Tarrare Biography

(18th-Century French Man Known for His Unusually Massive, Insatiable Appetite)

Born: 1772

Born In: Lyon, France

Tarrare was an 18th-century French man known for his unusually massive, insatiable appetite. His appetite was almost inhuman; he could eat food intended for 15 men and still not be satisfied with his meal. He had a voracious appetite from childhood and could eat his own weight in meat by the time he was a teenager. His parents were unable to feed him the quantity of food he required and turned him out of the house. He sought the company of thieves and prostitutes and took to eating whatever food he could scavenge from garbage dumps in addition to what he got to eat. His appetite was so voracious that he would even eat inedible materials like metal, stone, and cork. Fascinated by his weird eating habits, a traveling charlatan employed him as a street performer. He would astound the audience by eating basketfuls of apples, live animals, and stones in front of them. He was recruited by the French Revolutionary Army as a spy for a short while. However, his appetite couldn’t be satiated despite being offered four times the standard military ration. Despite eating so much, he was malnourished, thin, and weak. He suffered from multiple health conditions and died in his mid-20s.

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Quick Facts

Also Known As: Tarar

Died At Age: 26

Born Country: France

French Men

Died on: 1798

place of death: Versailles, France

Diseases & Disabilities: Tuberculosis

Cause of Death: Diarrhea

Childhood & Early Life

It is believed that Tararre was born around 1772, in Lyon, France. His actual date of birth is not known. Some speculate that “Tararre” was not his real name but a nickname. Details about his family are not known.

As a child, he developed a ravenous appetite. When he was a teenager, he could eat his own weight in meat. Some sources state that he devoured a quarter of a bullock within a single day.

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Strange Eating Habits

As Tarrare’s appetite continued to grow, his family could no longer afford to feed him and they turned him out of the house. For a few years, he lived like a vagabond, stealing and begging for food.

He spent some time with a group of thieves and prostitutes, trying to feed himself in whatever way he could. Eventually, a traveling charlatan who sold snake oil saw Tarrare. He was fascinated with his strange behavior and hired him as a street performer.

As a performer, Tarrare drew large crowds with his eclectic eating behavior. He would swallow an entire basketful of apples and eat coins, metal items, and cork.

He was even known to eat live animals like puppies, kittens, rats, eels, and lizards, later regurgitating the bones and fur. He particularly enjoyed eating snakes, much to the horror and fascination of the onlookers.

He seemed to be doing fine on most occasions despite eating so many weird things. However, one time, he suffered severe intestinal obstruction and was taken to the Hôtel-Dieu hospital, where he was given the requisite medical care. He recovered soon and returned to performing.

Military Career

Tarrare joined the French Revolutionary Army when the War of the First Coalition broke out in 1792. However, the food he received in his military rations was not enough for him. He begged the other soldiers for more food and even ate from the garbage. 

His health suffered a lot during this time and he was exhausted. He was admitted to the military hospital and was granted quadruple rations. But this still failed to satisfy his appetite. He continued to scavenge and eat other patients’ food. He even stole and ate poultices from the apothecary.

His mysterious case baffled the military surgeons and he was told to stay at the hospital so that he could be studied by Dr. Courville and Dr. Pierre-François Percy. The doctors decided to test his appetite and presented him with a meal prepared for 15 men. Tarrare was able to eat the entire meal, following which he promptly fell asleep.

During the study, he also ate several live animals, including cats, puppies, snakes, and eels. Dr. Courville felt Tarrare’s strange ability could be put to military use. As an experiment, Tarrare was fed a wooden box containing a document. Two days later, the box was retrieved from his stools with the document inside intact. Thus, it was suggested that he be used as a courier to deliver secret documents without the risk of being caught.

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Tarrare was made to demonstrate his abilities in front of the commanders of the Army of the Rhine and passed the test. He was then officially employed as a spy in the army. For his first assignment, he was given a box with a dummy document. However, Tarrare believed the document to be a genuine one.

He disguised himself as a German peasant and crossed Prussian lines during night time, under the cover of darkness. However, he couldn’t speak German and attracted the attention of the local residents, who handed him to the Prussian authorities. A strip search yielded nothing and he didn’t betray his secret even after being beaten. However, after several hours of torture, he finally revealed the truth.

Eventually, he excreted the wooden box. The Prussians found the dummy document and were enraged. Tarrare was made to undergo a mock execution, given a severe beating, and dumped near the French lines.

Attempted Treatments

Tarrare was physically and mentally broken after the military experience. He desperately wanted to avoid any further military work and returned to the hospital where he was previously treated. The doctors attempted to treat him with laudanum, wine-vinegar, and tobacco pills. But none of these treatments was successful.

Efforts were made to control his diet, but this led to further complications. Unable to control his hunger, Tarrare would sneak out of the hospital and eat from the garbage outside butchers’ shops. He also scavenged for food from rubbish heaps and gutters, often fighting with stray dogs.

Within the hospital, he was caught drinking blood from patients undergoing bloodletting. He also tried to eat the corpses from the morgue. Many doctors started believing that Tarrare was mentally unstable and asked that he be transferred to a lunatic asylum. However, Dr. Percy wanted to continue his studies on Tarrare in the hospital.

On one occasion, a 14-month-old child was reported missing from the hospital. After the search for the child failed to yield any result, people started suspecting that Tarrare had kidnapped, killed, and eaten the baby. The angry hospital staff chased away Tarrare and didn’t hear anything about him for a few years.

Appearance & Health

Tarrare was reported to be very thin and extremely weak despite the enormous amounts of food he consumed. He had extremely fine hair and his teeth were heavily stained. He had an abnormally wide mouth. His skin was wrinkled and saggy.

He suffered from extremely foul body odor. His stench would get worse after he had eaten. He had chronic diarrhea and a belching issue. According to reports, one could actually see a foul vapor emanating from his body.


According to modern science, it is believed that he probably suffered from severe hyperthyroidism and had a damaged amygdala.

Last Days

In 1798, Dr. Percy met Tarrare again. This time, Tarrare was extremely sick and bedridden. He told the doctor that he had swallowed a golden fork a couple of years ago and never excreted it. He believed that the fork was lodged inside him and made him sick.

Tarrare was also suffering from advanced tuberculosis at that time. He survived for a few weeks under Dr. Percy’s care, but his health continued to deteriorate. He suffered from extreme diarrhea in his last days and died.

An autopsy revealed that his gullet, liver, and gallbladder were abnormally large. His stomach was covered in ulcers, and his body was filled with pus. The golden fork was never found.

See the events in life of Tarrare in Chronological Order

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- Tarrare Biography
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