Is It Actually Possible to Tip a Cow?

Is It Actually Possible to Tip a Cow?


For the uninitiated, cow tipping is a prank
where a person sneaks up on a sleeping cow and pushes the animal over onto its side. Ask around and you can probably hear about
a friend of a friend who successfully tipped a cow while out in the country late one night. The story generally recounts participants
having a few alcoholic drinks before driving to a cow pasture and setting upon a slumbering
bovine. But is it really possible to tip a cow? Well, anything is possible and humans are
quite inventive, but in the way that cow tipping is generally depicted- no, it is not possible
to tip a sleeping cow. The first issue here is that cows don’t actually
sleep while standing up, at least not in the way we tend to think of sleep. Cows do sometimes enter a sort of restful
state while standing up, but while in this state they are easily startled and are reasonably
well aware of what’s going on around them. Their deep sleep state occurs while they are
already lying down (something they do for about 14 hours per day, with a few hours of
that time in a deep sleep; the rest of the time they’re either awake or in their light-resting
state). Another issue with the idea of sneaking up
on a cow that is resting while standing is that at any given time in a herd of cattle,
a number of the cows are wide awake. Cows may be largely domesticated animals today,
but they still retain their flight instinct when they suspect a predator is nearby or
observe others in the herd that appear startled by something. One cow will very quickly, via their behavior,
alert the others in the herd if they hear or see anything suspicious, causing the others
to in turn become on edge and alert. Given a standing cow that is resting is very
easily startled from its resting state, even without any other cows around, this makes
the idea of sneaking up on one of these cows even more difficult, if not impossible. But let’s say you and your friends manage
to somehow park your car within walking distance of a cow without alerting it (harder than
you think on a quiet country night, even parking a couple miles away), then you manage to hop
the barbed wire fence and creep up to said cow without alerting it or any other cows
in the herd via sound, sight, or your scent. In that increasingly unlikely scenario, would
you physically have the strength to tip the cow? Dr. Margo Lillie and Tracy Boechler of the
zoology department at the University of British Columbia conducted a study in 2005 to figure
out the answer to this very question. Lillie and Boechler determined that it would
take approximately 1,360 to 2,910 Newtons of force applied at the optimal angle to tip
an average cow. (For reference, an average full grown Holstein
dairy cow typically weighs in at around 1,500 lbs, though this can vary by a few hundred
pounds depending on a variety of factors). They then estimated that an average adult
human could generate approximately 660 Newtons of force at the optimal tipping angle. So in theory, on the low end with a completely
static cow, approximately two people could apply enough force to tip said static cow. The problem is that a cow would most certainly
not stay static in such a scenario. And heaven help you if you tried to push over
an 1800 to 2000+ pound bull. (People don’t generally survive being attacked
by bulls, which is probably what would happen if you tried sneaking up on one and attempted
tipping it over.) So, on the high end, according to Dr. Lillie,
overcoming the non-static cow’s ability to brace itself would require in the optimal
scenario around five people. But even if you did this, there is the fact
that a cow in a state of falling is generally perfectly agile enough to simply catch itself
and trot away. In the end, while it is technically possible
for a group of humans to devise a way to cause a cow to tip over, it is, in the practical
sense, impossible in the way generally illustrated when stereotypically inebriated individuals
are described as tipping cows. So where did the idea of cow tipping come
from? Unfortunately, the answer is that no one knows
for sure. It has been hypothesized that the practice
of attempting cow tipping probably came about via serving the same function as snipe hunting-
sending a gullible individual out to perform some impossible task for the amusement of
those in the know. (Although it should be noted that this is
a potentially very dangerous snipe hunting style game, particularly if there is a bull
around in the herd.) As for how this particular “game” entered
the mainstream, stories of it began popping up in the late 20th century and it particularly
gained steam thanks to such movies as Heathers (1989) and Tommy Boy (1995), along with a
Season 4 episode of Beavis and Butthead titled “Cow Tipping” (1994) where the duo failed
in their attempt at tipping a horse, then were successful at tipping a cow which landed
on Beavis. More recently, the 2006 Pixar film Cars depicts
Mater and Lightning tipping cow-like tractors. Speaking of things falling over, the ladies! Who will no doubt be swooning left and right
when they see you walking around looking ultra dapper in clothes you acquired from Mack Weldon! Bonus Facts:
Speaking of drunken dares, let us now introduce you to the amazing story of Thomas Fitzpatrick,
known to his friends as Tommy Fitz. For the first part of this story, late in
evening (or rather early in the morning) of September 30, 1956, as Tommy was leaving a
tavern on St. Nicholas Avenue in Manhattan to return home to New Jersey, Tommy bet one
of his buddies he could make it back to the bar from New Jersey in a mere 15 minutes. This, of course, is impossible by car. So after leaving the bar on that September
night, Tommy traveled to the Teterboro School of Aeronautics in New Jersey where he then
stole a single-engine plane. Hoping to evade authorities until his return
task was completed, he took off without lights at around 3:00 a.m. According to reports, his original plan was
to land the plane at the field of George Washington High School, just a few blocks from the tavern,
but since its lights weren’t on that morning, a drunken Tommy chose to land the plane in
front of the tavern itself on St. Nicholas Avenue near its intersection with 191st street-
managing to thread the needle, successfully avoiding lamp posts and parked cars in his
landing. Of course, landing a plane in the middle of
a street in Manhattan was bound to get noticed and the cops were called in. Eventually charged with grand larceny, Tommy
was never convicted since the plane’s owner, presumably amused by the whole thing and with
no harm done to his plane, refused to press charges; however, since the city’s ordinances
prohibited landing planes on its streets, Tommy was fined $100 (about $800 today) and
had his pilot’s license suspended for six months. Just over two years later, again after imbibing
at a Washington Heights bar, Tommy told the story of his first flight to fellow patrons
of the bar, when one of them had the gall to question the authenticity of the story. His honor besmirched, at about 1:00 a.m. on
October 4, 1958, the inebriated Tommy again went to the Teterboro School of Aeronautics
in New Jersey and “borrowed” a plane to fly back to New York City. This time he landed the plane at the nearby
intersection of Amsterdam and 187th Street. After landing the plane, he initially fled
the scene. However, when police were called in and once
again found themselves with a plane sitting in the middle of a Manhattan street, and recalling
the unique incident two years before just a few blocks away, they decided to go investigate
and see if Mr. Fitz had something to do with this one too. At first, he reportedly denied it, but witnesses
who saw him exit the plane and run off claimed it was him, ultimately inspiring Fitz to confess. He later succinctly summed up his decision
making paradigm in choosing to perform the feat again, stating, “It’s the lousy drink.” With this second incident, there was no mercy. The magistrate judge, Ruben Levy, threw the
book at him saying, “Had you been properly jolted then, it’s possible this would not
have occurred a second time.” The 28 year old Tommy Fitz was sentenced to
six months in prison for transporting stolen property. Beyond his flying escapades and little stint
in prison, Tommy Fitz had a full life, serving as a Marine in the Korean War and earning
a Purple Heart, enjoying a 51-year marriage to his apparently understanding wife, Helen,
having three sons, working as a steamfitter and living to the ripe old age 79, dying in
2009.

