Physics: No, You Can't Tip a Cow

Stunt is the stuff of legend, not reality: 'Modern Farmer' writer

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 7, 2013 8:22 AM CDT

(Newser) – The age-old stunt of cow tipping isn't an age-old stunt after all, writes Jake Swearingen at Modern Farmer. In fact, he argues that it never happens in the real world, only in the movies. Don't believe him? Go scour YouTube and prove him wrong. You won't find a single such cow-tipping video for a simple reason: physics. It would be virtually impossible for a single person to dig in a shoulder and tip a cow, and almost as impossible for two or three. Physicists who studied the matter thought that six people might be able to get the job done. Still don't believe him? Talk to actual dairy farmers, as he does, and they'll clue you in: Cow tipping is an urban legend, rural-style.

Swearingen explains some of the other reasons—cows don't sleep standing up, and they're naturally wary animals, for example—to dispel the pop-culture myth, but he also digs into why it persists. One reason is "that the closest many people come to a cow is seeing a Holstein along the interstate." It looks easy to do from there, until you walk up to a 1,400-pound dairy cow in person. Another: Cow tipping is a "muddier, drunker, and more dangerous version of the snipe hunt"—that is, sending out a sucker on a futile mission, all for entertainment purposes. "In other words, as long as there’s booze, gullibility and a pasture nearby, cow tipping will live on," writes Swearingen. "Luckily for the cows, there’s very little chance they’ll ever end up actually on their sides." At TakePart, one Iowan who always felt "vaguely un-Iowan" for never trying now feels vindicated.

  (Shutterstock)
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