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Man versus Cow - how can the human emerge the victor?
September 25, 2009 7:29 PM   Subscribe

Would it be possible for a regular person to kill an adult cow with their bare hands if they absolutely had to (like for reasons of self defense or honor)?

If so, how would you do it?

Yes...this is for a fiction project. No...no actual cows will be harmed, I promise.)
posted by tastybrains to Pets & Animals (35 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Bare hands? Probably not unless you're Hercules.

If you draw a line between an animals left ear to right eye, and right ear to left eye, where it crosses is a "soft spot" for putting a bolt into to kill the animal very quickly.

If you had a hammer or even a well shaped rock, it might be done.

How quickly would your fictional character need to kill the animal? If you had some bovine pathogenic bacteria or virus under one's fingernails, it might be possible to scratch it and wait until it dies from the infection. Likewise, causing some sort of trauma in an orifice (or pulling out the tongue) could lead to death by blood loss or subsequent infection.
posted by porpoise at 7:37 PM on September 25, 2009


I seriously doubt it. In fact, a person can't even tip a cow over. I mean your question is basically the same as "could a bullfighter win without any weapons"? I doubt female cows are that much weaker then bulls.
posted by delmoi at 7:37 PM on September 25, 2009


It would be very difficult. Possibly the only way would be to push your hand down their throat and form a fist, thus strangling them. You would run the risk of having your forearm gnawed, but cows cannot bite down very hard and their teeth are designed for grinding not for cutting, so you might do alright.

You could of course also run the cow off a cliff or something.
posted by Rumple at 7:38 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd use my bare hands to make a weapon.

More seriously, what sort of cow? Domesticated or wild?

If you're in good enough shape, some form of cursorial hunting might be an option. (Basically, chase the cow till it's exhausted and collapses.) Of if you have a cliff nearby, chasing it off the cliff might be an option. That's how some native americans used to hunt bison.

But bare hands vs. a cow in an arena? Doubtful. The cow is way stronger than a regular person. If you had a knife or other cutting weapon, you might be able to slice open the neck (like they do in kosher animal slaughter.) Bare handed, I would guess your best bet might be a strong kick to the throat hoping to collapse the windpipe.

On preview: shoving your arm down it's throat as Rumple suggests would probably get you a broken arm, at the very least. Figure the average cow out masses a person by about 8x; probably double that for a bull.
posted by fings at 7:46 PM on September 25, 2009


Mulls, Challengers, and the Godhand

In 1950, Sosai (the founder) Mas Oyama started testing (and demonstrating) his power by fighting bulls. In all, he fought 52 bulls, three of which were killed instantly, and 49 had their horns taken off with knife hand blows. That it is not to say that it was all that easy for him. Oyama was fond of remembering that his first attempt just resulted in an angry bull. In 1957, at the age of 34, he was nearly killed in Mexico when a bull got some of his own back and gored him. Oyama somehow managed to pull the bull off and break off his horn. He was bedridden for 6 months while he recoverd from the usually fatal wound. Today of course, the animal rights groups would have something to say about these demonstrations, despite the fact that the animals were already all destined for slaughter.

http://www.masutatsuoyama.com/masoyama.htm
posted by royalsong at 7:49 PM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


There's a slight possibility that someone well trained in martial arts could deliver multiple well-laced kicks to the cow's throat enough to collapse it's trachea or something, and then when the cow is wheezing they could continue to kick and punch it in the throat until it eventually succumbed and the tissues in its neck turned to mush. That seems like it would take a while, and be entirely unpleasant.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:54 PM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


like for reasons of self defense or honor

I'm trying to imagine a way that a single cow could become a threat, or somehow dishonor you. The best reason to kill a cow would be to eat it, but that is, again, difficult with bare hands. Can your protagonist have a sharp stick or a big rock or some such thing?

Your protagonist would need to start by getting the cow into a confined space. A pit trap, perhaps, or with its head tied between two trees. At that point, the easiest thing (if you had the time) would be to deny it water and let it die of dehydration. If its head was entrapped, you could also then in theory use a sharp rock to cut its throat and let it bleed out.

I'm sorry I read this question before bed.
posted by anastasiav at 8:05 PM on September 25, 2009 [6 favorites]


You could probably sneak up behind the cow, reach up into the cows ass, perhaps up to your elbow or even your shoulder, and punch it repeatedly, or try pull out its large intestine, or perhaps keep your arm up its ass to prevent it from farting or even pooing, causing the cow to rupture something.

