It’s a classic ritual of American college life and a movie staple: drunken youths creeping up on an unsuspecting cow and pushing it over. But Jake Swearingen of Modernfarmer.com has proved with physics and YouTube that the phenomenon is a myth.
Metro: How sure are you that there is not a high school jock doing this right now?
Swearingen: Very sure. The idea that you can sneak up on a cow and shove it over, that does not happen. I’ve looked at police reports and arrest records, the physics and cow behavior. There may been an isolated instance at some point in history – after all, we built the pyramids – but it takes a lot of people, planning and science; for example, people kneeling behind the cow.
Are you worried your research will inspire more people to try?
I hope it’s clear how dangerous that would be, for the person and the cow. Lowering a cow is very complicated and it would hurt them to be pushed, and they would be very angry.
What does it say about humanity that we invented this phenomenon?
Most people from the rural community know it doesn’t exist, but people from suburban areas who have never seen a cow up close can have the misconception. I suppose it’s pretty offensive for them to believe it is what rural people do for entertainment.
You say that if it happened it would be on YouTube – but what if cow tippers are not capable of filming at the same time?
It’s a possibility that someone dumb enough to tip a cow is too dumb to operate a smartphone, but someone has managed to put all of the (other) most stupid and ridiculous things you can imagine on YouTube.
If cow tipping is a myth, what is the closest I can get?
There are various versions of rodeos, and "mutton busting" events where people wrestle sheep. But if people are really desperate to shove animals over, they need to think about finding a new pastime.