Talk:Cow tipping

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Urban Legend[edit]

Although I'm not "offended" like the person below me, I agree that cow tipping is not a myth. A girl at my university told me she and her friends tip cows in rural switzerland. She explained that several people work on tipping a single cow after charging at it from a running start, preferably when the cow is on a slope. I'm certain she wasn't joking, the person in question (being swiss) does not have a creative sense of humor (and, in the words of a friend of mine, "Has the communication skills of a banana tree").

I know it's hearsay and won't settle the issue, but seeing as we're dealing with a (forgive me) fairly frivolous topic, I thought I'd add my two cents. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:19, 1 September 2013 (UTC)

I think she may have sent you on a snipe hunt. LOL! Montanabw(talk) 18:32, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
What you've just done is generate precisely the kinds of material that feed urban legends: the all important hearsay. "So and so told me they saw or did XYZ." When there is a debate about the actuality of XYZ, the claim that someone wzas personally involved in a case of XYZ is worthless. Think of the sincerity of UFO accounts. Yet somehow, the physical proof just cannot make its way into availability, and, with UFO's for example, that happens not 95% of the time, not 99% of the time, but every time. Chafe66 (talk) 19:38, 9 October 2016 (UTC)


Cow tipping is NOT a myth and I'm rather offended that someone would edit this article to announce that as fact. While there are numerous articles/sources which claim it is a myth, there are just as many which claim it is not. Besides, this article completely contradicts itself - it stated in the opening paragraph that "cow tipping is a myth," but then cited two studies (Dr. Lillie and Matt Semke) which show that cow tipping IS possible with at least two people. This article needs to be accurately maintained to promote BOTH positions. I've removed all the nonsense proclaiming it a myth and have provided balance for both points of view. (talk) 23:49, 30 November 2012 (UTC)

I apologize for offending you. I'm afraid, however, that one reference to an eHow article without a specific link and academic exercises about the theoretical possibility of cow tipping do not comply with Wikipedia's policies on sources, so please provide links to credible studies and articles that demonstrate that this issues is hotly debated. The article needs to stay in its previous form if those Wikipedia standards cannot be met.
Thanks, BCorr|Брайен
The eHow article, linked to here, in fact appears to mirror or be largely derived from the existing Wikipedia article, and as far as I can see fails to present any new studies, merely its writer's opinion. However, if our article gives the impression of internal contradiction, a way might be found to address that through minor rewording. I do not see any justification for a radical reworking. Hertz1888 (talk) 00:26, 1 December 2012 (UTC)
So, by your own admission, this article contains "internal contradiction", yet you keep reverting my edits which resolve the contradiction in favor of balance. I don't get it. I am going to (once again) restore my edits--this time deleting the eHow reference, and pointing out that the Lillie and Semke studies DO support the existence of cow tipping under certain circumstances. Blanket statements like "x is a myth" are simply not appropriate on Wikipedia when the article itself provides evidence to suggest otherwise. (talk) 02:15, 1 December 2012 (UTC)
I did not say that, and you have me confused with another editor. I haven't reverted anything. I caution you about edit-warring your major change version into the article without allowing time for proper discussion and to seek consensus. Hertz1888 (talk) 02:34, 1 December 2012 (UTC)
If it's NOT a myth, just tip a cow and record it to video. Or show us a video on youtube, where a cow gets tipped. The video platforms are filled with billions of videos but I can't find a single clip where a cow gets tipped. As long you can't show an evidence, it remains a myth. (talk) 14:57, 6 January 2013 (UTC)
It's not a myth. But to tip a cow, you need to put it in a truck first and then roll the truck. Here's a video of actual cows being tipped this way: ~Amatulić (talk) 00:17, 19 April 2013 (UTC)
The one claiming it's a myth does not gain support by demanding the non-myth proponents produce a case of it. Whether or not it's a myth will not be established by a successful case of tipping a cow. The myth of cow tipping has to do with its being a practice among rural, bored fun-seekers, not that it is physically possible or impossible.Chafe66 (talk) 19:43, 9 October 2016 (UTC)


Thanks, Atsme for the speedy review and kind words. Thanks, Montanabw for nominating the article and for all your other work on this. Thanks, Brianhe for all of your work, including the Canadian material, and thanks to everyone else who worked on this article. This was an interesting team effort, and one that I enjoyed. I have a related interest in cattle grid. If I pursue that to see where it might go, would any of you care to join me? Finetooth (talk) 16:07, 22 May 2016 (UTC)

