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Cow Tipping is a Myth 153

Posted by samzenpus
from the good-use-of-a-physics-degree dept.
Faeton writes "It's the kind of story you hear from a friend of a friend -- how, after a long night in a rural hostelry and at a loss for entertainment in the countryside, they head out into a nearby field. There, according to the second-hand accounts, they sneak up on an unsuspecting cow and turn the poor animal hoof over udder. But now, much to the relief of dairy herds, the sport of cow-tipping has been debunked as an urban, or perhaps rural, myth by scientists at a Canadian university. "
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Cow Tipping is a Myth

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  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @10:27PM (#13995032)

    From TFA:
    Ms Boechler, now a trainee forensics analyst for the Royal Canadian Mounted Corps, concluded in her initial report that a cow standing with its legs straight would require five people to exert the required force to bowl it over.
    Five normal people, perhaps...or perhaps just one college football jock, hopped up on steriods and Jagermeister...

    (Before the naysayers start yammering about the misconceptions of steroid use, let me relate a personal experience of mine. Back in my college days, I watched my football jock roommate (an avowed Nandralone user) put his shoulder through the dorm room wall (concrete block), during a Jager bender. I doubt a mere cow would have had much of a chance against this guy.)
    • by itwerx (165526) <itwerx@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @10:52PM (#13995150) Homepage
      ...put his shoulder through the dorm room wall (concrete block)...

      A concrete block wall, (especially if it's not a filled and rebar-reinforced load-bearing wall :), is actually surprisingly weak. Concrete can be incredibly strong when subjected solely to compression forces, but has minimal tensile strength. Consider also that not only does your college roommate have a fair amount of weight, but he is likely delivering it near the center (floor to ceiling) and so has maximum leverage to his advantage as well. I can't say I've ever attempted that particular feat myself but I've done enough other "interesting" things to concrete with my bare hands that I'm not too surprised to hear a drunk jock managed to break a wall...
    • Five normal people, perhaps...or perhaps just one college football jock, hopped up on steriods and Jagermeister...

      Or a truck, as we used to do back in my high school days.
    • by Axe (11122) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @02:58AM (#13996057)
      I wonder how many college nerds will provoke their roommates to actually try this after reading this article.

      And of course you can tip a cow. This article is garbage pseudo-science. Blatant and ignorant misuse of perfectly good physics. Damn canadians.

      • > And of course you can tip a cow. This article is garbage pseudo-science. Blatant and ignorant misuse of perfectly good physics. Damn canadians.

        I used to work at a restaurant. A cow orker of mine was little on the tubby side, but very cute, and she certainly never had any trouble getting tipped. *rimshot*

    • by elliotj (519297) <slashdot@elliotj ... m ['hns' in gap]> on Thursday November 10, 2005 @08:20AM (#13996834) Homepage
      The guys who researched this article are idiots. Anybody can tell you that it only takes two people to tip a cow: one guys sneaks up and kneels behind it before the other guy runs up and pushes it over.
    • by iamlucky13 (795185) on Friday November 11, 2005 @02:01AM (#14005672)
      You city people are funny. Cows don't sleep on their feet. Heck, they hardly ever even sleep when laying down, just get dopey, and trust me, you are not going to move a cow that's laying down.

      As for your "mere cow" theory, if you ever tried to move one you would find that they're a lot tougher than you think. First of all, they weigh 1000 pounds or more. I've seen Holstein bulls as big as 4000 pounds. That weight includes a lot of muscle. They're not as tough per weight as pigs, the most difficult animal I've ever had to wrestle into a loading chute, but a cow does not go anywhere it doesn't feel at least a minor incentive to go (hence cattle prods...). Your beefy jock friend may have been 250 pounds or so, but he's facing an animal 4 times his size or more with a lower center of gravity. I admit if a couple of tough guys snuck up on a dumb cow chewing it's cud, they could probably knock it over, but most cows don't even let people touch them.

      Anybody who did ever tip a cow over is a jerk. If a cow ends up on the wrong side, it's stomach ends up on it's lungs and they suffocate. They often can't get their legs underneath themselves to get up.
  • Center of mass? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Madd Rapper (886657) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @10:32PM (#13995055)
    Is the center of mass really at exactly half the cow's height? Looking at the image in the article, most of the mass is distributed above the COM. The assumption of people only being able to push their own bodyweight is unexplained as well.
    • Re:Center of mass? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cgenman (325138) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:19PM (#13995303) Homepage
      It gets worse. Notice how the diagram assumes that the fulcrum of the cow is the opposite leg? This assumes a 100% rigid body cow. How rigid is a cow if it isn't expecting to be knocked over? If the cow's legs provided full vertical support but no angular rigity, a slight breeze would blow that parallelogram over.

