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What is Cow Tipping?

Cow tipping refers to the attempt of people to knock over a sleeping cow.
If bulls sense a threat to their herd, they may attack a would-be cow-tipper.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 14 April 2014
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Cow tipping is a legendary rural activity in which people attempt to knock a sleeping cow over. While numerous reports of cow tipping adventures can be found scattered across the Internet, the fact of the matter is that cow tipping is a virtually impossible activity, and many people with cattle experience suggest that cow tipping is an urban legend. While city residents might find the idea fanciful and even plausible, there are a number of obstacles to this activity, not least of which is that many cows sleep lying down.

According to the legend, cows sleep standing up, making it possible to sneak up on a cow and push it over. While cows are capable of sleeping in a standing position, and some do, they are extremely difficult to sneak up on. Like other ungulates, cattle have evolved very keen senses to be prepared for potential attacks from predators. The approach alone would be enough to wake the cow up, and the pressure on the cow's side in an attempt to tip the animal would most certainly alert the cow to the shenanigans.

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There's also a simple matter of physics. Cows have a very low center of gravity, which means that tremendous force is needed to topple a standing cow. Especially if the cow were to wake up during the process, the situation could get ugly, since most cows do not appreciate being harassed. The would-be cow tippers would probably find themselves the subjects of a few nasty kicks, or a sudden emission, since cattle urinate and defecate when they are nervous or upset.

In order for cow tipping to work, one would have to find a cow sleeping in a standing position, and at least two very strong and heavy people would be required. The cow would most likely have to be seriously ill in order for it to remain asleep or lethargic enough to allow itself to be tipped, and the animal could be potentially seriously injured by the fall.

Periodically, people do attempt to go cow tipping, and they are often injured. The injury rate is likely unusually high because many cow tipping expeditions are proposed while people are under the influence of alcohol, so their judgment and reaction times are impaired. People are often injured by their would-be victims, or by protective cattle, especially bulls, which sense a threat to the herd and attack. A few have even been injured by farmers who have responded to the commotion with a well-placed load of birdshot.

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