The Difference Between Horseshit and Bullshit

The other day I was thinking about the words bullshit and horseshit. Where I am from, these words are used almost interchangably in situations where you think a statement or assertion is false, ridiculous, a lie, etc. I thought it was interesting that we have two very similar words to use in the same situation.

But then I thought about it some more and realized that they aren’t exactly the same. I wanted to share my thoughts about it and possibly get some feedback on whether or not the following applies to your understanding of these words.

bull.jpg

At first I came to the (possibly wrong) conclusion that bullshit had a more broad application than horseshit. It could be situational as well as verbal, whereas horseshit couldn’t be.

For example, if you are angry at being forced into some situation against your will, such as having to wait in a long line, you can say “This is bullshit! I can’t believe it takes an hour to get a movie ticket.” Using horseshit here might be acceptable, but to my ears it sounds slightly unnatural.

When I think about my little brother, the difference is even clearer. My brother used to play Starcraft a lot. Sometimes something bad would happen in the game due to network latency – maybe a shuttle full of reavers gets killed because the game was slow to register his clicks. When this happened, he would slam his fist on the desk and shout, “F**king bullshit! I moved the shuttle away.”

Here, I think slamming your fist and shouting “F**king horseshit!” sounds completely unnatural. Only bullshit fits.

horses.jpg

So is that it then? Is the difference between bullshit and horseshit that you can’t use the latter situationally? Not quite.

After some more thought, I imagined that my brother has had a minute to calm down after losing his shuttle full of reavers. He turns away from the monitor to look at me in disbelief. “Fucking horseshit. I moved that shuttle away,” he says shaking his head, inviting some sympathetic response from me. Yes, I saw you click away. It was the game/lag’s fault. Here, horseshit sounds completely natural to me.

This I think is the key. Bullshit is emphatic. You can shout it at the sky, fists shaking with rage.

Horseshit is softer. You might say it with disgust, disbelief or a dismissive tone, but you don’t scream it.

Don’t get me wrong. You can use bullshit in any situation where you use horseshit. Just not the other way around.

Do you agree? Disagree? Have something to add? Do you think this article is bullshit? Leave me a comment.

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25 Comment(s)

  1. I’ve heard horseshit used emphatically just as bullshit is used. I’ll agree that horseshit not as common as bullshit (at least here in Texas) but the two seem interchangeable to me.

    peter | Jan 22, 2008 | Reply

  2. Perhaps there’s some regional variation. I don’t feel like I use either enough to be a good judge of subtle differences.

    But note that “bullshit” can be a verb, as in “Don’t bullshit me.” I’m pretty sure you can’t say “Don’t horseshit me.”

    Also, it may be significant that the Wikipedia page for horseshit redirects to the page for bullshit. :)

    rikker | Jan 22, 2008 | Reply

  3. To me, horseshit sounds unnatural in any context.
    I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use it in place of bullshit.
    It must be a regional thing.

    adjusting | Jan 22, 2008 | Reply

  4. It must be a regional thing – or Cow Person/Horse Person thing.

    Growing up around both, the people with more cows would say bullshit and the horse huggers would say “horseshit”.

    Both are interchangeable, it’s just that more people are familiar with Bullshit.

    In the South, you can’t merely say “bullshit”, ‘bull’ must be drawn out.

    “Booolshit” see, now your try it.

    I wonder if we can get this vocablulary lesson introduced to the hooked on Phonics program?

    Don

    Don@AffiliateWatcher | Jan 31, 2008 | Reply

  5. I think the root of this is in the actual shit. If you examine some real bull shit, then compare it to horse shit, the difference is obvious. Bull shit is runny, and much more nasty than that of a horse. Horse droppings are nearly dry, and a lot less messy. Bull crap is like a stinky mud pie.If you step in some bull doodoo it will definitely stick. Hence, the difference in usage had a basis in actuality even if no one knows the difference any more.