100 thoughts on “Is It Actually Possible to Tip a Cow?

  1. Thanks Mack Weldon for sponsoring this video. To get 20% off your first order, visit https://mackweldon.com and enter promo code: brainfood

  2. I don't think people are talking about tipping full-grown adult Holstein dairy cows! When my classmates went out cow tipping, they were essentially tipping large calves. They are only slightly larger than when you could pick them up, so it's most certainly possible. These calves aren't housed with bulls (because that could be very dangerous for the calves), and the males calves are castrated and dehorned at a young age (see "Calf Fries" or 'Rocky Mountain Oysters"). These cows really aren't that big, nor are they particularly dangerous. They certainly aren't spooked by humans, since many were bottle-fed. Don't get me wrong, I'm not endorsing the idea of tipping over cows in the middle of the night. It's stupid (which is why significant enebriation is a required prerequisite), but it's little more than a mild annoyance to the cows (and often results in more mud getting on the drunk idiot than the cows, anyway, which is the REAL entertainment value!). The idea that a human can't push over one of these cows seems utterly preposterous to me, though. I volunteered with a local vet in high school, and we often had to lay a cow down temporarily for various reasons, and this was not terribly hard for even a 17-year-old female to do (and no, I was not some bodybuilder or anything – I wasn't even very athletic). That said, these were not gigantic dairy cows or even full-grown ready-for-slaughter cows. They were somewhere between dog-sized calves and "feed lot" cows (where they are sent to "grow out" before slaughter). Their shoulders typically come to around chest-height (maybe around 4 feet?) and only weigh a few hundred pounds. Also, most of them are extremely docile. The worst they're going to do to you is drool or poop on you. 🙂

  3. I watched televised bull fights in California and New Mexico. I also watched live rodeos and televised rodeos.
    Cows have "RIGHT OF WEIGHT," so I keep my distance, especially when their are calves about!
    ,

  4. I worked on a ranch back in the day. Yes, Texas. Just dealing with pretty small calves. They can take out a shin/knee cap in a flash. Just fyi.

  5. I've tried to tip a cow but the cow won't accept my tip, saying that their boss prohibits tipping and moreover the pay is good so need for tips.

