According to some, cow tipping is just an urban legend and is not actually physically feasible. A loose mathematical interpretation says it is possible if at least two people are doing the pushing. This article about the physics of cow tipping also confirms that at least two people are needed to exert enough force.

Just because it may be possible to do it, however, doesn't mean it will happen. Cows do not sleep standing up, nor do their knees lock like a horses would. They do however "doze". While traditional parts of the Cow Tipping folklore may not be true, there is anecdotal evidence suggesting that you can actually push a cow over - er, go cow tipping - with a small group of people if you are quiet about it. It physically should be possible if you are fast enough to do so before the cow reacts (requiring more people), or if the cow stands there rigidly and lets you.

UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef was emailed about the rumored anti-tipping regulation by KrisFricke on 2006-12 and received the following reply: Student Affairs Vice Chancellor Judy Sakaki will be following up on this and will get back to you. In the meantime, so far as I know there is no "cow tipping" policy or rule on campus. At least I have not run across it during my twenty years here. An urban legend...?

JabberWokky has seen it done in Belle Glade or western Lake Worth in Florida. It also involved a cow that was awake, heavy rope and a pickup truck. It was done by a group of people specifically to prove that it can be done (they did it a few times). The cow went over, got up pissed, and seemed unharmed. Despite the apparent lack of physical harm, it was certainly abuse. Despite the people who insist that there is proof that the "official" way to do it is scientifically impossible (is there an official way to eat an apple or carry a book?), there is an easy way to do it that is actually practiced in rural Florida. It may be touted impossible as a theoretical activity, but empirical evidence trumps even the best math. MichaelGiardina, on the other hand, has a video of former roommates who were less successful. Let's just say the bulls didn't like the idea and chased his friends all about.

AllisonEriksen may have the best statement on the issue with her feeling that cows should be tipped like anyone else would be: with 15% of the cost of the service provided.

Cow tipping is supposedly fatal to the cow upon which this cruel activity is rendered, as the cow's internal organs are not designed to withstand the sudden impact of a sideways fall. Cows are also the third most deadly animal in the United States, with only horses and deer killing more people each year. Proceed with caution, or better yet, don't proceed at all with this tipping business...unless it involves the aforementioned Eriksen suggestion, minus the actual physical violence.


You must be logged in to comment on this page. Please log in.

Yes, I know, I'm as shocked as you are - I feel like my whole life has been a lie. Also I'd heard that cow tipping is specifically an expellable offense here at UC Davis, from a source I thought was reliable (maybe my official UC Davis tour as a prospective student four years ago?) - now I want to confirm whether or not this rule is true in light of the impossibility of its realisation. (I think I'm gonna email the chancellor on this) —Kris Fricke

Cow-tipping is widely considered uncool in this town. It is detrimental to the cows and to the humans involved. I think my very first night in the dorms as a freshman, someone asked the RA about how prevalent cow-tipping was here, and the gave them a firm admonishment. I have never heard of it happening or considered doing it since then. —KayRide

I think Cow Tipping being an urban legend is an urban legend. As for it being cause for expulsion at Davis, I hear so is believing that the word 'gulliable' is in the dictionary. - JonerikStorm

Hate to ruin the fun, but cow tipping is an urban myth/legend. You can't tip a 1300 pound animal over, especially since she's going to move before she tips. :( -ImR

  • Contrary (or in addition) to what JabberWokky said above, the times that I've heard about it being done, in the midwest or what have you, is when the animal is asleep (and thus not conscious enough to run), and when you have a whole gang of people to push the cow at one time. Of course, this is complete heresay. Anyhow, I would think it is feasibly possible, although still totally uncool. —KalenRidenour

It should also be noted that unlike horses, cows' knees do not lock when they sleep. Consequently, sleeping cows are not the immobilized hulks commonly pictured in cow tipping folklore. -KrisFricke

In the act known as cow tipping it is understood that the cow is asleep. Cows do NOT sleep standing up and there is no way one is going to just tip over when it can step away when being pushed. It is an urban legend, made up so that people who know better can watch more gullible people get chased around in a pen full of cow pies. I grew up in dairy country and everyone knew that this was bunk. - AllisonEriksen

Is there any real reason the cow has to be asleep? Why couldn't you just ram it with your (hopefully very inexpensive) car? As long as you're practicing immorality (how would you like it if a cow tipped YOU over, especially if you weighed 3/4 of a ton?) you might as well go whole hog. I'm no physicist, but it seems to me that an oldsmobile traveling 35 mph could topple a cow. I'm not endorsing this, by the way, just mentioning the possibility. - CadeGrunst

