Ah, cow tipping. The act of… tipping… a… cow. Now, if this seems a tad strange to you, I can only assume you live in a country where this isn’t a thing. Not that I’m saying it’s a ‘thing’ in England, but most people here have heard of it and I’ll bet a great deal believe in it. The act of going into a field full of cows and tipping them over. Like knocking your bedside lamp over as your bladder wakes you up at three in the morning. Except… you know, much bigger than a lamp. Many, I suspect, believe nobody in their right mind has ever attempted to tip a cow, while others cannot believe someone hasn’t tipped a cow over. I mean, come on! It’s a part of everyone’s upbringing, right? No. No it isn’t. But it does make you wonder. Is it, as most believe, a myth or is it, in fact, real? There are 753,000 results on Google! I haven’t run out of decent questions readers, this is a serious matter and it must be addressed! I mean, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to it, granted…
Cow tipping is the purported activity of sneaking up on any unsuspecting or sleeping cow and pushing it over, often for entertainment. Most view these sorts of endeavours as urban legend or tall tales, implying that rural folk seek such entertainment because the only other forms of entertainment for farmers are shooting or wife swapping. As imagined, however, cow tipping does not exist. That’s not to say nobody has tried it, but the question remains. Is it possible to tip a poor cow over? Let’s hope not. I’d rather eat them. Mmm… cows.
Nobody knows for sure who first came up with idea of tipping a cow. Some speculate that it formed the same function as what’s known as snipe hunting, the practice of sending some gullible idiot out to perform an impossible task for the amusement of others. This is a bad idea of course, because a cow will kill you if you go anywhere near it. Probably.
Many suspect cow tipping dates all the way back to 1970, which sure, sounds like yesterday, but, need I remind you, was actually nearly half a century ago. Movies like Heathers (1985) and Tommy Boy (1995) featured people going… cow tipping. Obviously. Many since have told grand tales of the tipping of cows, but these stories are often second or third hand. “My friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s best mate’s dog’s lover’s mother’s great aunty once told my father’s best friend’s lover’s son’s girlfriend a story about a bloke who tipped a cow…”
Cow tipping exploded into the mainstream world of popular culture. Beavis and Butthead did it, and so did Meter and Lightning in the otherwise excellent Cars. Videos litter YouTube of individuals attempting to tip cows and stories from individuals of the ‘great nights they had tipping cows’. All of this is completely bullshit, obviously, unlike everything else on YouTube, which is a bastion of utter truthiness.
And yes, before you utter the words, “Ah, but I’ve seen videos…” It’s all in the editing. Most of those videos feature fake cows. It’s almost as if the tippers don’t have jobs, isn’t it? In 2006, The Little Willies recorded the song ‘Lou Reed’, and said song features an event during which musician Lou Reed tips cows over in Texas, which I can most certainly see happening in Texas. It was fictional. Television shows and games since have also featured this most odd of things, even entering common parlance in the figure of speech ‘cow tipping’, referring to pushing something over that is enormous. And sure, all this is nonsense and a little funny, but we still haven’t answered the question. Could one tip a cow? Just what is the science behind cows?
Surprisingly, many scientists and researchers have conducted studies to determine if a human could tip a cow. Unsurprisingly, cow tipping is extremely difficult. By some estimates, it would take between 3,000 and 4,000 Newton’s to tip a cow over, and that would require between four and FOURTEEN extremely burly men. A 2005 study by Margo Lille, a zoologist at the University of British Columbia, along with student Tracy Boechler, concluded that a single person could not possibly tip a cow. Furthermore, cattle are very aware of their surroundings, due to their excellent senses of smell and hearing. Two people could tip a cow if it didn’t move, but it would. Why would it just stand there? ‘Ah, I see you’re trying to tip me. Let me help by doing absolutely nothing…’
Even this wouldn’t be easy. You’d have to push the cow’s centre of mass over its hooves before the cow would react. The physics don’t work. Force equals mass times acceleration. A cow does indeed have a lot of mass, but you’ll have to move it quickly before the cow can react. Which means you need more force. Many argued with this study for many different reasons. One person, in Texas, said he had done it on ‘numerous occasions’ and that one person could do it, they just needed a good run up with someone standing on the other side. And why would you go to these lengths to upset a poor animal munching on grass? I can only see that happening in Texas. Oh, wait…
Biologist Steven Vogel suggests that data proves humans can exert a pushing force of 280 Newton’s. Vogel believes that a human applying the right amount of force at a sweet spot high on the cow would allow 10 men to push it over, minimum, rather than four. And all this is forgetting that cows have excellent reflexes. You wouldn’t get it over in one push. Some estimates have found that it would take a couple attempts and still, we’re assuming the cow isn’t moving during all this. There might be a way to tip a cow over, but not by pushing it. You’d need some kind of machine. And I ask again. What’s the point of this? Remind me, I think I’ve forgot.
Now, some argue that most ‘cow tipping claims’ go on at night and, as we all know, cows sleep standing up. No, wait… they don’t. That’s completely untrue. Cows lie down when they sleep. It would actually be harder trying to tip a sleeping cow. You’d need some sort of catapult, and that’s really cruel. Funny, yet cruel. Whilst cows often rest standing up, in this state, they are easily startled and very well aware of what’s going on around them. Also, cows are rarely solitary so even if you catch one unaware, others in the herd are always keeping watch of predators and the whole shebang will stampede if they are threatened. If you’re going to push a cow over, prepare to be trampled, because that probably will happen…
So no, one human being cannot tip a cow, and therefore, it’s something I’ve never done nor even attempted, and if you have attempted such, you are one mean bunny. But still, cows can tip over, right? Even if humans aren’t doing it, I’m sure I’ve seen a cow fall over. Or were your tired eyes deceiving you?
Well, yes. Cows are tipped over for veterinary and husbandry practices, plus for medical treatment. This process, known as casting, requires the attachment of a 30 to 40 foot length of rope, tied around the body and legs of the cow. Many, many men then pull the rope until the animal is off-balance, forcing it to lie down on its chest, at which point, several more burly men roll it onto its side and tie its legs because if you knock a cow down, it will try to kick you.
A recent invention is the tipping table, and this is quite simply… hilarious. Basically, they tie a cow to a board. Said board is attached to a mechanical gizmo, which then rotates said board with said attached cow until it’s at 90 degrees, a cow, I’d assume, incredibly confused. They have to do this because cows aren’t co-operative. Putting them on these tables is the only way you can inspect their genitals because, unsurprisingly, they don’t like you touching them down there…
Of course, these farmers are tipping cows deliberately, but cows also tip themselves over by accident. They have huge bodies and little legs, and, although they can’t roll over, they often become stuck if they lie down to sleep and accidentally roll over, meaning they can’t get up. In this case, people can tip a cow over, but these people are firemen and they use a lot of equipment. Cows can also fall over when they… die. So if you see a ‘tipped cow’, erm, yeah, it might not be so, tipped…
So, can we tip cows? No. Should we tip cows? No. Can cows tip themselves over? Yes. What this question utterly pointless? Yes. Did I enjoy it?
Oh, you bet I did…
Image (Click on It to Enlarge)
1) A confused cow on a tipping table
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