Tahlequah Daily Press


December 15, 2006

Cow-tipping: Myth or reality?

Thursday’s edition of the Daily Press featured a story about holiday tipping – tipping the mailman, tipping the garbage collector, tipping the paper deliverer.

But what about tipping the cow?

According to legend (probably more of a “rural” legend than an “urban” one), people who engage in cow-tipping sneak up on cows that are sleeping upright and knock them over.

It’s not the kind of activity that sounds very humane – but then again, it’s not the kind of activity that sounds very plausible either.

Various Web sites make mention of cow-tipping. In fact, The online version of The Times, a British paper, includes a story in which a zoology student, Tracy Boechler, conducted a study and concluded that an average cow standing with its legs straight would require 4.43 people pushing on it (at an angle of 23.4 degrees) to actually tip it over, given that the cow weights 682 kilograms.

“The static physics of the issue say ...two people might be able to tip a cow,” Boechler said in The Times. “But the cow would have to be tipped quickly – the cow’s center of mass would have to be pushed over its hoof before the cow could react.”

But according to Boechler, Newton’s second law of motion – force equals mass multiplied by acceleration – shows that the high acceleration needed to tip a cow would require higher force than two people could exert.

“Biology also complicates the issue here because the faster the [human] muscles have to contract, the lower the force they can produce,” said Boechler. “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.”

Bob Patterson raises cattle near Hulbert, and he’s skeptical that anything like cow-tipping is actually possible.

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