"Hungry as a Wolf" . . . Is this another lame metaphor?


Several years ago, I analyzed the metaphor, "wolves are killing machines."

Another phrase, one even more common, struck my attention. "Hungry as a wolf" is commonly used to indicate the greatest possible hunger, although wolves are also often said to be ravenous, leaving the possibility that ravens might be regarded as even more hungry.

In fact, we don't know what the subjective experience of hunger is like to an animal. I don't suppose there would be a universally agreed measure, but I suggest the time spent eating might be an exterior indication of hunger.

Wolves and other predators don't spend all that much time eating compared to herbivores. Of all the grazing animals I have seen, the one the spends the most time eating is the cow. Cows often fail to even look up when a wolf appears. This is perhaps they don't realize they might be prey, or perhaps they would just rather eat.

When the cow is not actually chewing off grass, it is generally ruminating. So in fact, cows are eating almost constantly. If you look at the effects on the landscape, its appearance after cattle have chewed and stomped their way through is a lot more apparent than a pile of bones from the wolves.

If you think about it, "hungry as a cow" makes a lot of sense.

After watching wolves in Yellowstone, folks could show up in Gardiner or Cooke and say, "all that Yellowstone activity has left me hungry as a cow." "I won't be full until I've eaten here for the next eight hours."

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Copyright 2005 Ralph Maughan
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