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Taking the Bull by the Horns/Tail

Posted by ESC on February 12, 2003

In Reply to: Taking the Bull by the Horns/Tail posted by S. on February 11, 2003

: Hello, I was just wondering whether any one might know the origin and meaning of these phrases: "taking the bull by the horns" and "taking the bull by the tail". Thanks in advance for any information.

TAKE THE BULL BY THE HORNS - ".'screw up your courage and cope with a dangerous or unpleasant situation decisively, head on'." From "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997). Mr. Hendrickson guesses that the expression originated in Spain or America. He says that "Since the earliest quotation yet found for this expression is 1873, it seems unlikely that it has its roots in bull-running, a brutal English sport popular from the day of King John until it was outlawed in the mid-19th century." A more likely origin is this practice: "In bullfights Spanish banderilleros plant darts in the neck of the bull and tire him more by waving cloaks and seizing him by the horns, trying to hold his head down. Rawboned early ranchers in the American Southwest also wrestled bulls, or steers in a popular sport called bulldogging that is still seen in rodeos."

Poor bull.