What is Cow Tipping?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

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.

Cow tipping refers to the attempt of people to knock over a sleeping cow.
Cow tipping refers to the attempt of people to knock over a sleeping cow.

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.

If bulls sense a threat to their herd, they may attack a would-be cow-tipper.
If bulls sense a threat to their herd, they may attack a would-be cow-tipper.

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.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


It is true. Brahman cross steers can be tipped if approach is quiet and tip is performed on the rear quarter. Best to tip cattle that have been in yards in late afternoon after being mustered in the 24 hours prior, but don't get too close as they often kick out when falling, and get up real quick.

Don't confuse with bull throwing which involves unbalancing a beast by pulling its tail to the side and running in circles. You need very fancy footwork and good turn of speed.

We tip and throw cattle in North Queensland for fun (tipping) and work (mustering and yarding).


I was taught that "cow tipping" is a euphemism for hunting psychedelic mushrooms in cattle dung.


Does anyone know if there are people who have successfully tipped over a cow before? It seems rather implausible, but there might be videos on the internet that prove otherwise.


This is a hilarious article, mainly based on the fact that there are so many factors that prevent people from tipping over cows, and the concept itself. Besides, who would be foolish enough to do that anyway? Also, I like how the last article mentions that most people are drunk when they attempt to tip over cows. Not only does it show how stupid the ordeal is, but it also puts emphasis on the fact that when you're drunk, you lack common sense and good judgment.


Wow, after reading this article, cow tipping is certainly a lot more difficult than I had originally thought, and almost seems like an urban legend. Reading the article reminds me of the movie Barnyard: The Original Party Animals, in which several hooligans attempt to tip over cows at night. Even though they do succeed, it's a cartoon, so anything can happen.

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