I'm in. Less humor, but ever so common. DYK that bison bulls ignore cattle guards, they can walk right over them! Montanabw(talk) 23:46, 22 May 2016 (UTC)
Super. I did not know that about bison bulls. Finetooth (talk) 03:19, 23 May 2016 (UTC)
@Atsme: Thanks for the quick review. That was the most painless DYK or GA I've ever been involved in.
To the rest of the crew, I'd like to help with the cattle guard piece (that's what I call them, being a Westerner). - Brianhe (talk) 01:40, 23 May 2016 (UTC)
Super. To get started, I've ordered a copy of James F. Hoy's book, The Cattle Guard: Its History and Lore, University of Kansas Press (1982). I'll post a note on the Cattle grid talk page when it arrives. Finetooth (talk) 03:19, 23 May 2016 (UTC)

Blimey - I came round first thing on a Monday morning ready to start work on the GAN and seen it's all done and dusted already! Nice article too. Cheers - SchroCat (talk) 07:16, 23 May 2016 (UTC)

ps. The only comment I'd make is re The Big Bang Theory: there is a citation part way through the paragraph, but the rest of the paragraph is unsupported by a source, which is the only flaw I could see. Cheers - SchroCat (talk) 07:17, 23 May 2016 (UTC)
Good catch, SchroCat. Thank you! Atsme📞📧 19:49, 23 May 2016 (UTC)
I figured if FA is next, I followed Finetooth's tweak with another finetooth combing and eliminated spaces and put an "s" inside a bracket. Atsme📞📧 19:56, 23 May 2016 (UTC)

Nom for DYK[edit]

I put the article up for DYK as a recent GA. Best we watchlist that drama! (LOL). Template:Did you know nominations/Cow tipping. Montanabw(talk) 04:26, 24 May 2016 (UTC)

Media Depictions[edit]

The practice is portrayed in Heathers. Its fits into the narrative of vacuous teens seeking unsatisfactory entertainment. (talk) 10:24, 3 June 2016 (UTC)

Impossibility edits[edit]

User:Montanabw has reverted some "extensive edits" and asked for discussion, since this article is a GA. The main edits reverted are:-

  1. Changing the tone from cow tipping being "generally considered an urban legend", to phrasing it more neutrally as a "story".
  2. An unsourced warning that the studies mentioned "thus do not constitute proofs of the impossibility of humans tipping over cows".
  3. Removing Lillie's quote that "It just makes the physics of it all, in my opinion, impossible."
  4. Quoting the observation in Modern Farmer that no YouTube videos exist of cow tipping.

(1) doesn't seem like an improvement - cow-tipping fits the description of an urban legend and we have a source explicitly commenting on the "urban" nature of it (that it's "a story believed by city folk"). The suggested opening statement that "whether it's an urban legend or a tall tale is disputed" is ambiguous (are people disputing the best term to use, or are they disputing the fictional story nature entirely?), but neither reading is supported by the sources.

(2) seems incorrect when the section goes on to say "impossible to accomplish by a single person" and quotes Lillie saying "It just makes the physics of it all, in my opinion, impossible." - there may be a better way to write that section, but "it's impossible and impossible but beware, these aren't proofs of impossibility!" is unnecessarily confusing to the reader.

(3) was my edit: it's not clear what Lillie is describing as "impossible" here. Presumably the suggestion that a single person could push a cow over (rather than it being impossible for any number of people to ever tip a cow over), but the sources don't quote this in any context. It seems clearer to end on "Thus Lillie and Boechler concluded that it is unlikely that cows can actually be tipped over in this way."

(4) was another of my edits which just seemed like a good point made by Modern Farmer that I noticed when looking over the sources. --McGeddon (talk) 08:55, 10 October 2016 (UTC)

