Don't Tip Me, Bro (Photo: Dominic Ebenbichler/REUTERS)
Forget what you learned from Heathers: according to this new article in Modern Farmer, cow tipping is pretty much a myth.
"While in the history of the world there have surely been a few unlucky cows shoved to their side by boozed-up morons, we feel confident in saying this happens at a rate roughly equivalent to the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series," writes Jake Swearingen.
The reasons for this are pretty straightforward: a fully grown dairy cow weighs about 630 kg, and unlike horses, cows don't actually sleep standing up. What's more, he says, cows are wary animals, and tend to tense up when approached by strangers at night — even more so if the strangers are of the drunk and scheming variety.
Not convinced? The article goes into the physics of exactly what would be required to overturn a heifer, drawing from 2005 research by University of British Columbia researcher Margo Lillie. Assuming absolutely no resistance from the cow, you'd need about 1360 Newtons of force, more than double what an average person can generate. Once you factor in a cow fighting back by shifting its weight, you'd need closer to six strong people.
So why does the myth persist? Swearingen lays the blame on the fact that most people simply have no up-close-and-personal experience with cows. Plus, he says, "cow tipping plays into certain preconceptions about the paltry entertainment options available to those in rural areas."
The article does mention one possible way a drunken posse could upturn a cow: have someone crouch down on the far side to trip the poor animal. "Of course, the guy on the other side of the cow has to move very quickly to get out of the way, which is a stupid thing to do," says Lillie. "But the whole thing is just a stupid thing to do from the get-go."
Via Modern Farmer