A shocking expose’ came out this month…or, a report that confirms what a lot of Midwesterners have suspected. Though it’s an entertaining suggestion and a great comic punchline, ISU livestock economist Shane Ellis at the Iowa Beef Center says “cow-tipping” is only an urban legend.
He figures folks who grew up on a farm or ever dealt with livestock knew you can’t really tip over a cow while she’s standing there asleep.” “She’s really not asleep.”
They may be standing there with their focus on something else, but he says when cows are standing, though they’re relaxed and you might be able to startle them, he calls them, “for lack of a better word, they might be zoned out — but they won’t be asleep.”
Anybody who’s ever had to handle a cow or tried to get one to move, knows it’s not going to be possible to tip one over, unless she’s sick, says Ellis, “Or you trip ‘er.” He says there is an old practice from a bygone era of dairy farming that might have lent the legend its name.
Back in the days when everybody had a few milk cows behind their farm, you’d steal over to the neighbor’s pasture. Most of the cows were gentle so you’d put out a bucket of grain, milk a little from the animal, turn her loose and go sell your stolen milk the next morning. The term stuck around after the practice had ended, and Ellis thinks that could have inspired the fictional prank.
Scientists at the University of British Columbia in Canada recently published a paper complete with geometric diagrams and center-of-gravity calculations, showing why cow-tipping would be scientifically improbable because of its practical difficulty.