      In essence, they've shown the theoretical maximum force required to tip a cow.

      And, of course, she doesn't try to tip any cows herself. It seems a bit irresponsible to prove that it can't be done mathematically, without checking your work yourself.

      Not necessarily relevant to the findings of the article, but notice in the diagram where the center of mass is located?
      • Er, did you read the article? They address the rigid cow issue.

        Also, you appear to be without a sense of humour.
        • Er, did you comprehend what you read?

          <Quote>But I suspect that even if a dynamic physics model suggests cow tipping is possible, the biology ultimately gets in the way: a cow is simply not a rigid, unresponding body.</Quote>

          They seem to be arguing that a non-rigid cow would make it more difficult rather than less, implying that the Doctor of Zoology, ahem, and her student didn't understand the leg swaying issue when applying their knowledge of physics.

          • Biology and Aikido (Score:3, Interesting)

            by hummassa (157160)
            To tip a living being is EASIER than tipping a statue. Living things are easily surprised and taken off-balance.
            My personal experience with ruminants is: I ran over a horse once and I ran over a cow, too.
            The horse: I was at 110km/h (70mph) in a 1979 GM Chevette whose brake system, unknowingly to me up till that time, was defective. I saw the horse going to the middle of the road at 150m distance, hit the brakes, and nothing! I swung the car to the left (so I could avoid hitting the horse on me), and the hor

          • If they start to step by raising a leg on the far side, it will make them easier to tip.

            If they raise a leg on the near side and try to step away, it will make them easier to tip.

            Their best (and typical) response is to raise a near leg and move it towards the tipper, broadening their base and lowering their center of gravity. That, and only that, would makle them harder to tip. But that does not mean I agree with the articles conclusions.

            --MarkusQ

      • Everyone knows you get your friend to crouch on the other side of the cow and push it over him. Throws the cow way off balance!
    • by Scarblac (122480) <slashdot@gerlich.nl> on Thursday November 10, 2005 @04:07AM (#13996226) Homepage

      Is the center of mass really at exactly half the cow's height?

      Of course! First, we assume a spherical cow...

    • by Anonymous Coward
      It's a bull. As you can see from the diagram, the "center of mass" is located in his balls.
      (Duh)
    • Is the center of mass really at exactly half the cow's height? Looking at the image in the article, most of the mass is distributed above the COM.
      You're right, but a more realistic COM would actually increase the force required.

      The assumption of people only being able to push their own bodyweight is unexplained as well.
      It doesn't seem unreasonable to me. I can lift someone of my own weight if they're not resisting, but it's not easy. The angle looks pretty awkward too -- you're pushing sideways and up

      • Hmm...I was wrong. Actually their unrealistic placement of the c.m. results in an answer that's too big, because it makes their angle theta be much too small (66 degrees, when it should be more like 76 degrees). For anyone who's really interested, I've incorporated a full analysis in my online physics textbook [lightandmatter.com] (section 5.4).
  • The real truth. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @10:39PM (#13995088)
    As someone from bible belt heartland america, we have a few dairy cows. And I personally have been a party to cow tipping, and it is completely possible, and 4 of us did it.

    So tell me how that's impossible again?
    • by nes11 (767888) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:38PM (#13995398)
      Same here. I grew up in just about the smallest town you can imagine & have personally seen it happen.

      Mine's actually quite a funny story. It was county fair time & some of the guys thought they'd be funny & tip the cows in the pen at the rodeo arena. 15-20 cows, one small pen, 2 drunk high school guys, and a crowd full of peer pressure. They did get a cow knocked over, but one guy barely made it out & the other came out with a broken foot & cracked rib. For some reason a little alcohol prevents one from realizing that cows may try to stampede when one of their brethern is attacked.
    • I've been party to it once in Texas. Saw it happen another time in Texas. Saw it happen in Missouri.

      Granted, the time when I was involved, there was a large amount of tequilla, and little square pieces of paper that had been soaked in unspeakable chemicals. Nevertheless, the two other times I saw it, I was otherwise unimpaired.

