One end bites, the other end kicks…
Horses are inoffensive herbivores. Prey animals which always run if danger threatens, and docile servants to mankind down the centuries.
Or are they? What if they ate meat? What if they killed other animals, or even humans?
In his new book Deadly Equines, lifelong horseman and author CuChullaine O’Reilly proposes an alternative; that not only have horses eaten flesh for thousands of years, but also that they commonly kill other creatures. And he backs up his theory with solid evidence.
Basically, Baron Marbot was a French cavalryman who spent much of his time as aide to one senior officer or another, ending up a General. After the wars he wrote three volumes of memoirs, probably the most entertaining French cavalry diary (apart from Parquin’s). And one of the stories concerned his acquisition and subsequent use of a chestnut mare which had disembowelled a groom. And of how, in one battle, Lisette attacked an enemy soldier with her teeth, tearing his face off. Nasty.
But apparently, this sort of behaviour is not uncommon. Having extensively researched his subject, O’Reilly quotes sources from as far back as Alexander the Great right up to the present day. Killer horses appear in just about every century. And perhaps even more surprising, the deliberate feeding of meat to horses has been widely practised, by steppe tribesmen of old to modern-day polar explorers. Yet all this evidence seems to have been either forgotten or deliberately suppressed. Perhaps, in the fluffiness and sentiment of modernity, the animal has become a cartoon caricature of its real self.
So is our friend the horse in fact a meat-eating omnivore with murderous tendencies? O’Reilly makes a sound case, based on two irrefutable premises; that the horse has the worst-adapted digestive system of any herbivore, and that it is the only one to use its teeth for defence – or attack.
If it does nothing else, Deadly Equines will surely give readers pause for thought. And perhaps make us all treat horses with a little more respect.
Deadly Equines by CuChullaine O’Reilly FRGS ISBN 9781590480038
Published by The Long Riders Guild Press (2011)