Cow tipping
A cow lying on its side

Cow tipping or cow pushing is the purported activity of sneaking up on a sleeping, upright cow and pushing it over for fun. As cattle do not sleep standing up, cow tipping is a myth.[1]


Myth and reality

According to the myth, cattle are slow-moving, slow-witted and weak-legged, and can easily be pushed over without much force, both because they have a high center of gravity, and because they sleep standing up. However, despite the widespread legend of tipping cows, numerous publications have debunked the practice's feasibility. Cattle only rest while standing up, rather than sleeping that way, and they are easily disturbed.[1] Additionally, they represent over a half ton of weight that would easily resist a lesser tipping force. A variety of calculations have been performed to determine if cow tipping is physically possible.[1][2]

A study led by Margo Lillie, a doctor of zoology at the University of British Columbia, concludes that cow tipping—by a single person—is impossible. Her calculations found that it would take at least two people to apply enough force to push over a cow if the cow does not react and reorient its footing. If the cow does react, it would take at least four people to push it over, according to the results. Lillie notes that, contrary to the nature of the myth, cattle are well aware of their surroundings and are very difficult to sneak up on, due to excellent senses of both smell and hearing.[1][3][4][5]

In contrast to the reality of the cow-tipping myth, horses do regularly sleep standing up due to a locking mechanism of their stifle joint, a trait cows do not possess.


Julius Caesar and Pliny record a belief that European moose had no knee joints and could not get up if they fell over.[6][7][8] This belief may relate to the ancient custom of trapping moose in steep-sided pits.

In 1255, Louis IX of France gave an elephant to Henry III of England for his menagerie in the Tower of London. Drawn from life by the historian Matthew Paris for his Chronica Majora, it can be seen in his bestiary at Parker Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, with an accompanying text revealing that at the time, Europeans believed that elephants did not have knees and so were unable to get up if they fell over. The bestiary contains a drawing depicting an elephant on its back being dragged along the ground by another elephant, with a caption stating that elephants lacked knees.[9]


In April 2008, four men in Naples, Florida, who were arrested for damaging a gate to a communications tower in an open field, told police deputies that they had gone into the field and tipped over a cow. However, police stated this was impossible because there were no cattle within several miles of the field.[10]

Popular culture

Cow-tipping has appeared in a variety of media and entertainment.

  • In several of the post-apocalyptic RPG games from the Fallout series, the player character can attempt "Brahmin"-tipping, Brahmin being a two-headed radiation-induced mutant species of cow.[11]
  • In the 2006 animated movie Barnyard, a group of tough talking cattle from New Jersey go "boy-tipping" in response to similar behavior against cattle.[12]
  • In another 2006 animation movie, Cars, characters go "tractor-tippin'".[13]
  • In a 1994 episode of the popular animated television series Beavis and Butt-head, the two titular characters, after watching a milk ad on television, set out to tip over a cow, only to result in Beavis being crushed when the cow falls on him.[14]
  • Cow-tipping is also featured in the 1989 black comedy Heathers,[15] as well as the 1995 Chris Farley-David Spade comedy film Tommy Boy.
  • The Maryland Lottery/Bovines Unite,[16][17] Famous Dave's restaurants ("Angus with attitude"[18]) and Coffee Mate[19] television ads have all featured cows engaged in people-tipping.
  • The Official Cow-Tippers Handbook by Red McCoy and Duke Righteous is another example of how this urban legend has seeped into popular culture.
  • The country band The Little Willies in their 2006 self-titled first album features a song called "Lou Reed", with lyrics about having seen Lou Reed cow-tipping.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Malvern, Jack (November 5, 2005). "Cow-tipping myth hasn't got a leg to stand on". London: Times Online.,,2-1858246,00.html. Retrieved 2006-10-28. 
  2. ^ Semke, Matt. "The Statics of Cow Tipping". UNL College of Engineering and Mechanics Course Project. Retrieved 2007-04-17. 
  3. ^ Colebourn, John (November 9, 2005). "Debunking rural myth of cow tipping: It's udder nonsense, academics contend". Montreal Gazette: pp. A10 
  4. ^ Cow-tipping a mooo-yth? by Ian Denomme, The Gazette (Western Daily Student Newspaper), November 9, 2005. (retrieved on January 12, 2009)
  5. ^ Cow-tipping: Myth or reality? by Eddie Glenn, Tahlequah Daily Press, December 15, 2006. (retrieved on January 12, 2009).
  6. ^ Caesar, Julius; Aulus Hirtius (1879). "XXVII". Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic and civil wars. Harper & brothers. p. 154. ISBN 0217452876. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Pliny the Elder, The Natural History (eds. John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S., H.T. Riley, Esq., B.A.)". Retrieved 2009-11-08. 
  9. ^ Willene B. Clark, A medieval book of beasts, p.128
  10. ^ 'Cow tipping' excuse doesn't fly; 4 arrested, Naples Daily News, April 22, 2008 (retrieved on January 12, 2009).
  11. ^ The Vault Fallout Wiki -- Brahmin-tipping; accessed Oct. 16th, 2011
  12. ^ AOL Video Home >Barnyard: The Original Party Animals - Cow Tipping at
  13. ^ IMDB Memorable quotes for Cars (2006)
  14. ^ Beavis and Butthead, Season 4, episode 2, Cow Tipping, first aired March 15, 1994.
  15. ^ Larew, John L. (1990-11-08). "Cow-Tipping is a Load of Bull | The Harvard Crimson". Retrieved 2010-10-08. 
  16. ^ "AdFreak: Cows tip college student for Maryland lottery". 2005-05-13. Retrieved 2010-10-08. 
  17. ^ "Bovine Blog". Retrieved 2010-10-08. 
  18. ^ “”. "Famous Dave's TV Ad- People Tipping". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-10-08. 
  19. ^ "Cows Tipping People - Funny Video Clips". Retrieved 2010-10-08. 

External links

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