Hippos in Louisiana? Learn About America's Failed Plan to Raise Hippopotamuses as Farm Animals

Hippos in Louisiana? Learn About America's Failed Plan to Raise Hippopotamuses as Farm Animals

100 years ago was a simpler time. For example, if you caught a dangerous disease, you simply died. But what if you were hungry? Well, in that case you just found a huge beast that could easily kill you, and killed it instead. Yes, we’re exaggerating, but barely -- just look at what happened when the men of 1910, paragons of virility the likes of whom has since vanished from Earth, decided that they’d raise and eat hippopotamuses from darkest Africa. Because they could. (Spoiler alert: they couldn’t.)

ONCE UPON A TIME, AMERICA WAS HUNGRY HUNGRY FOR HIPPOS. In the early 20th century, the United States of America faced a serious meat shortage Then a solution presented itself - hippopotamus ranching! It was so crazy it might just work.

HIPPOS COULD LIVE WHERE OTHER ANIMALS COULDN'T.A researcher at the Department of Agriculture noted that to solve the food problem, it was necessary to exploit unproductive lands, like the swamps along the Gulf Coast. What kind of animal could be raised there? Hippos could. Kind of obvious, if you think about it.

HIPPO FARMING MADE IT TO CONGRESS. Louisiana representative Robert F. Broussard was one of the leading champions of the hippo cause. In March 1910 he introduced H.R. 23261 or Hippo Bill, as it came to be known.

IMPORTING THE MURDERCOWS WAS WIDELY SEEN AS A GOOD IDEA. Newspapers around the country said it was useful, nay, necessary to bring hippos to America and eat them. Not that they didn't realize it was a weird thing to do-but hey, it had to be done, and that was that.

LOUISIANA WAS CONSIDERED PRIME HIPPO HABITAT. A field agent was sent to survey the ground, which he found bleak, but full of possibility. The hippopotamus would find no difficulty living in Louisiana, he reported.

HIPPOS ARE YUMMY (OR SO PEOPLE WERE TOLD).The press of the time extolled the culinary goodness of the bathing beasts. The New York Times described how the fatty brisket could be cured into lake cow bacon.

HIPPOS WOULD SOLVE TWO PROBLEMS AT ONCE. Louisiana was clogged up with invasive water hyacinths. The hippos would just chomp on the flowers, clearing the waterways while feeding the hungry masses. It was a win-win. (Well, except for the hippos, who would be barbecued.)

TEDDY ROOSEVELT WAS HYPED ABOUT HIPPOS. The former president met with the hippopreneurs and gave them his personal support. He was reported to give the undertaking his hearty approval and promise of cooperation.

HIPPOS WERE EXPECTED TO END CHICAGO'S MEAT MONOPOLY. A newspaper speculated that, since hippos were too big to be shipped to Chicago, lots of smaller, local slaughterhouses would have to be built. Feeding the populace and boosting regional economies- is there anything hippos can't do?

ENEMIES CAME TOGETHER FOR THE HIPPOS. Two partners in the hippo initiative were South African Fritz Duquesne (left) and American Frederick Russell Burnham (right). They had both served in the Second Boer War in Africa - on opposing sides (and plotting to murder each other).

HIPPOS HAD THEIR OWN LOBBY. Hippo proponents created the New Food Supply Society to pressure Congress to pass the Hippo Bill, so America could feast on delicious, delicious watery steaks. All their efforts, however, turned out to be in vain.

THE HIPPO BILL DIED A LONG, SLOW DEATH. There was never even a vote. The bill languished for years, its supporters constantly telling each other they'd totally get it passed. Then they found other stuff to do, World War I broke out, one of them was hunted down for being a criminal and a German spy... You know, life happening.

THE MEAT SHORTAGE WAS SOLVED WITHOUT HIPPOS.The Department of Agriculture got to work expanding pastures and introducing regular, boring COWS into those. In the end, not a single hippopotamus was ever invited to wade across Louisiana's bayous.

WE WERE SUPPOSED TO GET A MOVIE ABOUT THE HIPPO AFFAIR. It was announced in 2014 that Brett Ratner would be directing a movie, produced by Edward Norton, about America's failed attempt at hippo ranching. As of 2021, though, there has been no further news.
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