We’ve all heard the story: A cousin’s girlfriend’s uncle’s college roommate, sometime after last call on a Tuesday in Iowa, stumbles into a quiet cow pasture and ambushes a snoozing bovine, toppling it–thus becoming another initiate into the vast brotherhood of cow tippers. At the University of British Columbia, student Tracy Boechler had also heard the story, but she had her doubts. The animals weigh about 1,500 pounds, she points out, so “actually tipping a cow is quite difficult when you take the biology and physics into consideration.” Boechler took on the legendary “sport” for a zoological physics class project, emerging with evidence that claims of single-handed cow-tipping prowess are the result of overactive imaginations and too much alcohol.

To tip the average cow, which is about five feet tall, would require around 654 pounds of force, Boechler found. Assuming a 150-pound “athlete” can push his own body weight, the equivalent of 4.36 people would be needed to take down one cow. With some adjustments (such as binding the cow’s legs together, to adjust weight distribution and the crucial pivot point), fewer people would be required, but that’s also assuming the cow doesn’t wake up and trot away. Although Boechler
hasn’t made it out into the field to test her calculations, she is confident about her conclusion: One drunken fool would be no match for a car-size animal, no matter how top-heavy it seems. So the next time you’re looking for post-libationary adventure, you’d best bring along at least four buddies. Or better yet, why not just leave the beasts in peace?