As part of a fourth-year zoological physics course, student Tracy Boechler, under the guidance of Margo Lillie, a doctor of zoology at UBC, studied the possibilities of tipping over a cow.
“Tracy had heard of the myth, and heard the arguments,” Lillie said. “She made a very simple model to try to decide if a group of people, drunk or sober, could do it.”
The results were mixed. Using math and physics the researchers determined that one person alone could not tip a cow. However, a cow of 1.45 metres in height, pushed at an angle of 23.4 degrees, would require 4.43 people to push it over — technically making cow-tipping possible.
However, that is only if the cow did not react.
“More realistically, the cow would react and would brace itself by putting its feet apart,” Lillie said.
Based on this, Lillie and Boechler concluded that physics would suggest cow-tipping is possible, but biology would get in the way because “a cow is simply not a rigid, unresponding body.”
Other factors would also come into play. Simple things such as a wet and slippery field would make it even more difficult.
Even the idea that cows sleep standing up is itself a myth.
“Cows cannot sleep standing up — horses can, though,” said Dr. Rick Healey, president of the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association and a practicing veterinarian.
Dr. Healey agreed cow-tipping is impossible.
“A couple frat boys having a few drinks wouldn’t be able to do it,” he said. “They’d probably give up and go look for a bar fight or something.
“We do roll cows quite frequently,” Dr. Healey added. “There’s a condition where the fourth stomach can get twisted. One technique to handle this is to roll them on their back . . . two people can do this using a rope.”
Lillie said when the study was released, many people contacted her, claiming to have accomplished the feat.
“Someone from Hawaii said they did it with five people — two on one side and three on the other. If the cow reacted the two would hold it in place.”
Dr. Healey said tipping or rolling a cow would not cause them any harm.
“If someone were to tip or roll a cow over, there would be no health effects — they’d just get back up.”
— with files from Mitch Tucker