My opinions. 1/ doesn't seem like an improvement, dropping "urban legend" from the lede kind of misses the point of the rest of the article 2/ we definitely should not add this; impeaching our own sources is weirdly editorial 3/ Lillie's quote is an important inclusion: we may not draw editorial conclusions, but experts' conclusions are perfectly valid 4/ it should say "as of..." but including a RS observation of non-existence of sources that could invalidate the status as a myth is a necessary part of the article. - Brianhe (talk) 16:36, 10 October 2016 (UTC)
The problem with the Lillie quote is that we don't know what she's actually saying: the sources I've checked don't seem to give the quote any context. Is this a continuation of the "two people might be able to tip a cow if its centre of mass were pushed over its hooves before the cow could react", or a bolder claim that it's 100% impossible for unaided humans to ever push a cow over? (The Swearingen sentence already had a "writing in 2013...") --McGeddon (talk) 17:10, 10 October 2016 (UTC)
(1) I'm the one responsible for this edit; here's the reason: a thing which is true (I'm agnostic on whether cow-tipping ever happens) should not be counted as a legend, urban or otherwise. If it's been established to be false, let's see the proof. Many times there is great dispute about the veracity of urban legends. Since its status as urban legend is disputed, why come out and say, without qualification, "The urban legend of cow tipping...." as if it is not in dispute. At the least, qualify it by the word "putative," though even that term has problems. (To whom is it putative?) My point it that claiming cow-tipping is an unqualified urban legend already supposes that it doesn't happen, which is still clearly disputed, and the article does not give definitive evidence that it's not. If I were a believer in it, such a description would seem really ignorant. So, though I think the notion of cow-tipping definitely has urban-legend-like features, it has not been established to in fact be an urban legend (who does establish such a thing?), so let's not make it appear that it is by stating that it is without qualification.
(2) I have no quarrel really with her wording, because the wikipedia article is simply recording what the researcher said. One could quibble with her, but I don't do that here. Cow-tipping is either impossible or possible from the physics, and is not a matter of her opinion. (Imagine Einstein: light has a finite speed that cannot be exceeded under any circumstances, in my opinion.) She's just hedging her result by transforming it into an opinion. And the edit I propose certainly does not imply "it's impossible and impossible but beware, these aren't proofs of impossibility!", especially with the emphatic emphasis which is nowhere to be found in my edits or in my sentiment, and since the physics analysis she did does not imply it's impossible.
(3) Here is my real quarrel. As you no doubt are aware, what one includes as "evidence" for or against something is itself a serious contextualization. The writer of this article has chosen to include these "scientific" accounts, and in doing so presumably thinks they are evidence of something. But evidence of what exactly? The wording of the study authors clearly involves simple plausibility. So are the studies proof of the implausibility of cow-tipping as usually described? Ok, so it's implausible because it would take a lot of effort. I doubt that any cow-tipping believer would take that as proving anything worthwhile, and I would agree with them. Notice that as she characterizes the situation, she finds it unlikely that one or a few people could do it. But again, what is the reason for including these analyses in the article? If merely to establish implausibility (which is itself a clearly relative notion), then why not call out that these "studies" don't show it's impossible, hence the only reason for their inclusion is that it gives evidence to the implausibility of cow-tipping by one or a few people? And further, the studies make no headway toward dispelling the alleged myth. Again, if the studies don't dispel the myth, what are they doing in the article? To undermine the plausibility of cow-tipping. I think so, hence my edit, and further, I worry that readers will take wikipedia to be endorsing the impossibility of cow-tipping by including these studies when all they do is impart implausibility, or what I would take to be implausibility.
Just to be clear, I think the citing the studies in this wikipedia article is completely appropriate. The article would be way worse without them. What I don't like is the placement of the articles, without comment on their purpose, so that the reader is left thinking, "huh, well I guess modern physics has shown that cow-tipping is impossible." I grant that the studies don't say that explicitly, but then, once again, if they merely establish implausibility (which the authors do not explicitly say, though that is all they do), it is fine for the article to make that plain.Chafe66 (talk) 20:25, 10 October 2016 (UTC)
(1) The article currently says absolutely nothing to suggest that a cow tipping has ever been accomplished. If it's a "story" people tell each other with no evidence, which some sources have described as an "urban legend", it seems fair for Wikipedia to call this an urban legend. (I still don't understand what the Whether cow tipping is an urban legend, or are a set of tall tales is disputed. sentence is trying to say - if it's intended to say "it may be an urban legend or tall tale, but some people think it might be real", then this is a poor summary of the article as is. Every urban legend is "disputed" by a person who tells the story believing it to be true.)
(2/3) I don't see a problem here. There would be an issue if the article flatly said in Wikipedia's voice "cow-tipping is impossible" as a statement of fact, but it doesn't, it says (my emphasis) "[Lillie and Boechler] concluded that tipping a cow would require a force of nearly 3000N and is therefore impossible to accomplish by a single person" and that it was "in my opinion, impossible". We're reporting the results of research, as in any other science article. --McGeddon (talk) 09:12, 13 October 2016 (UTC)
