Somewhat surprisingly the phrase did not originate from Hollywood Cowboy films but from the Greek Homer over two thousand years ago.
It took many years for the phrase to make the transition into English. In 1720 Alexander Pope(1688-1744) the poet and champion of the heroic couplet translated Homer`s words as “bit the ground.”
Incidentally Pope is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson
But in 1748 the Scottish author Tobias Smollett (1721-1771) gave us the phrase we know today when he translated from the French, Gil Blas of Santilane, a picaresque novel by Alain-René Lesage (picaresque being a form of satire, normally involving a loveable rogue, which was very popular at the time).
“Made two of them bite the dust, and the others betake themselves to fight”.