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The Forgotten Plan To Farm Hippos In America - And Why It Was Rejected

If today's political issues ever seem confusing or strange, just remember that in 1910 Congress actually debated bringing hippos to America.

Yes, really.San Diego Zoo

Today Americans know and love hippos for their cute looks, and you've probably seen one in real life at a zoo. But more than 100 years ago there were serious plans to farm and eat hippos here in America.

Illustration of a hippo ranch.mark Summers

As silly as it sounds, there were a few good reasons for the hippo plan: first, there was a serious meat shortage in America, since the country was growing faster than butchers could keep up.

New York's streets in 1910.The Bowery Boys

Hippo meat, or "lake cow bacon" as it was called by the newspapers at the time, is said to be delicious. As one U.S. Department of Agriculture researcher said, the only reason why Americans didn't have hippos already is because "nobody ever told them it was the proper thing to do.”

An illustration from the Asheville Citizen Times, April 3, 1910ThoughtCo.

Second, the Mississipi River was so full of hyacinth flowers - an invasive species - that boats couldn't travel on it anymore. The plan was to move the hungry, hungry hippos into the river and let them gobble up all the flowers.

It seems like a clever way to solve 2 problems at once, but the hippo plan didn't stop there...

Find out what else was included on the next page!

Along with hippos, the New Food Supply Society (a lobbying group for importing exotic animals) had even bigger plans for the country.

An ostrich egg, compared with a chicken egg.Quora

They proposed adding ostrich eggs to America's diet, since a whole family could make breakfast out of just one. Antelopes were also planned to be brought over, to live on the scrubby plains of the American South-West.

President Theodore Roosevelt.Velominati

Even President Theodore Roosevelt backed the plan, and in 1910 Louisiana Congressman Robert F. Broussard introduced what would be called the "Hippo Bill," asking for funding to import the huge animals.

In the end the cost and the complications of the project killed the bill, and Americans solved the meat crisis by making farms larger and more industrial.

The hippo plan involved farming on unused land, instead America has doubled-down on quantity.Farm Sanctuary

To this day the hyacinth problem hasn't been fixed. The invasive plants are still growing, and the state of Louisiana spends millions on pesticides to keep them under control.

We can only wonder what an America with hippo meat on sale at the grocery store would look like, but as you've learned it wasn't such a bad idea.

Share this unbelievable but true story with someone you know!

[H/T: Atavist, Wired]

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