Cow Tipping

A popular prank among rural youths is “cow tipping,” whereby a sleeping cow is pushed over for entertainment.

Don’t believe that!

Growing up in the Midwest, I frequently heard stories of “cow tipping.” I never participated in it or even witnessed it, but it was always said to have been done by a friend – or friend of a friend. The stories were essentially the same: Late at night, while the cows are sleeping (standing up) in a pasture, a (usually intoxicated) youth would sneak up on one of the unsuspecting bovines and push her over. This was presumably followed by much snickering as he ran back to his waiting buddies.

This is actually one of the most persistent myths discussed on this site, even though it has been very thoroughly disproven.

Firstly, cows do not sleep while standing. They may rest, but they are still alert (cows have excellent senses of smell and hearing). But, what if someone could get close enough to shove them over?

A student and doctor of zoology at the University of British Columbia crunched the numbers in their 2005 paper on the subject. An average dairy cow weighs about 1,500 pounds and would require about 1,360 Newtons of force to overturn it. A 145-pound person can produce a force of no more than 660 Newtons, so therefore it would take at least two people. But, this is assuming that the cow remains absolutely motionless and stiff. In reality, the cow would shift her weight and brace against the pushing. More realistically, it would probably take five or six individuals to generate enough force – this is of course assuming that the cow would allow such a large group to approach and accost her in such a fashion.

If this has ever occurred, there seems to be no evidence, as a scan of YouTube and similar sites produces not one recorded example.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *