Is a Cow a Motor Vehicle?

Believe it or not, but there's an Ohio Court of Appeals decision on this issue -- and, as Bill Poser (Language Log) points out, the court seems to have erred in its analysis, though it got the bottom-line answer right.

Thanks to Michael Greenspan for the pointer.

Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Wasn't there a case some years which concerned the question of whether someone who is drunkenly riding a horse can be given a DUI?
4.19.2006 2:13am
Indeed there was. The court said the statute did not apply to drunken horse-riding, producing the following in dissent:
A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
but the Vehicle Code does not divorce
its application from, perforce,
a steed, as my colleagues said.

"It's not vague" I'll say until I'm hoarse,
and whether a car, a truck or horse
this law applies with equal force,
and I'd reverse instead.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Noel, 579 Pa. 546, 559 (2004).
4.19.2006 2:35am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Great case.
The dispute in this case is whether the cow was a "land motor vehicle" as defined in the policy. While a cow is designed for operation on land, we do not believe a cow is a
"motor vehicle."...

The American Heritage Dictionary defines "motor vehicle" as, "a self-propelled, wheeled conveyance that does not run on rails." ... A cow is self-propelled, does not run on rails,
and could be used as a conveyance; however, there is no indication in the record that this particular cow had wheels. Therefore, it was not a motor vehicle and thus was not a "land motor vehicle" as defined in the policy.
4.19.2006 10:24am
BobH (mail):
Statutory interpretation shows that in California, a cow IS a motor vehicle. "Motor vehicle" is defined by statute in pertinent part as follows:

"Vehicle Code §415. 'Motor vehicle' (a) A 'motor vehicle' is a vehicle that is self-propelled." [Subsections (b) and (c) are immaterial to the analysis.]

Since a cow is self-propelled, the question becomes whether a cow is a "vehicle." "Vehicle" is defined by statute as follows:

"Vehicle Code § 670. 'Vehicle' A 'vehicle' is a device by which any person or property may be propelled, moved, or drawn upon a highway, excepting a device moved exclusively by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks."

Since one might use a cow to move a person or property upon a highway, the question becomes whether a cow is a "device." Since there is no statutory definition of that term, we must look to non-statutory authorities -- the dictionary, for example. And the first definition of "device" in Webster's II New College Dictionary reads, in pertinent part, "Something ... devised for a particular purpose...."

A cow is obviously "something," so the question is whether a cow is devised for a particular purpose. Since at least SOME cows are devised for particular purposes -- e.g., a Holstein cow is bred ("devised") to produce very large amounts of milk ("a particular purpose"), analysis shows that under California law, a cow is a motor vehicle.

4.19.2006 11:44am
Given that the SCOTUS has held that a tomato is not a fruit, and that dancing nude is speech, it's not too surprising that this was an unsettled question.
4.19.2006 12:08pm
Michael Mouse (mail):
Hence the ancient wisdom: You can put wheels on yo' mama, but that don't make her a bus.
4.19.2006 1:07pm
Michelle Mouse:
But if you put balls on your aunt, it does make her your uncle.
4.19.2006 2:55pm
Tal Kedem (mail):
Michael Mouse --

According to this decision, if you were to put wheels on 'yo mama', that would make her a bus!
4.19.2006 6:24pm
The decision as written perhaps needs some work, but I don't think Bill Poser knows what a motor is. Motors convert energy into mechanical force, something that just about every animal can do.
4.19.2006 7:42pm