The United States’ Hippo Meat Solution

The United States was facing several crises in the early 1900s. First, they were dealing with a major meat shortage as the population boomed due to natural increase and a massive wave of immigration. Ranchers and farmers couldn’t keep up with the demand for meat, and prices were skyrocketing.

The country was also facing an ecological problem in the Southeastern states. An invasive plant species, called water hyacinth, was clogging up rivers and other waterways, especially in Louisiana. These plants were killing fish and putting a dent in the lucrative shipping trade.

wherelionsroam.com

But Representative Robert Broussard had devised a plan that would solve both problems at once. To this end, he introduced the “American Hippo Bill” into Congress in 1910.

If passed, the law would budget $250,000 to bring hippopotamuses to the marshlands and bayous of the Southeast. These hippos would feast on the pesky water hyacinth, thus clearing up the environmental problem. They would also become a much-needed source of meat for the growing country. He even dubbed hippo meat “lake cow bacon,” possibly to make it sound more palatable.

The bill received support from some prominent sources, including former President Theodore Roosevelt. Many newspapers also supported the idea, pointing out that other attempts to import foreign animals as meat sources had been successful. In fact, they said, most of the animals used for meat in the United States were originally imports from Europe.

Pretty soon, though, people began pointing out problems with the proposed legislation. Ranchers did not see how they would be able to get these massive animals to stockyards for butchering and processing. It would not be as simple to load a wild hippo on a cattle car as it was to load a docile cow.

The Department of Agriculture also argued that the marshlands in question would be put to better use if they were converted to pasture for cows and other domestic animals. They also did not think Americans would be too keen on eating hippo meat.

Curiously, though, no one thought to bring up the fact that hippos are dangerous animals. They are one of the deadliest animals in Africa, killing nearly 3,000 people there per year. These animals might also have come to be a worse invasive species than the water hyacinth they were meant to eradicate. With no natural predators, the hippo population could have easily spun out of control. It is possible that they could have destroyed native wildlife populations as well by competing with them for food. If wild food ran out for the hippos, they may have started eating vegetation growing on farms.

Fortunately for America, the bill did not even make it to a vote. Instead, farmers converted acres of previously unusable marshland to pasture, just as the Department of Agriculture suggested. If it weren’t for the practical reasoning of these farmers and agricultural experts, we could be eating hippo burgers and steaks today.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • Insanity and “Lincoln’s Avenger”

    Most Americans know that John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in April 1865, just a few days after the end of the Civil War. There are even many who are aware of the fact that the fugitive Booth was himself killed by Union soldiers a few weeks after the assassination, when he pointed his...

    Read More
  • Dutch Company Wants to Train Crows to Pick Up Cigarette Butts

    Pollution in the form of garbage on city streets is a major problem in cities worldwide. Discarded cigarette butts make up a large portion of this street rubbish as more than 4.5 trillion of them are thrown out every year. These cigarette remains then go on to contaminate the environment with toxic chemicals and carcinogens....

    Read More
  • The Surprising Diet of the Vikings

    The Vikings are well-known for their warlike nature. It is no wonder then that images of a Viking feast often contain large platters of roasted meat and mugs of some strong alcoholic beverage, with little else as an accompaniment besides perhaps some type of bread. You might be astonished to learn, then, that the Viking...

    Read More
  • Whales and Dolphins Have Human-Like Societies

    Whales and dolphins have long been known to be smart animals. Some of these oceanic mammals can communicate with each other using a special language, and some, like bottlenose dolphins, even use simple tools. They are almost human-like in their intelligence at times. And a new study, published in the journal Nature and Ecology, shows...

    Read More
  • What Happened to Bobby Dunbar?

    On August 23, 1912, the Dunbars, a wealthy family from Opelousas, Louisiana, went on a fishing trip to Swayze Lake, also in Louisiana. The small family group consisted of Percy and Lessie Dunbar and their two young children, Alonzo and Bobby. At some point that day, four-year-old Bobby went missing. Volunteers and police searched the...

    Read More
  • The Unlikely Witch of Edinburgh

    From late 17th-century Scotland comes one of the strangest stories of witchcraft to emerge out of that period. Most people who were convicted and executed for the crime of witchcraft had to have their confessions tortured or bullied out of them. But this person’s confession was totally voluntary and completely unexpected. Major Thomas Weir was...

    Read More
  • The First Vending Machine Was Invented 2000 Years Ago

    Vending machines are a part of everyday life for most people. They can be found just about everywhere, from offices to schools to rest stops on the side of the highway. With the vending machines of today dispensing everything from sodas to electronics, one could be forgiven for thinking they are purely a modern invention....

    Read More
  • Origins of Easter Island’s First Inhabitants Remains Mysterious

    Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, is one of the most mysterious places on earth. The tiny, isolated island, with a total area of only 64 square miles and over 1100 miles away from any other inhabited area, is perhaps best-known for its giant statues. These statues, known as moai, are themselves a mystery....

    Read More