I've heard of this being done before.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:12 PM on September 25, 2009 [4 favorites]


Once upon a time my grandfather had this hereford bull - kind of like this one with horns growing straight out on either side. Most of his cattle over the years didn't want to have anything to do with you, but this one was a real bastard and would every so often decide to play dominance games with whoever happened to be handy. One day it was my turn. He kept walking towards me, flailing his head (you know, with pointy things on it) from side to side, closing the distance between us.

When he got into "just another step and I'm going to get hit by one of those horns" range, I did the only thing I could think of - I steeped in and grabbed a horn as tight as I could with either hand. My thought was that if the horns and I were moving together, I'd not be gored. (Crushed between a cows skull and a tree was a new option, but that was in the future while being gored was rapidly becoming a right now kind of thing.)

Suddenly I had lots of leverage and his head wasn't moving around like he was used to. The more he'd flail, the more I was able to twist his neck around. I didn't really think I could break his neck (and knew that my grandfather would break mine if I did) so with him shoving and me kind of steering, I made my way to a point where I could get out of the pasture without giving him a whack at me.

If you could get in this kind of situation and were sufficiently strong you might be able to kill a cow that way. Of course if that bull had just charged me, I'd have never had a chance.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:18 PM on September 25, 2009 [7 favorites]


Would brass knuckles help?
posted by tastybrains at 8:19 PM on September 25, 2009


Perhaps via persistence hunting:

Continuously scare the cow into running away from you. Do this for hours and hours and hours. Humans are evolved to run, jog, and walk for long distances and times, and cows are not. Eventually, it will succumb completely to exhaustion, at which point you might be able to just stomp its head.

video of persistence hunt of an antelope

Disclaimers: I don't know that you can scare a cow into running away. And I don't know that stomping on its head will kill it.
posted by Flunkie at 8:20 PM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Disclaimers: I don't know that you can scare a cow into running away. And I don't know that stomping on its head will kill it.

Cow's are pretty easily spooked. The throat and neck is its vulnerable part that you'd want to stomp, the head is pretty solid.

What a horrible story.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:22 PM on September 25, 2009


I doubt there is any particularly reliable way, but I will note that tales of humans killed by a single punch abound, and I sincerely doubt that the skull of a cow is so dramatically more sturdily built than a humans that a prodigious and luckily placed blow couldn't cause death. In which case brass knuckles would certainly help.
posted by nanojath at 8:30 PM on September 25, 2009


Kid Charlemagne's story makes me wonder if you could snap the horn off a bull and then use it to gore him! A bull is a not a cow, I know, but it's an interesting question.
posted by kate blank at 8:38 PM on September 25, 2009


I grew up raising Scottish Highland cattle. It's so much easier to incapacitate the cow, but if you really wanted to end it in a Thunderdome way:

Time is the question.

If a person were so inclined, you could feed it all sorts of horrible things by hand, and do it in from the inside out. Or, you could overfeed it, and get it's stomach wrapped up in knots, and it will die of colic. Both are about the worst and most painful ways to die if you're a cow.

In a 'life or death struggle' with the cow, you could try ripping it's tongue out. Really difficult, I'd imagine, but it can be done. Depending on it's health and what it's been eating, it may bleed to death or drown on it's own blood if it doesn't clot first. If a rock is handy, one could try to block it's throat.

I was never much a fan of cattle, one the dumbest animals I ever dealt with, but to do what you ask one would really have to draw on the most savage and reptilian part of them to do it. The other thing to consider is the effect on the killer after it's all done. That's really going to screw someone up for a while afterwards. To really commit to it, to really finish it off after it ceases to be a threat, with your bare hands? That's a line that you don't easily return from after you cross it, no matter who you are. Killing for meat is one thing, but this... is something entirely different.
posted by chambers at 8:52 PM on September 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


I sincerely doubt that the skull of a cow is so dramatically more sturdily built than a humans that a prodigious and luckily placed blow couldn't cause death.

