What is a Cow Pie?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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When it comes to a cow pie, let's just say you won't be asking for whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You may be asking for a shovel and a pair of rubber gloves, however, because it is one of many slang and colloquial terms for cow manure or cow dung. Cows spend much of their time contributing "pasture patties" and "meadow muffins" while grazing in open fields. Many of these contributions can become a little bit round and flat, which makes the "cow pie" reference eminently understandable.

The good news about a cow pie is that the cow's diet is usually high in fiber and grain, which means its offerings are a bit more self-contained than certain other barnyard residents. One that is left alone will usually dry out from exposure to the sun, then crumble into a healthy fertilizer for the grass and other plants.

This tendency for a cow pie to become dry and compact over time has lead to a few interesting sporting events. One of the most popular forms of pseudo-entertainment is a cow chip throwing contest. Contestants select a suitable candidate from a collection thoughtfully provided by the sponsors. Cow pie throwing is more art than science, but the goal is to fling said "meadow muffin" into the air and aim for distance. The winner is usually awarded something a little less odoriferous, and apparently the congratulatory handshake from the judges has been largely abandoned.


Most people, however, avoid coming into direct contact with a cow pie whenever possible. Visiting a farm often includes walking gingerly through a cow pasture, since stepping into dung can be a very unpleasant experience. Some have even been known to slip and fall after stepping in a larger slice, so due diligence is strongly suggested when visiting Old Bessie and her girlfriends at the local dairy farm.


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Post 5

In India, they make cow pies by throwing the dung onto a wall so that it can dry up nicely in the sun and literally fall off when it's dry to use for manure. I bet it's messy to get the cow pies on the wall, but it must make the drying process easier and faster.

I've also learned of dry cow pie being used to make paper in some countries. I didn't know this was possible until I saw a documentary on TV. Since cow dung is so rich in fiber, it can be processed into paper and made into various things. That's also very cool.

Post 4

@AnswerMan-- I'm glad you clarified this for me. After reading the article, I imagined people throwing fresh cow pie onto the contestants. I couldn't believe it. Throwing dry cow pie is a whole different thing though. That doesn't sound so bad.

Post 3

I should have thought as much! Although a part of me did say that this may have something to do with dung. Actually, some cultures call the dung "dung cake." So resembling cow dung to dessert isn't specific to American culture. For those who grew up on a farm, the metaphor is probably not bothersome at all. I find it a little silly though. I certainly wouldn't want to think of dung when eating pie or cake.

Post 2

I have to admit, I did throw a few cow pies when I was growing up. There was an annual county fair, and one of the contests was a long distance cow pie throw. I know it sounds gross, but the cow pies themselves were dried out in the sun for a few days before the competition. It was almost like throwing a discus or something. I never actually won, because there was another guy who had an incredible throwing arm. The rest of us could only compete for second place.

They would also sell what they called "cow pie candy", which I believe was actually chocolate fudge shaped like a cow chip.

Post 1

I grew up in a rural part of Ohio, and I remember hearing the words "cow pie" all the time. If we visited a dairy farm on a field trip, the tour guide would always tell us to watch out for cow pies in the fields. I really thought they were talking about actual pies made out of cows when I was five.

Sometimes we'd have a local fair and one of the farmers would set up a game called cow pie bingo. We'd all get regular Bingo cards and the farmer would let a cow wander around a grid filled with numbers. If the cow dropped a cow pie on a square, that was the next number in play. We'd keep playing until someone filled out an entire Bingo line.

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