    Tim E. | Feb 1, 2008 | Reply

  6. I am searching for the Tom Hanks definitions of the difference between Bullshit and Horseshit… which I saw on his first “Inside The Actors Studio” interview.. I wish I could find it, but it was superb. To paraphrase: Bullshit was common, everyday, crap that we deal with… Horseshit is the Bullshit in life that is totally unnecessary.

    Keith Conklin | Oct 28, 2008 | Reply

  7. My understanding is that horseshit is a thing, idea or procedure of very little value, something worthless “I now have a cable modem. The old dial-up is horseshit.”

    But bullshit is a deliberate attempt at deception, like somebody telling you something that’s not true. It can also be some intolerable situation.

    BB | Oct 29, 2008 | Reply

  8. lol this is bullshit…

    None | Jan 5, 2009 | Reply

  9. Your bullshit is horseshit!

    RegularJohn | Apr 29, 2009 | Reply

  10. I think we can differentiate between the phrases according to the experiences and contexts in which we have perrsonally used and heard the phrases. However, as far as when it is applied to what somone is saying I would offer that “bullshit” is information that is deliberatley a falsehood or spin on the truth by the original source (the orinal source is not necessarily the person quoting it, who might be ignorant of the mistake). “Horseshit” is applied more to an incorrect statement by the original source that is based on extreme ignorance, stupidty or the lazy acceptance of a widely believed fact that is total crap.

    DR.Fox | Sep 27, 2009 | Reply

  11. A COWorker and I were pondering this very topic not two days ago when it dawned on me that while “Bullshit” and “Horseshit” may in most cases be used interchaingably, it should be noted that when searching for the right term while in a corporate environment, it might be more accurate to use “Horseshit” when referencing something that hase come down directly from upper mgmt. as a horse is the taller of the two animals and therefore the shit has come from further up than “Bullshit” would, which is why “Bullshit” should be used with reference to first/lower level mgmt.

    T.V.Bardue | Dec 12, 2009 | Reply

  12. i was so delighted with your opus re, the difference between bullshit and horseshit, that i brought it to my wife’s attention. she said, after reading same , that the author had too much time on their hands…as do you (me!). i responded “bullshit!”.

    gary dehmcke | Jan 24, 2010 | Reply

  13. For me, and my pals, the difference lies in the context of the actions.

    For instance: If my buddy, who can barely swing a golf club, tells me that yesterday, while playing golf in a head wind, that he knocked out a 300 yard drive I will call him a bullshitter and the story that he told is bullshit.

    On the other hand, if my buddy was telling me that another guy we know, who can barely swing a golf club, told my buddy that yesterday, while playing golf in a head wind, that he knocked out a 300 yard drive then I will say the story is horseshit.

    In both instances the guy who who claimed the 300 yard drive is a bullshitter (there is no such thing as a horseshitter). However, the story is either bullshit or horseshit, depending on how the story is recieved.

    Extending these rules with the situation presented in the article. If you are angry at being forced into some situation against your will, such as having to wait in a long line, you can say correctly say: “This is bullshit! I can’t believe it takes an hour to get a movie ticket.”

    However, if you are watching the above situation unfold near you (but for whatever reason you are not affected), or if the story was being recounted to you by another party then you would correclty say: “That is horseshit! I can’t believe it takes an hour to get a movie ticket.”

    D-dawg | Mar 9, 2010 | Reply

  14. To me Bullshit is when something is wildly exaggerated. “He is just bullshitting when he says that”.

    But when someone says something that is an out and out falsehood it is horseshit.

    If you are made to wait an hour in line, it is bullshit. That is an exaggerated amount of time to have to wait. If you are told you have to wait because there are people who deserve preference to you, that is horseshit!

    George Cron | May 28, 2010 | Reply

  15. I’m really glad you posted about this. I was JUST thinking about this and googled “the difference between horseshit and bullshit” and came across your site.