  • Thus crossing the line between "tipping" and senselessly ramming into an animal with your car. Unless your car is very high off the ground, you'll only injure the cow and get charged with animal cruelty. - AllisonEriksen

Why is there such obsession with "tipping over" a cow? Why not a moose or elephant? Perhaps buffalo tipping? Walrus rumping? eh... -MichaelGiardina

2005-12-05 14:41:58   Yes, it can be done. My professors have done it. —MichaelGiardina

2006-02-16 22:04:41   I've tried to tip my friend's cows and it's pretty hard as they tend to wake up/hear you/get angry— we were chased and had to jump over a fence. Besides, there's always the danger the cow will decide to run you down like that one mother did in Point Reyes!! Death by Cow sounds, other than highly ironic, rather painful. —LucyFitzGibbon

2007-01-24 05:11:35   Cow tipping is pretty awesome :D —GreggAlexander

2007-03-08 16:25:31   Hilarious, I grew up in Texas amid a cornicopia of cow-tipping stories told by people with mental capacities lower than their bovine targets. It s so funny how in spite of common sense and psyhics people still say it can happen cause their "friend," told them they did it once —JarrettNoble

2007-03-08 17:25:59   Cows and horses actually make a lot of sense as causes of mortality, but deer? Surely not MOREso than cows and horses? —KrisFricke

2007-03-08 17:41:26   deer through the windshield? Either hitting them and having them go through the windshield, or people swerving to avoid them maybe. Deer are srs bizness. —ES

2007-03-08 17:45:57   Yeah I almost swerved to miss a deer once. After I ran it over I felt bad. But not as bad as I would of if I had crashed my car. —JarrettNoble

2007-10-11 02:57:20   When I first came to Davis, and took the campus tour, I asked about cow tipping. Sadly the guide only had heard of such things, from a friend of a friend, it saddened me, but I am glad I came here none the less. Anyone want to try? —DavidPoole

2007-11-07 11:38:57   On the news right now is a cow who tipped itself off a cliff in Washington, landing on a family filled mini-van. Nobody was killed, but the cow was euthanized on the scene. —GregFurnish

  • Skywalker Ranch had a problem with that for awhile... a pasture had an overhang by a road, and they had some narrow misses when some of the cows started falling over the side of the cliff. I'm not sure it counts as tipping so much as plummeting. You do have to wonder what a cow thinks when it falls on a family and their mini-van: "Mmmm... grass... boy do I love grass... it's pretty much everything I love. Tasty tasty grass... mmm... I... (slip) wait... there's no grass here... just a sort of whistling sound and things below me that are getting larger very quic... ARUGH!!! FOR THE LOVE OF GHOD AND ALL THAT IS HOLY, THAT HURT!!! Gah! Even worse, there's nothing but broken glass (not grass), twisted metal (not grass) and some seriously bewildered people (still not grass). This sucks. Hey, look over there... some more grass. (meander over) Mmmm... grass... I love grass... grass tastes soooo awesome...". — JabberWokky

2008-08-15 20:24:33   If you think being a plummeting cow is bad, imagine being a plummeting sperm whale:

I've never tried to tip, or otherwise displace a cow, But I have attempted to move horses sideways on many occasions (not to tip them - I tip them with carrots!) One of two things happens when you try to do this:

1) The horse stays right where it is, and possibly gives you a funny look

2) The horse steps over an inch or two and continues doing what it was doing. It may also give you a funny look. —IDoNotExist

  • My comment is pretty much entirely a reference to the plummeting sperm whale in HHGttG; the book reads much like the passage I wrote including (if I recall correctly) the "whistling sound" reference. Only in my version, the cow survives and is (mentally) unscathed. :) —jw

2010-01-18 14:16:06   Cow tipping is not a myth. I am from rural Florida. You take a group, obviously. The cows are not asleep, but they are dozing. You choose cows close to the fence or you will be chased down and injured. This has never been described as a solitary action, but a group event. Even after you push the cows over, you are in danger of injury. You must run fast to get away.. apparently some of you are missing the point that that *is* the fun of cow tipping. (Well, as it is considered by the teenagers who do this sort of thing.) I've always heard that it is not good for the cows, and when the troublemakers come to school bragging about it, other students would admonish them. —Cerebral

  • So it is like a bull run then? —hankim

2010-07-29 17:54:32   Regardless of whether cow tipping is actually possible or not, if the University is so against it, why do they sell those obnoxious "UC Davis Cow Tipping Team" shirts and mugs in the bookstore? Doesn't really help our image... —Shellesen