River Crossing 1 — Farm Produce

Alcuin of Northumbria, aka Flaccus Albinus Alcuinus or Ealhwine, was a scholar, a clergyman and a poet. He lived in the eighth century and rose to be a leading figure at the court of the emperor Charlemagne. He included this puzzle in a letter to the emperor,  as an example of ‘subtlety in Arithmetick for your enjoyment’. It still has mathematical significance, as I will eventually explain. It goes like this.

A farmer is taking a wolf, a goat, and a basket of cabbages to market,, and he comes to a river where there is a small boat. He can fit only one item out of the three into the boat with him at any time. He can’t leave the wolf with the goat, or the goat with the cabbages, for reasons that should be obvious. Fortunately, the wolf detests cabbages. How does the farmer transport all three items across the river?

Have fun!

Nalin Pithwa


  1. Anubhav C. Singh
    Posted July 31, 2015 at 1:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

    So first the farmer takes the goat across the river and then comes back to the side where the other animals are. Then he takes the wolf across the river and brings the goat back. He follows it with taking the cabbages across and then comes back to get the goat across.

  2. Pradeep Selva
    Posted August 5, 2015 at 10:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    First the game takes the goat to avoid it from being eaten by the wolf. And the wolf will not eat the cabbage…… Hence later he can bring the wolf and take the goat back on the other side….. Then he takes the cabbage and after leaving it with the wolf, finally he can bring his goats…. Hence successfully bringing all the animals….

  3. Yash Mutnal
    Posted October 16, 2015 at 12:09 am | Permalink | Reply

    So first the farmer takes the goat so it doesn’t get eaten by the wolf and it won’t eat the cabbage. Then the farmer takes the wolf because the wolf doesn’t like cabbage and there is no food for him. Then he the takes the cabbage last.

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