  6. In the army me and two other guys had a little success. There were cows and sheep that grazed all around a site we guarded. We pushed it and it kinda went down on one butt cheek but it kept it's front feet under it. So it sort of counts, but it wasn't the legendary full knockdown.

  7. Let's not forget, cows, as nature made them, are nocturnal animals. Full on sleep at night time isn't their natural thing, but humans are doing their best to change that, ( along with our cats, etc.).

  8. 1991 College Freshman, and one of my friends said, “Hey you want to go cow 🐄 tipping?” I said, “What’s that?🤨” After they explained, we went to the nearest cow pasture. However, after looking one of the animals in the eyes 🥺I had no desire to even try. And believe it or not there was no alcohol involved; just ordinary stupidity.😅

  9. A few people could tip a dead cow. If a dead cow is laying on her one side, it is possible to roll her over onto her other side. But a live cow… NOPE!!

  10. Tried it in college. Alcohol + ag school. Cows were awake. We couldn’t get near. There were a lot of cow patties we were trying to avoid. Mission failure but it was fun.

  11. Rancher here – rural kids take idiots from the city "cow tipping" so they can feel superior. Usually it's unsuspecting people that they like. I've helped. It's great as long as no one gets hurt. If they don't like you then they tie you to a fencepost naked during calving season. Maybe don't go anywhere with rural kids until you really get to know them.

  12. I grew up in the Texas Panhandle and was about 10 when I was awoken along with my family by the sound of a helicopter landing at about 2AM. Our "town" was only 500 people and was surrounded cattle ranches for 20 miles in all directions. We didn't have 911, police, or a hospital. Our Fire Dept. was volunteer and did not have an ambulance. As such, a Life Flight helicopter wasn't completely unheard of, but they had always landed on the highschool football field. This night they landed in the middle of a pasture among about a half dozen emergency vehicles.

    We learned that some college kids from out of state were driving down the highway and cow tipping was brought up. They decided to try it and drove off and up a dirt road to a water tank. They then hopped the gate and tried to approach a herd of about 40 cattle. Naturally, the cattle spooked and took off… except for one, a bull that had been put out to stud after a good run in the rodeo.

    One guy got away, one had some scrapes, but the helicopter was there for the third guy. He was gored by a horn, stepped on, and head butted once he was down. It took about 20 minutes for a ranch hand to come out and he had to shoot the bull in order to get to the guy. Helicopter came about an hour after this all happened and flew the guy to the hospital. I have heard he lived, but have no way to confirm that, plus it way back in the early 90's.

  13. Pick a cow standing crossways on a slope. Come in from a blind hindquarter, yank the front leg, and scramble out from under before it falls on you.

  14. I was concerned about myself, given that I took the time to watch this, but the consolation is that someone else took the time to make it.

  15. I've got to say, this is my FAVORITE episode yet! Especially every time you mention the bull equation. You just can't cure stupid

  16. I think that as Moobys is a fast food chain it is not policy for employees to accept tips, but perhaps if you were subtle.

  17. I grew up on a dairy farm. I've heard so many people claim to have "tipped a cow" and I called BS every time. A few tried to argue with me but just made themselves look even dumber. Love the video. Keep it up.

  18. even the cows are dangerous, if you are behind them when you startle them they will probably kick, they will run if you arent close but if close they are likely to attack.

  19. Despite popular belief snipes are a real creature. They are a type of bird. And are on the endangered species list.

  20. all I know is using a little common sense would tell you it is not smart to startle a dog. much less a 1600 pound animal.

  21. I must say, I have managed to breed the perfect herd. All 30 heifers are exactly static during nighttime hours. The only fun is the stud bull… he kind of minds, he’s pulled so no horns. But a full ton of beef can hit 30mph faster than I can, and probably you. But, if you can prove you tipped a cow you win a-shirt that says, “I saw a video on the Internet and proved I can tip a cow!”

  22. Realistically it is possible for a single human to tip over a cow. Example below:
    The force of the impact of a 120kg person, running at 5.4 meters per second, with an impulse of 0.3 seconds, is roughly 6,600 newtons. Which is well in excess of the requirements to tip over a cow, even if the cow attempts to brace for the impact. Cows are just so top heavy, and fields are just so soft. Might be bad for the cows legs though. If it weren't possible, bulldogging wouldn't be possible either. And that is an actual sport.

  23. Always wondered whether this was actually possible in the real world. Back in the day two friends and I would go out to local cow fields on the weekends and pick, um…totally innocent mushrooms, and they would attempt tipping a cow, but as indicated in the video too many factors made it obviously impossible, not to mention the last time they tried it the cow spun around and knocked one of them about five feet through the air and then proceeded to try and stomp his head off. Live and learn my pretties, live and learn. On a side note: if you're trying to tell me that everything in Beavis and Butthead episodes are not true and factual I need to reevaluate my whole life. Thanks alot, Simon.