    • No shit! You can tell this study was done by a bunch of city kids.

      I'm not going to reveal our farm secrets, because it would ruin the fun, but I will tell y'all that proper cow-tipping involves a bit more than just giving ol' Bessie a short, sharp shove.

      Ah, good times, good times.
    • Well, I agree, if four men simultaneously push a cow really hard, it's bound to tip over. With some luck it may even result in a spectacular cow salto.
    • We used to do it in boy scouts. The Firestone Scout Reservation in Brea, Ca used to have a dairy right next to it. Cow tipping certainly is possible, and quite a bit of fun (For the tippers, anyways).
    • 3-4 stout vikings can do it, from what I remember :)
    • It would take five people to do it, therefore it is impossible! Um, unless you have five people. Or less, if they are stronger than average people.

      So in other words, it is possible.
  • uhm...duh!!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by omibus (116064) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @10:41PM (#13995101) Homepage Journal
    First off, cows sleep laying down. I lived on a dairy for 15 years and had to wake them up.

    So, if the cow is standing, it is awake.

    Next, a good sized dairy cow weighs in at over 1000 lbs.
    Standing, feet average width apart -- you, scrawny programmer boy (or me, an almost athetic 200 lbs) aint just gonna nock the thing over. Head start or no.

    But, it was a fun joke to pull on the city kids.
    • Re:uhm...duh!!! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by DaoudaW (533025) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:14PM (#13995269)
      First off, cows sleep laying down. I lived on a dairy for 15 years and had to wake them up.
      I was born and raised on a dairy farm and had my own small herd by the time I was in high school. Of course cows sleep laying down, but if you had to wake them up you were getting up too early! ;-)

      So, if the cow is standing, it is awake.
      Good call.

      Next, a good sized dairy cow weighs in at over 1000 lbs.
      Actually that would be quite a small cow like a Jersey or a Guernsey. A typical Holstein would be more in the 1500 pound range.

      Standing, feet average width apart -- you, scrawny programmer boy (or me, an almost athetic 200 lbs) aint just gonna nock the thing over. Head start or no.
      Of course not. The whole idea of dispelling the myth scientifically is one of the more ridiculous things I've ever heard of. It's a total joke and always has been.

      Now just to confuse all you city slickers, there is a technique called "throwing" which is commonly used on farms and which is used in the rodeo event of bulldogging. Essentially the idea is to twist the head at the same time as you throw the animal off balance with your hip. I've personally thrown calves up to about 900 pounds, but in my experience it takes two men with a rope to throw a full-sized cow.
      • and you didn't end the post with "yeee-haw!"

        [preface: I live in the city, have my entire life] I personally wouldn't try to tip a cow for one reason only. They're fucking heavy and could trample me if pissed off.

        That's like trying to tickle a lion or something.

        Anyone stupid enough to try and tip something that ways 8 times their weight needs some help.

        Tom
      • I suppose you're going to try and tell me that the reason I never found any snipes in all my Boy Scout snipe-hunts was because they don't exist?

        And what about the famous "Left Handed smoke shifter" we always forgot to bring to our camp outings?

        Actually, there was one trip where we seen some green newbies down to the Rangers office to get one. An hour later he came back with one, freaked everyone out. But these Rangers went along with it in perfect form. They didn't have one at the time, they were all l

        • Don't forget dehydrated water and blueberry peelers.
        • Our scout troop had to quit snipe hunting, after a cub scout broght back a possom he and another scout had beat to death with a stick. He wanted to know if it was a snipe, we laughed our asses off, then recieved the asschewing of a life time from our scout master.
      • > it takes two men with a rope to throw a full-sized cow.

        And 6 men with a really big net to catch one.
    • If you have really lived on a dairy for 15 years I would have a hard time believing you did not know this.

      And knocking over a 1000 pound mass that is resting on a relativly narrow base with a high center of mass is actually pretty simple for someone who is 200 lbs, if they get a small dashing start for the first frew feet (which you need anyway to be fast enough to get the cow before it awakes).