It's not the thickness, which is substantially more than a humans, it's the structure. The way the cow skull is designed. You cant knock the jawbone or nosebone into the brain like in a human. The 'x marks the spot' method mentioned above goes through the thinnest part of the skull, and the most direct route to the brain.
posted by chambers at 8:58 PM on September 25, 2009


Maybe to eliminate the necessity of this whole area of pragmatic exploration you could set it up where in the end after a couple of sessions of psychoanalysis Hawkeye realizes that the cow he killed was actually a baby.
posted by nanojath at 8:59 PM on September 25, 2009 [6 favorites]


Self defense or honor? It's a cow. If you have to defend yourself against a cow you have no honor. If you are known to the cow you should have already established yourself as alpha. If this is a strange cow, you can easily establish dominance by confidently asserting yourself into the pastoral hierarchy.
Cows are easily cowed.
It's their nature.
If you have to kill a cow so you can eat it you'll need a few simple tools, but if you ever find yourself in a position where you have to kill a cow solely in order to defend your sacred honor I'm afraid you've already lost.
A bull, however, is a different beast entirely.
posted by Floydd at 9:02 PM on September 25, 2009 [8 favorites]


My vote is that, for most definitions of "normal person" the answer is not, not possible. Most people are not long distance runners, and are not in good shape or trained in martial skills. ANd most importantly, I think even if you could get started through any of these methods above, it would be really hard psychologically to carry through once the cow was partway dead and completely helpless.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:12 PM on September 25, 2009


Choke Hold?

I killed a cow today.

Well. I had him killed.

He was killed on my behalf.

I had a hamburger for dinner.
posted by Bonzai at 10:14 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


A sharp enough blow to the base of the skull might do it. But, animals are considerably more durable then you'd expect. For instance, it can take more then 50 pounds of wood dropped on a chicken in order to break its neck.

A sharpened and fire hardened stick with good enough aim could do the trick. Maybe dropping out of a tree onto the cow's back would incapacitate it. I've heard that their spines aren't very strong.
posted by ghostiger at 11:21 PM on September 25, 2009


ghostiger "For instance, it can take more then 50 pounds of wood dropped on a chicken in order to break its neck."

That statement raises in my mind quite a few questions...
posted by selton at 11:55 PM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


"In 1950, Sosai (the founder) Mas Oyama started testing (and demonstrating) his power by fighting bulls. In all, he fought 52 bulls, three of which were killed instantly, and 49 had their horns taken off with knife hand blows. That it is not to say that it was all that easy for him. Oyama was fond of remembering that his first attempt just resulted in an angry bull. In 1957, at the age of 34, he was nearly killed in Mexico when a bull got some of his own back and gored him. Oyama somehow managed to pull the bull off and break off his horn. He was bedridden for 6 months while he recoverd from the usually fatal wound. Today of course, the animal rights groups would have something to say about these demonstrations, despite the fact that the animals were already all destined for slaughter.

http://www.masutatsuoyama.com/masoyama.htm
"

I have read an interview with Jon Bluming, a senior student of Oyama's, who claims the whole bull-fighting claim was a scam - old/sick/drugged animals with the horns weakened beforehand. I'm pretty certain there is no documentation for the claim that Oyama actually killed any bulls beyond Oyama's own word.
posted by tdismukes at 11:59 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


"...a person can't even tip a cow over. "

He can if he jumps onto it from a horse.

In steer wrestling, contestants have some advantages over the animal: They get to approach mounted, and the cattle used are a small breed. On the other hand if you watch the videos, you can see that the actual takedown is all in grabbing the horns and twisting the hips as in a wrestling throw. I suspect that a very large, strong, skilled, and lucky person could walk up to and take-down an adult cow. What he'd do with it after they hit the ground, I do not know.
posted by agentofselection at 12:26 AM on September 26, 2009


It's rare, and I'm not sure it meets your barehanded definition (the human gets a speed assist from a horse), but it's not unheard of for the steer in steer wrestling to have it's neck broken. Also a steer is a castrated cattle so not technically a cow but I don't imagine there are any big physiological differences in the necks of cows and steers.
posted by Mitheral at 12:54 AM on September 26, 2009


I was originally going to post some variation on "no, how can you be so stupid?" but as I was writing my reply realized it actually wouldn't be very hard at all. Well, I mean it would if you were a stupid ape and went mano-a-toro. Because if you hadn't noticed, they're large animals. But they're also amazingly dumb, and we are (presumably) not. We know where kill points are, where we can inflict the most amount of damage, make them bleed out faster and get tired sooner. Cows don't. They won't have strategy, won't try and be clever, won't go for your eyes or your tongue or give you a disease or try and run you off a cliff or discuss the issues beforehand on websites.

I mean, shit. You want to kill a cow with your bare hands? You put it in a pen and starve it to death. Boy, that was hard.