  24. My cousin from Minnesota says it's fun because they make a funny moo when they fall over….🤔 Apparently, she pulled it off…🤠

  25. Years ago some drunk guys stole a little plane and tried to fly it under a highway overpass. Nope, still see the burn marks on the highway. Around Chilliwack B.C. CDN

  26. This is hilarious. "Cow Tipping" was always a prank on the person, the uninitiated. The objective was to get them out there to try, they scare the cow and in turn the cow scares them.

  27. oh good god a 10 min vid ( i have not watched yet ) just to surprise people and tell them they ( cows ) frigging lay down to sleep how can you tip them ??

  28. I'd say you DON'T want to go out cow tipping in Mac Wheldon or any other pricy/good clothes. cow droppings are tough to get out of fabrics. AND don't misunderestimate the bulls: They're quite protective of their "turf".

  29. "Pfff No way you landed a plane in the middle of the road, do it again if you think you are so tough!"

    Thomas: "Hold my beer..!"

  30. I think you glanced over the most important part of this myth. The adult beverages being downed before hand,,,,,and rather think if someone does try that ,they themselves are the ones tipping over.

  31. My man grew up on a thousand cow dairy and he doesn't even push awake cows to get them to go to the milking station. He said "Yeah you try telling 1500 pounds what to do and see how that works out." He would use a stick to apply pressure to her hind to try to goad her into the stable.

  32. I'm pretty sure the rumor came about when people where flipping over the cow pies and eating the mushrooms that grew there… Then I think possibly it kind of got lost in translation and then it morphed into this.

  33. My guess is that cow tipping started as a euphemism for something a little more depraved and thus was born the cover story.

  34. Me and a friend once got chased by a cow when out picking mushrooms and believe me having a tank like that thundering at you isn't fun lol

  35. Bulls have severely injured and even killed men in my area. I knew a lady whose bull pinned her against a fence and her husband got into a tussle with the thing and it pinned him to the ground.

    Cows are less aggressive but still not friendly. They have horns unless sawed off.

  36. Yeah.. tried it.. under the very circumstances you describe.. yeah.. unsuccessfully.. herd got upset n chased us across the field. Had to jump into a gully n wait them out. They don't like steep embankments.. funnily enough, they're scared of falling over!

  37. There's a story in Commentarii de Bello Gallico by Julius Caesar, where he explains how the Germanic tribes hunt elk (moose). According to Caesar, the elk have no knees and thus, cannot bend their legs. This means they cannot get up if they fall down. So the elk each have a favourite tree against which they lean so they can sleep without falling down in their sleep. The tribesmen who want to catch an elk follow it around and take note of the tree it chooses, and when the elk has left the tree in the morning, they cut the tree almost through. Then they hide waiting for the night and the elk. Come evening, the elk appears, leans against the tree to sleep, the tree falls and so does the elk. Now unable to get up, the elk is easy prey for the tribesmen.

  38. This is probably gunna get buried, but when you painted how ridiculously unlikey it is to tip a cow, I about died laughing. I lived next to cows for 5 years in a suburb…….. use to eat cheeseburgers watching them from my kitchen table and could easily run out jump the fence then fuck with a cow XD.

  39. I had a lot of friends who "knew" someone who tipped a cow, but I didn't know anyone who had actually tried. Personally, I always thought it was a pretty stupid idea, because even if successful, the cow is many times bigger than I am, and much much faster, and not likely to be very happy with me afterwards. So I never gave it a second thought, didn't even bother to try.

  40. I've seen it once. They had the cow pinned against a trough, so it was a little unfair for the cow. Cow was fine, but a bit pissed off.

  41. My brother talked about this when he was in his teens. Humans are a bunch of morons. I mean, seriously, you have nothing better to do with your time?

  42. Bulls close there eyes before impact, you can keep tight circles and zig zag and maby out run it. But a cow will keep her eye on you and can turn a much tighter circle, and if there is a baby in the feild she will be super protective and much more risk than a bull

  43. let's say for the sake of discussion, i drink an average of five glasses of milk every day. if i set a price of $1/glass which is being very generous, that comes to a total of $5/day. what percentage would i then give to the cow?<grin> side note, i grew up on and around farms, so i already know that what i just said is total nonsense. after i made my comment, i scrolled through everyone else's comments and noticed that nobody even mentioned snipe hunting. start looking over your shoulder wesley, the hunt is on<grin>

  44. Anyone else more fascinated by the drunk pilot story than the cow-tipping? Imagine being able to land a plane in the streets of NYC in the middle of the night while drunk. Twice. 😂

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