The popular expression I could eat a steed definition that you are very hungry shows up to be from the beforehand 19 th century according to Google Books. One early usage instance I could discover is from 1824:

From: The assorted functions of Tobias Smollett by Topredisposition George Smollett: (1824)

"for I be so hoongry, I might eat a equine behind the saddle."

The expression is clearly a hyperbole however it is not clear why "a horse" has come to be the pet linked through being incredibly hungry, fairly than a cow for instance.


What"s the beginning of the over saying?

Was it initially a BrE or an AmE expression?

etymology popular-refrains phrase-origin
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The earliest circumstances of this expression that I have actually been able to find is from John Ray, A Collection of Proverbs (1678), which has actually this entry (without even more comment):

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

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Unfortunately, neither Ray nor any other writer that cites or offers the expression uses any type of explacountry of why it concentrates on steeds rather than some other animal.

Toprejudice Smollett, The Life and Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves (1760) is among the earliest recorded instances of the expression provided in a narrative—in a scene in which Sir Launcelot has yielded a squire from the curative regimales of an inproficient doctor, nurse, and also apothecary, and has asked the patient just how he now feels:

"I have to feel heart-totality if so be as yow would throw the noorse a"ter the bottle , 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 might eat a horse behind the saddle."

And additionally from Wchange Scott, Guy Mannering; or, The Gipsey"s Prophecy (1815):

Gipsey Girl. I"m sure, gentlemales, you"ll excuse us; we are not accustom"d to check out the favor of you; yet if there is any type of thing that you would certainly take—

Dinmont. Can tright here be anything we will not take, my dear? For I have actually not taken meat or drink this 4 or five hours, and the cold blast on the hills has actually provided me such an appetite, that, as the Yorkshire-guy says, "I cou"d eat a steed behind the saddle."

But it appears to me that some readers may be misreading the sense of "a steed behind the saddle." The tip I have actually review elsewhere on this web page is the "behind the saddle" implies "posterior to the saddle," which is to so say "towards or at the horse"s buttocks." But I think it is simply as likely to suppose "via the saddle."

Horsemeat has actually, deservedly or not, a reputation for being stringy and challenging. In countries wbelow horses are not a meat source of choice, the negative reputation most likely rests of several factors: horsemeat has actually a more powerful flavor than beef (for example), it is (or was) generally used in such countries as meat for dogs, and also because horses are mostly bred as riding or pulling pets and also not as resources of meat, their meat tends to be much leaner and also less tender than cattle bred and also fattened up for slaughter.

In a society where equines were much from the desired meat resource, civilization may have consumed them just in straitened circumstances, when no various other resource of meat was accessible, such as in severe dearths, with consequent privation for the steed before its being consumed, too—and aget this would certainly tend to reinforce the perception that their meat was inherently challenging and stringy.

In any type of case, the fancied (and also under some situations real) toughness of horsemeat might be the point of the expression. A person that is ravenously hungry might express this truth by asserting not just that he (or she) is hungry enough to eat a horse, but that he (or she) is willing to go via the saddle to obtain to it. disfavor of the principle of eating horsemeat appears to have been quite solid in past centuries. For instance, in Home George, Memoirs of an Aristocrat and Reminiscences of the Emperor Napoleon (1837), we have this remembrance of the eating of a dog aboard an navy ship in 1777:

When we were in New Zealand, Neddy Rhio, one of my messmates had obtained hold of a New Zealand also dog, as savage a devil as the savages from whom he gained it, and this very same dog he intfinished to bring residence to present to the Marchioness of Townsfinish, his patroness. But someday, while Neddy was on shore on duty, a court-martial was held on the dog, and it was agreed nem. con. that, as the dog was of cannibal beginning, and also was entirely a cannibal itself, having actually little eincredibly among usage, and shewn every inclination to eat us alive if it might, that he have to be doomed to fatality, and eat in his turn, we being brief of fresh provisions at the time. The sentence was automatically executed, the dog cooked, dressed, and also eat, for we might have actually 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; we were so hungry that we"d have actually been willing to eat a horse." Anvarious other circumstances of anti-horsemeat sentiment occurs in "Paris Sport and Paris Life," in Baily"s Magazine of Sports and Pastimes (March 1865):

We have actually all heard frequently sufficient, particularly on seasons prefer the present one (condiscovered it!), of equines "eating their heads of." Well these experimentalists want to conserve them the trouble, and also propose eating not just the heads, however the legs and also body likewise.

This Hippic Society, which must be referred to as "The Eat-a-horse behind the Saddle Company kind of (Limited)," actually had actually a dinner last week at the Grand Hôtel. Nothing but horse was served! The food selection, as far as I have the right to remember was as follows:—

Potage a la Reine. Cotelettes de Hock. Saucce aux Eperons. Legs of Screws served in their boots, Potted Favourite—a "excellent thing" boiled over (This was not much reliburned.) And lastly, a saddle of horse garniburned with girths.

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

Th "Charivari" <Puck> had a splendid photo of a pair of carriage-equines shying at the entrance to this horse-eating hotel, and also a dog, evidently thinking he was being defrauded of his legal rights, barking at among the guests returning from his horse banquet.

I may be old fashioned, however I confess I would fairly have a saddle of five-year old Welsh mutton—not as well a lot done—and a couple of French beans, than a haunch of either of Mr. Henry Chaplin"s recent purchases.

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This resource specifically treats horsemeat as appropriately being a meat fed to dogs, which aacquire emphasizes its lack of appeal to the ( writer.