There are sayings that stick in your mind because they are so absurd. The 1995 film “Apollo 13” provides an example. In one scene, Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise tells Jim Lovell, Mission Commander, “I’m so hungry I could eat the ass out of a dead rhinoceros.”
That saying is so ridiculous, I’ve never forgotten it. I’ve even used the phrase a few times over the years.
The line is not original. As far as I can tell, it appeared first on screen in the 1991 surf thriller “Point Break.” Pappas, Gary Busey’s character, utters the line to Johnny Utah played by Keanu Reeves just before chowing down on a meatball sandwich.
And it seems the line appears in “Apollo 13” only because Busey was visiting the set when the Apollo 13 scene was shot. He suggested it as something Haise, a Mississippi boy, might say.
Of all the ways to express hunger in colorful language, out of the blue coming up with “eating the ass of a dead rhinocerous” seems very unlikely. I don’t know how the saying originated, but sometimes preposterous sayings have a basis in fact. My safari in Kruger National Park in June 2017 may be a clue.
A couple of weeks ago I posted a tragic photo from that safari of a white rhino that had been poached for its horns the previous night. I mentioned that two lions had been feeding on the carcass.
Here are other photos from the scene. The first photo shows a lion resting at the far right in the midday shade.
The lions were in no hurry. As apex predators on the veldt, no other animals would take their prize. They consumed what they wanted at leisure. The lions had obviously eaten in the area around the rhino’s neck.
Meaty portions of the body are untouched at this point. That seemed strange. Wouldn’t rhino ribeye provide a better meal?
What was even more strange was what we saw when we moved to the other side of the rhino to get a better look at a sleeping lion (left in the photo below).
The lions in fact ate the ass out of a dead rhinoceros!
The lions could have eaten any part of the dead rhino but chose to eat the ass first! Rhino butt must be one of their favorite parts. It reminded me of another instance of selective dining by an apex predator.
Gansbaai, South Africa is one of the premier locations for spotting great white sharks. Many exciting scenes of the “Shark Week” series are shot there. On the same trip as Kruger, I went cage diving with the Shark Team looking for great whites.
Before heading to Shark Alley, the marine biologist explained that shark sightings were not guaranteed and displayed a photo explaining why.
The photo is a 5-meter, 1,100-kg female great white shark that washed ashore at Gansbaai the month before my excursion. The marine biologist stated that killer whales killed the shark but ate only the liver. When killer whales are around great whites leave the area.
I had believed great whites were the ocean’s top predator. Wrong! Apparently solitary great whites are no match for killer whales who are bigger, smarter, and hunt in groups. Like the lions in Kruger, they eat the best part first. The whales don’t even bother with the rest of the shark.
So this was a long story to say the intriguing expression about eating the ass out of a dead rhinoceros seems to have a factual basis. Why a lion does that remains a mystery to me.
Do you have any idea why lions seem to prefer eating the ass of a dead rhinoceros first?