It's an urban legend and within it is an insulting stereotype of people who live in rural areas. Pretending it isn't is just more of the same. We worked on this phrasing a lot during the GA run and I am not convinced there is any need to change it. I restored the original lead paragraph. Montanabw(talk) 17:23, 13 October 2016 (UTC)
(1) Whether or not the article says nothing to suggest that cow tipping has ever been accomplished is orthogonal to any points made by me. I see no relevance there. You write, "If it's a 'story' people tell each other..." Notice the "if" at the beginning. No one here knows whether that's true. For all you know, someone has evidence. Since none of us is an expert on the topic, I take it none of us knows that. Now on to the real point. Suppose we accept Wikipedia's "definition" of urban legend (UL), which is fine with me, though it may not be authoritative. The definition requires that whatever the central claim of the UL is, it is fictitious, i.e., false. To say that X is a UL is to say, among other things, that X does not (or did not, depending on the nature of the UL) occur. No one here knows that, hence the dispute. If the truth of topic X is in dispute, then its status as a UL is necessarily in dispute. That is plain logic. If you claim that the truth of cow-tipping is not in dispute, you're simply mistaken; ergo you're likewise mistaken that its status as a UL is not in dispute. QED. Now I admit that cow-tipping is viewed with some incredulity--by how many I have no idea, and I count myself among them. But as it stands, the article presents no evidence that it is impossible, or even highly unlikely to be possible. Someone did an analysis that led her to conclude that it's unlikely, but I'll address that in a minute (which is actually my main beef). I'm going to put the dispute as to its being an urban legend back in, since I have just proved that it is in dispute.Chafe66 (talk) 05:53, 14 October 2016 (UTC)
User:Montanabw claims that it's an urban legend and apparently feels no need to discuss it (thank you!), so there's no point in trying to engage him/her. Whether or not you all worked on wording a lot doesn't mean you got it right. Thousands of people work hard on things every day and still get it all wrong.Chafe66 (talk) 05:53, 14 October 2016 (UTC)
(2) has nothing to do with me. But if you quote the article, you should definitely include Lillie's (Boechler's?) mentioning it's her opinion. To leave that out is to seriously skew her own view of her work, and to purposely mislead people, apparently in the direction you want them to think ("it's an urban legend!").Chafe66 (talk) 05:53, 14 October 2016 (UTC)
(3)It's not that it's a "problem." Since you didn't address any of the reasons I stated above (sigh) for my added line about "establish implausibility, but not impossibility" I guess I'll have to restate them. (Isn't that how it's supposed to work?? I state a reason for my position, then you address those reasons, rather than simply restating your original position? And thus progress might be made? I thought that was the point of the discussion.) So I'll try one more time to explain it. When you include references to some analysis or other (not sure it's really a "study"—a pair of zoologists (not physicists) did a straightforward analysis of forces required to achieve a particular effect. I know about this kind of thing first-hand. If I spend a few hours on a mathematical analysis, it doesn't count as a study, nor as science. To get the latter qualifier, it needs to be vetted in peer-reviewed journals. That didn't happen here, at least there is no reference to a peer reviewed journal in your citation.), you are influencing the context of what is being claimed. You're saying, in effect, "we include these analyses, because they bear on the topic. They provide evidence for something." What could they be evidence for in the context in which they appear? Since the article attempts to report the status of the reality of cow-tipping there can be only one conclusion: they undermine the truth of cow-tipping as a practice. What else are they doing in there? Are you simply trying to include them to establish implausibility? If so, then what's wrong with saying so? If not, please answer me and tell me what they're meant to achieve. This is standard stuff, guys. In respectable articles (articles that aim a little higher than GA status on the less-than-venerable Wikipedia), when you introduce references you typically say what point they support. As I said, the citings seem perfectly fine to me in the article. But they are utterly flawed as evidence. All they do is bolster implausibility. You can see this from the author's own wording. Physics does not dabble in opinions. You will not see a single sentence in a physics text of the form "It is our opinion that F = ma." You might see "such and such might be sufficient to do so and so" but all that means is that the authors simply don't know. It's just possible, that's it. So, all I wanted was a single little sentence in there, that says look, we're including these results, but to be clear, they don't establish the impossibility of cow-tipping; they simply give plausibility arguments against it as a practice by one person or a small group of people. (Some of these cow-tipping stories say that a bunch of people are involved. What have Lillie and Boechler to say about that?) That's it, that's all I'm asking for. If you "don't think it's necessary," fine. I do. It's a better article with that disclaimer. Why not simply allow it if you still don't get it? What harm does it do to state a fact, and a fact that may not be obvious to some? Your resistance to this minor clarification seems inexplicably rigid. Chafe66 (talk) 05:53, 14 October 2016 (UTC)
