One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A gambling game in which bets are placed on mechanically operated horses made to spin round a flag at the centre of a special circular table.
Late 19th century; earliest use found in Clown. From French petits chevaux from petits, plural of petit + chevaux, plural of cheval horse.
petits chevaux/ˌpɛtɪ ʃəˈvəʊz/
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