Wild & Weird: The Dream of Hippo Ranching in the U.S.

from the Center for Biological Diversitycowboy_on_hippo

In the early 20th century, the United States found itself in a meat shortage. A growing human population, along with the loss or extinction of native game, pushed dreamers and schemers to envision new sources of meat. One such dreamer, a certain Frederick Russell Burnham, came up with the idea of importing hippopotami (along with some other exotic animals) from Africa.

And notables such as President Theodore Roosevelt and the U.S. Congress took the idea seriously. One congressman, Robert Foligny Broussard, went so far as to introduce H.R. 23261, actually known as the Hippo Bill, “to appropriate $250,000 for the importation of useful new animals into the United States.” He believed that, besides introducing “hippo bacon” into the national diet and alleviating the meat crisis, lumbering introduced hippo populations would solve an ecological crisis in his home state of Louisiana by eating up invasive water hyacinth.

Ultimately the plan never got off the ground. Instead, other schemers pressured Congress simply to convert more land to beef-friendly pastures.

Read more about the history of the hippoburgers that might have been in Jon Mooallem’s American Hippopotamus.

Tags: , ,