  • by Trikenstein (571493) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @10:42PM (#13995104)
    My whole belief system is undone.
  • by shockbeton (669384) <leadholder,dennis&gmail,com> on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @10:42PM (#13995106) Homepage
    Geography is also an important factor to consider. For example: If the animal in question to be tipped is located in Kansas, the calculation must also include the force exerted by an Intelligent Tipper.
  • Hey! (Score:5, Funny)

    by dacarr (562277) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @10:48PM (#13995132) Homepage Journal
    I always tip my cows 15%, you insensitive clods!
    • Re:Hey! (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The sex was that good, huh?
    • A large dairy animal approached Zaphod Beeblebrox's table, a large fat meaty quadruped of the bovine type with large watery eyes, small horns and what might almost have been an ingratiating smile on its lips.

      'Good evening', it lowed and sat back heavily on its haunches, 'I am the main Dish of the Day. May I interest you in the parts of my body?'

      It harrumphed and gurgled a bit, wriggled its hind quarters in to a more comfortable position and gazed peacefully at them.

      Its gaze was met by looks of startled bewi
  • now what are cheeseheads gonna do for fun?
  • I believe I speak for all the cows when I say, "Mooo?"
  • BS (Score:4, Funny)

    by meta-monkey (321000) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:10PM (#13995236) Journal
    This story is total BS! A friend of my cousin's friends sister TOTALLY did this last summer after they got hammered at this party and it was AWESOME the cow was like "WTF?!" and they were all like "HAHA!" and then they ran off 'cause the farmer was coming! Seriously you can ask anybody!
  • science...? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mahou (873114) <made_up_address_@@@hotmail...com> on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:23PM (#13995321) Journal
    so we're supposed to just accept this as conclusive even though they didn't test their "findings", aren't physicists or mathematicians, make all kinds of assumptions, and no one else has reproduced their experiment (even thoough you can't since they didn't actually do an experiment which means they don't have real findings)? I'll believe it when the mythbusters come out with an episode about it.
    • Wait wait, you're lumping the Mythbusters in the same category as physicists and mathematicians???

      Mythbusters is eye candy and nothing more. The "experiments" are just excuses to make things blow up or crash into a wall. Every time I see them proclaim a myth "BUSTED" despite crappy experimental design and lack of creativity/insight I recoil in the horror of a thousand projectile vomiting infants.

      It's essentially Junkyard Wars/Scrapheap Challenge, but a whole lot less interesting, IMO... and I'm referring
  • not a myth (Score:3, Informative)

    by PC9001 (736572) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:32PM (#13995368)
    Obviously these scientists haven't done very thorough field research. I'm from a small rural town of 1600 people, and I've witnessed cow tippings.
  • damn (Score:5, Funny)

    by Pierre (6251) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:35PM (#13995381)
    Growing up in the rural midwest....

    Cow tipping, as we implimented it, was not myth - it was a prank.

    We would convince a unsuspecting victim that we were going cow tipping - drive to a field far from town and send in unsuspecting victim to dodge the land mines that cows leave to protect themselves and then drive away leaving the victim walk miles back to town in the dark with their cow dung covered shoes.

    I wonder if we could get Jack Malvern to go for a ride so that we could 'disprove' is article? buhuhhahahahahaa
  • by Darius Jedburgh (920018) on Wednesday November 09, 2005 @11:45PM (#13995430)
    ...idiots. People who think that armed with some basic knowledge of statics think they can actually figure out what happens when you do complex things to complex objects. Cows can stand in a variety of poses allowing their center of mass to be in a variety of position with respect to their hooves and their legs will tend to buckle if pressure is applied suddenly from one side. I can see an armchair physicist maybe getting an estimate to within a factor of 2 or 3 of what force is required to tip a cow using the naive methods described, but not much better. I wonder if these are the same people who told us bees can't fly.
  • by Ummu (830131)
    were invented. Who does crap manually?
    • Why machines were invented. Who does crap manually?

            Gosh. And here I was doing it without hands OR machines. I've gotta get with the times.
  • Stories about cow tipping are bull!
  • I'd like to see the Mythbusters crew try this one out... though it's a little cruel to the cow whether it works or not
  • by BrookHarty (9119) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @12:41AM (#13995641) Homepage Journal
    Cows standing asleep (they sleep both standing and on the ground.) can be tipped, I've seen it done on my grandmothers farm, but the cow was on a mound.

    Its tipping, not pushing. They article shows what it would take to *push* a cow over..

    But whats really funny is when dogs bite the tail of a cow and the cow spins lifting the dog up in the air, thats funny.

