The renowned expression I could eat a horse meaning that girlfriend are very hungry shows up to be from the early on 19 th century according to Google Books. One early consumption example I could find is indigenous 1824:

From: The assorted works that Tobias Smollett by Tobias George Smollett: (1824)

"for ns be therefore hoongry, I could eat a equine behind the saddle."

The expression is clearly a hyperbole but it is not clear why "a horse" has end up being the animal associated through being exceptionally hungry, quite than a cow because that instance.


What"s the origin of the above saying?

Was it originally a BrE or an AmE expression?

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edited Mar 31 "17 at 19:29
asked Mar 30 "17 at 0:25
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The earliest circumstances of this expression the I have been maybe to uncover is from john Ray, A repertoire of Proverbs (1678), which has this entry (without further comment):

He is for this reason hungry, he might eat a steed behind the saddle.

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

Tobias Smollett, The Life and Adventures of teacher Launcelot Greaves (1760) is just one of the earliest tape-recorded instances of the expression offered in a narrative—in a scene in which teacher Launcelot has yielded a squire from the curative regimen of an incompetent doctor, nurse, and apothecary, and also has request the patient exactly how he now feels:

"I have to feel heart-whole if therefore be as yow would certainly throw the noorse a"ter the bottle , and the "pothecary a"ter the noorse; and oorder me a pound of chops for my dinner; because that I bee so hoongry, I might eat a equine 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 forgive us; we space not accustom"d to check out the like of you; however if over there is any kind of thing that you would certainly take—

Dinmont. have the right to there be anything us won"t take, mine dear? because that I have not taken meat or drink this four or five hours, and also the cold blast top top the hills has given me together an appetite, that, as the Yorkshire-man says, "I cou"d eat a horse behind the saddle."

But it appears to me that part readers may be misreading the feeling of "a equine behind the saddle." The pointer I have read elsewhere on this page is the "behind the saddle" means "posterior come the saddle," i beg your pardon is come so say "toward or at the horse"s buttocks." but I think it is just as most likely to average "through the saddle."

Horsemeat has, deservedly or not, a call for gift stringy and tough. In nations where equines are no a meat source of choice, the bad reputation more than likely rests of number of factors: horsemeat has a stronger flavor than beef (for example), it is (or was) generally used in such nations as meat because that dogs, and because steeds are normally bred as riding or pulling animals and also not as resources of meat, their meat tends to be much leaner and less soft than livestock bred and fattened up because that slaughter.

In a society where horses were far from the preferred meat source, people may have eaten them only in straitened circumstances, as soon as no other resource of meat was available, such together in serious dearths, v consequent privation for the equine prior to its gift eaten, too—and again this would tend to reinforce the perception the their meat was naturally tough and stringy.

In any type of case, the fancied (and under some situations real) toughness that horsemeat may be the suggest of the expression. A human being who is ravenously hungry may express this truth by asserting not just that the (or she) is hungry sufficient to eat a horse, yet that he (or she) is ready to go v the saddle to get to it. dislike of the idea of eating horsemeat appears to have been quite solid in past centuries. For example, in home George, Memoirs of one Aristocrat and Reminiscences the the Emperor Napoleon (1837), we have this remembrance the the eating of a dog board an navy ship in 1777:

When us were in brand-new Zealand, Neddy Rhio, among my messmates had acquired hold of a brand-new Zealand dog, together savage a adversary as the savages from whom he gained it, and also this exact same dog he intended to bring home to current to the Marchioness that Townsend, his patroness. Yet one day, if Neddy was on coast on duty, a court-martial was organized on the dog, and it to be agreed nem. Con. that, as the dog to be of cannibal origin, and was fully a cannibal itself, having actually bit every among use, and shewn every inclination come eat united state alive if the could, the he must be doomed to death, and eat in his turn, us being brief of fresh provisions at the time. The sentence was automatically executed, the dog cooked, dressed, and also eat, for we could have eat a equine behind the saddle, we were all so confoundedly hungry; ...

It appears odd to justify eating a dog by saying, in effect, "of course we ate it; us were therefore hungry the we"d have actually been willing to eat a horse." an additional instance that anti-horsemeat emotion occurs in "Paris Sport and Paris Life," in Baily"s magazine of Sports and also Pastimes (March 1865):

We have all heard regularly enough, specifically on seasons prefer the current one (confound it!), of steeds "eating their heads of." fine these experimentalists want to conserve them the trouble, and also propose eating not only the heads, but the legs and body also.

This Hippic Society, which should be called "The Eat-a-horse behind the Saddle firm (Limited)," actually had actually a dinner last week at the cool Hôtel. Nothing however horse to be served! The menu, as far as I deserve to remember was together follows:—

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

The company agreed that, except in several of the low-priced Paris restaurants, they had actually never tasted such meat, and they go not separate till a so late hour.

Th "Charivari" <Puck> had actually a splendid photo of a pair the carriage-horses shying at the entrance to this horse-eating hotel, and a dog, evidently reasoning he to be being defrauded that his rights, barking at one of the guest returning indigenous his steed banquet.

I might be old fashioned, but I confess I would certainly rather have a saddle that five-year old Welsh mutton—not too much done—and a couple of French beans, 보다 a haunch of either of Mr. Henry Chaplin"s current purchases.

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