Cow tipping is the purported activity of sneaking up on any unsuspecting or sleeping upright cow and pushing it over for entertainment.

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All agree that cows are large animals that are difficult to surprise and will generally resist attempts to be tipped.

Estimates suggest a force of between 3,000 and 4,000 newtons (670 and 900 lb) is needed, and that at least four and possibly as many as fourteen people would be required.

In real-life situations where cattle have to be laid on the ground, or "cast", such as for branding, hoof care or veterinary treatment, either rope restraints are required or specialized mechanical equipment is used that confines the cow and then tips it over.

On rare occasions, cattle can lie down or fall down in proximity to a ditch or hill that restricts their normal ability to rise without help.

Cow-tipping has many references in popular culture and is also used as a figure of speech.

The urban legend of cow tipping relies upon the presumption that cattle are slow-moving, dim-witted, and weak-legged, thus easily pushed over without much force.

Some versions suggest that because cows sleep standing up, it is possible to approach them and push them over without the animals reacting.

Lillie and Boechler's analysis found that if a cow did not move, the principles of static physics suggest that two people might be able to tip a cow if its centre of mass were pushed over its hooves before the cow could react.

However, cows are not rigid or unresponsive, and the faster humans have to move, the less force they can exert.

Thus Lillie and Boechler concluded that it is unlikely that cows can actually be tipped over in this way.

Although he agrees that it would take a force of about 3,000 newtons to push over a standing cow, biologist Steven Vogel thinks that the study by Lillie and Boechler overestimates the pushing ability of an individual human.