The popular expression I could eat a horse definition that friend are an extremely hungry appears to it is in from the early 19 th century according to Google Books. One early intake example I might find is indigenous 1824:

From: The various works of Tobias Smollett by Tobias George Smollett: (1824)

"for ns be so hoongry, I can eat a horse behind the saddle."

The expression is clearly a hyperbole yet it is not clear why "a horse" has become the animal associated v being exceptionally hungry, quite than a cow for instance.


What"s the beginning of the above saying?

Was it originally a BrE or an AmE expression?

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The earliest instance of this expression that I have actually been may be to find is from man Ray, A collection of Proverbs (1678), which has this entry (without further comment):

He is so hungry, he can eat a equine behind the saddle.

You are watching: Im so hungry i can eat a horse

Unfortunately, neither beam nor any kind of other author who cites or supplies the expression offers any kind of explanation of why it concentrates on horses rather 보다 some other animal.

Tobias Smollett, The Life and Adventures of sir Launcelot Greaves (1760) is among the earliest tape-recorded instances the the expression offered in a narrative—in a scene in which sir Launcelot has ceded a squire native the curative regimen the an incompetent doctor, nurse, and also apothecary, and has asked the patient exactly how he currently feels:

"I should feel heart-whole if for this reason be as yow would throw the noorse a"ter the party , and also the "pothecary a"ter the noorse; and also oorder me a pound of chops for my dinner; for I bee so hoongry, I can eat a steed behind the saddle."

And an in similar way from Walter Scott, Guy Mannering; or, The Gipsey"s Prophecy (1815):

Gipsey Girl. I"m sure, gentlemen, you"ll excuse us; we are not accustom"d to see the prefer of you; yet if there is any thing the you would certainly take—

Dinmont. have the right to there it is in anything us won"t take, my dear? for I have not taken meat or drink this four or 5 hours, and also the cold blast on the hills has offered me together an appetite, that, together the Yorkshire-man says, "I cou"d eat a steed behind the saddle."

But it appears to me that part readers may be misreading the sense of "a horse behind the saddle." The suggestion I have actually read in other places on this web page is the "behind the saddle" way "posterior to the saddle," i beg your pardon is to so speak "toward or in ~ the horse"s buttocks." however I think the is simply as likely to typical "through the saddle."

Horsemeat has, deservedly or not, a reputation for being stringy and also tough. In nations where steeds are no a meat resource of choice, the negative reputation most likely rests of numerous factors: horsemeat has actually a more powerful flavor than beef (for example), the is (or was) typically used in such countries as meat because that dogs, and also because steeds are generally bred as riding or pulling animals and also not as resources of meat, their meat has tendency to be far leaner and also less tender than livestock bred and also fattened up for slaughter.

In a culture where equines were much from the preferred meat source, human being may have consumed them only in straitened circumstances, once no other resource of meat to be available, such together in serious dearths, v consequent privation because that the equine prior come its gift eaten, too—and again this would tend to reinforce the perception the their meat was naturally tough and also stringy.

In any case, the fancied (and under some circumstances real) toughness of horsemeat may be the allude of the expression. A person who is ravenously hungry might express this fact by asserting not just that the (or she) is hungry sufficient to eat a horse, but that he (or she) is ready to go v the saddle to acquire to it. dislike of the idea of eat horsemeat appears to have been quite solid in past centuries. For example, in house George, Memoirs of an Aristocrat and Reminiscences the the Emperor Napoleon (1837), we have this remembrance of the eating of a dog plank an marine ship in 1777:

When we were in new Zealand, Neddy Rhio, among my messmates had acquired hold of a new Zealand dog, as savage a evil one as the savages from whom he acquired it, and this exact same dog the intended to lug home to existing to the Marchioness of Townsend, his patroness. But one day, when Neddy to be on shore on duty, a court-martial was organized on the dog, and it to be agreed nem. Con. that, as the dog was of cannibal origin, and also was fully a cannibal itself, having bit every one of use, and also shewn every inclination come eat united state alive if the could, the he should be doomed come death, and also eat in his turn, we being brief of fresh provisions in ~ the time. The sentence was immediately executed, the dog cooked, dressed, and eat, for we could have eat a horse behind the saddle, us were every so confoundedly hungry; ...

It appears odd come justify eat a dog through saying, in effect, "of course us ate it; we were for this reason hungry the we"d have been ready to eat a horse." one more instance the anti-horsemeat sentiment occurs in "Paris Sport and Paris Life," in Baily"s newspaper of Sports and also Pastimes (March 1865):

We have all heard often enough, specifically on seasons choose the present one (confound it!), of horses "eating their heads of." well these experimentalists desire to conserve them the trouble, and also propose eating not only the heads, yet the legs and also body also.

This Hippic Society, which have to be dubbed "The Eat-a-horse behind the Saddle firm (Limited)," actually had actually a dinner critical week at the grand Hôtel. Nothing however horse to be served! The menu, as much as I have the right to remember was as follows:—

Potage a la Reine. Cotelettes de Hock. Saucce aux Eperons. Legs of Screws offered in your boots, Potted Favourite—a "good thing" boiled end (This was not lot relished.) and also lastly, a saddle of steed garnished v girths.

The company agreed that, except in some of the low-priced Paris restaurants, they had actually never tasted such meat, and also they walk not different till a late hour.

Th "Charivari" <Puck> had a splendid snapshot of a pair the carriage-horses shying at the enntrance gate to this horse-eating hotel, and also a dog, evidently thinking he was being defrauded the his rights, barking at one of the guest returning from his equine banquet.

I may be old fashioned, however I confess I would certainly rather have actually a saddle the five-year old Welsh mutton—not too lot done—and a few French beans, than a haunch of either of Mr. Henry Chaplin"s recent purchases.

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This source expressly treats horsemeat as appropriately being a meat fed come dogs, i m sorry again emphasizes its lack of appeal to the ( writer.