    Its only funny because its true.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Cow tipping is possible. How do I know? Do I know some guy that saw some guy do it? Nope. I've done it. The article focuses on simply applying the force to the top of the cow. That doesn't work. Everybody in my county knows that. For those interested (I'm not really sure why you would be, but then again I probably don't want to know...), you have to push/pull the cow's legs while pushing on the top. A popular "trick" around here is to tie the cow's hooves together (a sort of looseish hog-tie) before tip
  • ... using only one person and a length of rope, simply bind the bovine's legs with your back agains the beast pull the rope from under your legs while using your back to gain leverage.
  • by Geek_Cop (930002) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @03:43AM (#13996184)
    Um, I have cow tipped, with my friends on my high school football team. I do not recall ever tipping over a cow, because we were too busy getting chased and pinned against the fences. Perhaps watching a 5'7 250 pound lineman get lifted by the crotch by a pissed heifer can be considered Cow Tipping? It was all fun and games until the skinny guy pissed on the electric fence. It isn't about tipping the cows over, it is about the comraderie and the lifelong experiences..and the risk of possible incapacitating lifelong spinal injuries...those are the things that make cow tipping an experience that no bible thumper should be without.
  • This is crap. I *personally* have witnessed a cow tipping. It is not that difficult. When the cow is asleep, it is not consciously adjusting for it's balence, if you run at it and give it a hard shove, it falls over pretty easily. I have seen it myself.

    For those who don't get the subject, I suggest http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20040911/matht rek.asp [sciencenews.org]

    • >When the cow is asleep, it is not
      >consciously adjusting for it's balence,
      >if you run at it and give it a hard shove,
      >it falls over pretty easily. I have seen it
      >myself.

      Sounds plausible.

      This isn't really a statics problem at all. No one is going to tip a cow by walking up to it and trying to shove it from a dead stop.

      A better model is one in which the person doesn't push on the cow at all, but rather collides with it and imparts momentum to it at shoulder height. The real question isn't "wi
  • Rather overaccurate numbers for the number of people you'd need (4.43), the calculations state things with a level of accuracy that indicates the calculator is the usual seminumerate soft scientist. I bet they quote the level of sodium they get in "half an average grapefruit" to three significant figures too.

    However, the model assumes the cow is static, whilst later giving the lie to this. A single person can tip a cow (I've done it, I'm 5'7" and weigh little and had about a 50% hit rate - hey, there was li
  • Obviously her model is flawed somewhere.
    --Former Wyoming Country Boy
  • by Vo0k (760020) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @09:34AM (#13997314) Journal
    1) Cows are tippable
    2) The model is inadequate
    3) Weak oversight of the model and lack of experimental data made for wrong publication
    4) There's a lot of seasoned rednecks on Slashdot
    5) Nobody cares about the cows, you insensitive clods!
    • 5) Nobody cares about the cows, you insensitive clods!

      It's hard to care about the cow's feelings when most would sooner eat the cow than listen to it whine about how the grass is greener in the Johnson pasture.

      "Ya do'n wanna go cow tippin'? Why fer Bubba-Joe?"

      "Because, my good chum, I wouldn't want to hurt this bovine creature's emotional and mental state before I peel off its epidermal layer, butcher its flesh, and serve it to McCustomers."
    • 5) Nobody cares about the cows, you insensitive clods!

      I'm Hindu you insensitive clod!
  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @09:40AM (#13997380) Homepage


    Beware of any scientist who determines if a cow can be tipped by developing complex models, rather than going out and trying to tip a cow.

    That being said, this article is par for the course in contemporary "journalism." Very poorly written. There is no telling where the inaccuracy of the "journalist" stops and the absurdity of the claims made by the "scientist" begin. At the very least, the article itself concedes that two people may be able to tip a cow, but says the whole thing is a myth in the title. Which brings me to my second fair warning ... beware of journalists who contradict themselves several times in the same article (or these days, just beware of journalists, I suppose.) Another way to say it is this: believe none of what you hear, half of what you read, and only about 90% of what you see.
  • Nonsense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hairykrishna (740240) on Thursday November 10, 2005 @11:22AM (#13998356)
    Theory should always, where possible, be tested by experiment. Judging by my personal observations (I grew up in the country) there's a flaw in her calculations somehwere. My guess is that she has the centre of mass way too low.

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"

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