One last thing "is generally considered to be an urban legend" is just bad writing. Considered by whom? Did you do a survey in which > 50% of the respondents indicated they believe cow-tipping to be a UL? Did you do research on the web? Can you cite it? "Generally considered to be" is generally considered to be bad writing, because it simply hides the fact that the author is reporting his/her impression as if it were a fact. Unless you have proof, "it's generally considered..." just means "I think that." And it may be true, but we're not writing articles that reflect our opinion here. That was actually the origin of my original change. If it's generally considered to be a UL, prove it. If not, I'm changing it. I hate it when people use that phrasing in WP.Chafe66 (talk) 06:08, 14 October 2016 (UTC)
In mathematics it's sometimes possible to prove impossibility. The impossibility of squaring the circle is a famous example. In the natural sciences, assertions of impossibility are opinions based on evidence suggesting a high degree of improbability. "Impossible" is not the same as "improbable". However improbable it may seem, there is no way to prove that levitation by psychic powers is impossible. Lillie understands the difference between improbable and impossible, which is why she says "opinion" when she mentions "impossible". In her opinion, the improbability of cow-tipping by one or two people is so high that she regards it as impossible. Vogel, the other scientist cited in the "Scientific study" section, thinks it improbable that even larger groups of people could push over a cow. A reliable counter-example of a successful cow-tipping by relatively small numbers of people would prove them wrong, but none has so far been found. If anyone finds an RS with such a counter-example, we can add it to this article. Meanwhile, I see no problem with the logic of the article or its use of "urban legend". Finetooth (talk) 18:23, 14 October 2016 (UTC)
Finetooth doesn't address the main points I made, which have to do with contextualizing. No one here is complaining about the "logic of the article." I also differ with this claim "In the natural sciences, assertions of impossibility are opinions based on evidence suggesting a high degree of improbability." Maybe in the kind of natural science you're familiar with, I don't know. But not true in general. Physicists don't make assertions of impossibility based on something's "high degree of improbability." Maybe there are a few examples, but it's not the practice. If they do, then they're just saying "I don't know." Once the analysis is presented and its meaning understood, the scientist has no more authority than anyone else as to the putative process's possibility. Lillie is not the only one who understands the difference between improbable and impossible. Pretty much everyone does—anyone who grasps horse racing in particular. Further, cow-tipping is not in the same category as psychic powers, or even ETs. There are no questions about the physical mechanisms, and the laws that govern them, involved in cow tipping, or that with enough force a cow could be "tipped." It's certainly possible with enough force. No one doubts that. No new science is involved in understanding it. It looks like it would be hard with one or even a few people. But that's not very convincing to the believer, nor should it be. OTOH, concerning psychic powers, there is no evidence that a mechanism that enables such a thing even exists, so the analogy is not apt here. Regardless, Finetooth seems to think my qualms have to do with whether cow-tipping might still happen and nitpicking about whether it's truly impossible or merely implausible based on what Lillie and her student (who are not even physicists) have said. If so you're confusing points about the nature of so-called evidence and how that evidence should be treated in the text, with the content of the evidence and whether I personally find it compelling. If you think I'm trying to attack or defend the "studies" on the possibility of cow-tipping please read my responses again. This is not a peer-reviewed physics journal. At this point, I actually don't believe responders actually grasp the arguments I've made, or their purpose. Makes it hard to debate a topic. One thing is for sure: "generally considered to be X" is poor writing and I wish it were abolished completely by Wikipedia. Anyway, I give up. Chafe66 (talk) 22:22, 14 October 2016 (UTC)
PS, if anyone wants to take this up offline, I would be willing to, but this forum just ain't working for me. I came to the article looking for answers, and I found the citing of the analyses unhelpful (and even somewhat misleading and pedantic) in finding out whether the practice exists. That was the original source of my edits, which I stand by. Cheers Chafe66 (talk) 22:39, 14 October 2016 (UTC)
@Chafe66: I'm honestly having a hard time parsing this, so maybe a different tack will be more productive. Is there a GA or FA class article involving scientific/mechanical analysis that you feel does a better job than this one? If so what is it, and what part specifically ought we to emulate here? - Brianhe (talk) 05:00, 15 October 2016 (UTC)
@Brianhe: Thanks for reaching out. Not offhand—I haven't been on WP looking at anything like this much. But frankly, if I were you, I wouldn't use WP (even the vaunted GA/FA class) as a guide for good writing. This is a typical problem in topics that are controversial, and I think WP articles aren't particularly good at navigating them, so maybe have a look elsewhere at some well-done articles on UFO's and other much disputed topics where non-hearsay evidence appears to be completely lacking in the public record. Statements and claims in such articles are always fraught with problematic nuances that don't do justice to the opposing side of the relevant debate. In my view, this is almost as likely from the ones claiming science as their basis as from the fruitcakes. One can still hold a view but do everything he/she can to be fair to one's opponents, in particular by not making one's case appear stronger than it is, which is pretty much my feeling here.Chafe66 (talk) 07:00, 17 October 2016 (UTC)