous road, though if you were stand on the London end of it, in Cheapside, you could be forgiven for not realising this, as it is little more than an alley there.

So what would count as further evidence? If there was a competing origin to the Stony Stratford version, I could understand, but to call the Stony Stratford Cock and Bull story a cock and bull story on the basis that there is no blue plaque commemorating the coining of the phrase, seems a bit harsh.

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did you write this entry yourself? –  nathan hayfield Feb 7 '13 at 0:55
    
The "From wikipedia" bit was all my own work. The rest was from wikipedia. –  Facebook Answers Feb 7 '13 at 8:09
    
The Cock and The Bull are popular names for pubs or inns. England has 76 named The Cock and 123 named The Bull. The fact that there happens to be two inns of that name isn't strong evidence the phrase comes from this town. Neither is the fact the pubs have been there a long time, as many pubs have long histories. The fact there are coaching inns next to important road is nothing extraordinary. That it is celebrated there now doesn't mean it originated there. –  Hugo Feb 7 '13 at 14:45
    
wikipedia is a joke, don't cite info from there –  nathan hayfield Feb 7 '13 at 16:16
    
Given that all references above contain pretty much the same information, I feel your criticism of wikipedia in this instance at least to be unwarranted. With regards to the common names for The Cock and The Bull, I would respond by asking how many Cocks have a Bull next to them? I am not saying it is strong evidence, I am saying that in the absence of any better examples, it shouldn't be discounted. –  Facebook Answers Feb 7 '13 at 17:37

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