This isn't rocket science, folks.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:26 AM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


[hello hello I am awake now, please keep comments to question answering ones, thanks!]
posted by jessamyn at 7:29 AM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I mean, shit. You want to kill a cow with your bare hands? You put it in a pen and starve it to death. Boy, that was hard.

"a pen" is more than your bare hands. May as well say, just shoot it in the head.
posted by mdn at 11:26 AM on September 26, 2009


Horrible thing to contemplate; thanks! But, now that I'm in, how about kicking/jumping at its legs until one or more breaks? Being thus incapacitated, I guess it would die or be killed soon. If it's a killing frenzy your character is in, they could stomp on the legs til some large sharp bone shards became accessible, then stab it to death with one of those, maybe? Or stomp on the poor fallen creature's neck for a while as suggested up-thread… shudder
posted by dpcoffin at 12:06 PM on September 26, 2009


On smaller cows at least, you can grab them in sort of a headlock, and using your other arm, grab the nose and twist it away from you. Their body will follow the head and they will flop to the ground.

They do flail around quite a bit, but if you could hang on and keep twisting, I imagine you could suffocate/break its neck eventually.

Here is a youtube clip demonstrating the technique (just the first five seconds, really)

These guys are jumping off horses to grab the cows, and using horns to twist the head, but the idea is the same (caution, contains loud Motley Crue)

Once you get them to the ground, a lot of the fight will go out of them.

I have heard various stories that if cows fall with their legs uphill, they can get stuck and not roll themselves over, and will eventually suffocate from the weight of their body pressing against the lungs. Couldn't find and solid verification of this (although I did hear it as a child from my father, and just read it again on a few old forum threads)

So, if I had to do this, I would grab the neck, twist, and squeeze as hard as I could.
posted by davey_darling at 12:23 PM on September 26, 2009


I'm also doubtful that, in a hand-to-hand combat situation, a human could best a cow. Your only chance would be to go for the weak points. As someone said, the knee joints are an option. If you can disable it to the point where it can't get back up, you could kick its head repeatedly to stun it, then step on its trachea to cut off its airflow.

No one's mentioned the eyes. It won't kill the cow, but it might give you an advantage. Or it might just panic the animal and make getting near it harder. But no one said this was going to be easy.

By the way, you will never, ever manage to break off a cow horn with your bare hands. Horn is made of bone wrapped in a tough keratin coating. They're anchored to the skull. Forget it. Not happening.

However, you could still use the horns to your advantage. As Kid Charlemagne mentioned, if you can grab hold of them, you've got some degree of control over its head movement. You might be able to break its neck this way, by using your own weight as leverage to twist it to one side. Anyone know how much force this might take?

A much more likely scenario is that the person in question would be gored or fatally injured by the cow. A cow can kill you by accident, for instance by trampling you in a panic. If the cow is at all aggressive or afraid for its life, you're in trouble.
posted by dephlogisticated at 1:25 PM on September 26, 2009


A much more likely scenario is that the person in question would be gored...

Err, not that much more likely.
posted by atrazine at 10:01 PM on September 26, 2009


If you had access to stairs or some sort of stair-like cliff you could drive it up the stairs and it wouldn't be easy for it to go back down. Then it could dehydrate/starve. No pen necessary. But driving cows isn't necessarily that easy.
posted by kathrineg at 12:48 AM on September 27, 2009


The Minoan Bull Leaping thing, coupled with a large solid object would be more elegant and merciful than many of the suggestions made thus far.

If you have to defend yourself against a cow you have no honor.

Having been there (see above) a half ton of angry pot roast is something you can't exactly ignore. No, it wasn't like fighting a duel at dawn.

Establishing yourself as alpha sounds great in theory, but:
A) They're none too bright. You can't just turn off the electric fence and expect it to continue to be effective.
B) The to do list for a bull is basically: Eat grass. Hump cows. Challenge the alpha male. It's hard to break a million or so years of evolution.
C) Your chance at becoming alpha male has a lot to do with size. The bull wins that one once it's about six months old.

Fortunately, they're none too bright and they don't corner well.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:21 AM on September 27, 2009


Stab your thumbs through its eyes. Kick its front knees again and again til it kneels. Grab its ears and knee it repeatedly in the mouth - you want lots of broken teeth and split lips. See if you can punch its tongue against its teeth to split / cut it open. Keep going til it falls on its side. Jump and come down on its throat with your knees. Repeat.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:51 AM on September 28, 2009


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