    I was thinking, and in my mind it goes like this: horseshit usually refers to something that is low quality. For example, paying to see a movie that fucking sucks. Bullshit, on the other hand, refers more to something that is fake, untruthful, or lacks integrity. For example, someone telling you they’re going to be busy for a whole month. Fucking bullshit.

    dingdangdong | Jul 4, 2010 | Reply

  16. Wow, just like the last person who posted, I googled the difference between horseshit and bullshit and got this page – exactly what I was looking for. One distinction I noticed in my dad’s usage (he uses both) is that while bullshit can be used for both lies and anything unpleasant, horseshit zeroes in on fanciful storytelling, exaggeration, or wordy avoidance of a simple answer. When dad shouted “Aw, horseshit!” it could usually be translated as “Quit jerking me around” or “Stop making excuses and do what you’re supposed to to.” Bullshit can be used for an outright fabrication; horseshit for something that while not quite false, is beside the point or otherwise deceptive.

    Jim | Sep 22, 2010 | Reply

  17. Bullshit: It’s wrong and we both know it.

    Horseshit: I know that’s wrong, but you think it’s right.

    Roman Weil | Dec 19, 2010 | Reply

  18. What kind of people feel the need to talk a bunch of birdshit about the words ‘bullshit’ and ‘horseshit’?
    I live in a southern New England coastal fishing and shell-fishing village and there is Sea Gull shit seemingly everywhere.

    Life Preserver Needed | Jan 24, 2011 | Reply

  19. There is actually a dictionary difference between the two. I found it on the net once, but i can’t find it anymore for some reason.

    Bullshit is when anything bad, unfair or ‘hax’ happens. Horseshit is when something happens always or most of the time at the wrong time.For example, in my school we have assembly in the hot morning sun, but when it rains, we get to stay in air-conditioned class rooms. On Monday, however, we go to the air-conditioned auditorium regardless of the weather.

    so, it is bullshit that it never rains in the morning, allowing us to have assembly in class, and it is horseshit that 9 out of 10 times it does rain in the morning, its a Monday, when rain does not benefit us.

    Or, in a video game, such as halo, it is bullshit that i never spawn near the sniper rifle (which is a power weapon over long range, if you didn’t already know), and it is horseshit that whenever i do spawn near the sniper spawn, it is already taken.

    B10ckH34d | Apr 6, 2011 | Reply

  20. Bullshit can be good or bad, a lie or an exaggeration. Swapping stories with the guys is “bullshittin’ around”. Horseshit, on the other hand, is malevolent. A guy can bullshit you with a humorous story about “I once caught a fish this big…” But when somebody tries to screw you with dishonesty, they are lying, they know it, and their lie will do harm to you, thats complete horseshit.

    Jay | Apr 27, 2011 | Reply

  21. I have found its relatively simple. “This is Bullshit” and “That was Horseshit”, which actually holds true with your axiom regarding emphatic exclamation. By the time it becomes “That” as opposed to “this” its past and less impacting on the situation at hand. Besides, I don’t have time for this Horseshit, I have all of that other bullshit to contend with…….

    Ed Z | Jun 13, 2011 | Reply

  22. ‘Life Preserver Needed’ deserves Best Response to the Horse-shit vs. Bullshit essay. Thanks for the laugh.

    sharon griffin | Jun 29, 2011 | Reply

  23. I agree with Roman Weil.

    Bullshit is used when the lie is immediately obvious to everyone. e.g. When the house painter jumped out from behind my bedroom door naked while my wife was in bed and said that his clothes had been eaten by an alligator, I said “Bullshit!”.

    Horseshit is used when the lie is accepted by at least one person, and probably several or majority (often including yourself at one point, if you bought into the lie). e.g. The authorities told me that a diesel fire in the basement of WTC 7 brought the building down at what is freefall speed, looking exactly like a controlled demolition, somehow causing every steel column in the entire building and at every point in the building to have zero strength at the same exact time… it should be obvious to any engineer that their story is complete and utter horseshit.

    The definator | Apr 29, 2012 | Reply

  24. That’s the job man! horseshit rocks!! Horseshit Horseshit! I say it 100 times a day fuckin Horseshit! Fuckin love that word :-)

    duff man | Jun 5, 2012 | Reply

  25. Good discussion. Finally a conclusive answer on when to use which term.

    Steven | Sep 28, 2012 | Reply

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