Welcome back to the wonderful land of Greek Mythology. We all know about man-eating tigers. It turns out tigers aren’t the only critter who chows down on people.
Today, Gentle Reader, you shall learn about man-eating horses. These horses are not convivial like “My Friend Flicka,” brilliant like Roy Roger’s Trigger, talkative like Mr. Ed, or airborne like Shadowfax in “Lord of the Rings.” These are carnivorous equines.
Let us compare and contrast man-eating tigers with man-eating horses. First, a recap of the sad Las Vegas tale of Siegfred & Roy. Oct. 3, 2003 was Roy’s 59th birthday.
The show began like any of the other 30,000 previous Siegfred & Roy shows. Like most things in life, everything was fine until it suddenly wasn’t.
Their nearly 400-pound tiger Mantacore, for reasons known only to the tiger, left his position on the stage and began to walk toward the audience. As there was no barrier between the audience and the tiger, Roy jumped in front of Mantacore to stop him from eating several tourists. Roy’s bravery of protecting the audience resulted in Mantacore grabbing Roy’s arm.
When Mantacore finally released Roy’s arm, Roy tripped over the tiger. Mantacore then grabbed Roy’s head in his mouth and tried to carry Roy off stage. Roy ultimately survived the attack with serious injuries. While he was still conscious, Roy said, “Don’t shoot the cat.” Roy was one of the good guys. Mantacore was just doing what tigers naturally do.
Now back to today’s theme of man-eating horses. Do you remember the story of the Mares of Diomedes? Of course, you don’t. Neither did I until I read up on them recently. Allow me to explain. Once upon a time, King Diomedes of Thrace owned a herd of man-eating horses. Why anyone would want to own a herd of man-eating horses is beyond the scope of this column. Crank up your willing suspension of disbelief. Just accept there was a herd of man-eating horses in Thrace. Pro tip: Alexander the Great’s very own horse Bucephalus was an offspring of this herd. No one but Al could ride the spirited Bucephalus. There is no record of Al’s horse eating any humans so it is safe to assume Bucephalus was a vegetarian. Which reminds me, do you know how to tell if someone is a vegetarian? Answer: They will tell you. Ba dum dum.
Enough digression. Back to mythology. As one of Hercules 12 labors, Herk (as his buddies called him) had to steal the Mares of Diomedes. It is unclear if there were Stallions of Diomedes, but since Bucephalus eventually appeared, it is likely there was at least one stallion. The horses were wild and crazy. Their untamed personalities were attributed to their habit of eating strangers who got too close to them. The horses were chained up to a manger all day while guarded by Diomedes’ soldiers. This lack of exercise in all likelihood contributed to their cranky nature. In addition to eating people, the horses breathed fire. Capturing them could be a little bit tricky for anyone.
There are several versions of how Herk handled this task. In Story A, Herk gets a posse together to fight Diomedes’ soldiers. Herk and the posse beat the soldiers and capture the horses. Unfortunately Herk doesn’t realize the horses are man-eaters. He leaves the horses to be watched by his faithful boy pal Abderus. Man-eating horses do what they do. Abderus becomes horse chow. After capturing Diomedes and returning to the barn, Herk learns that Abderus is no more. Irritated beyond belief, Herk feeds Diomedes to his own horses.
Story B reports Herk cut the horses’ chains himself. Herk chases the herd onto some high ground. He digs a ditch flooding the area thereby corralling the horses on the hill. Diomedes then tries to escape. Herk captures him, killing him with an axe, and feeding him to the horses.
Story C says Herk fed Diomedes to the horses before he released the horses. Diomedes’ soldiers find out their King is Purina Horse Chow. Highly disturbed, they attack Herk. Herk releases the herd to charge the soldiers. The soldiers turn tail, skedaddling out of there not wanting to become horse chow themselves.
Regardless of which version is true, it turns out that once the horses consume human flesh, they chill out and become docile. Sorta like the hippies in San Francisco dining on edibles. Herk was then able to duct tape the horses’ mouths shut to turn them over as part of his tasks for his Scavenger Hunt for King Eurystheus.
So, what have we learned today? Once again, not much. Keep one thought, if you see a fire-breathing horse, don’t try to pet it. You have been warned.