Hungry for Hippo?

If hippopotamus was on the menu, would you try it? That’s what America almost did in 1910!

“Will the Meat Trust Force Us to This!” The Spokane Press (Spokane, WA), April 3, 1910.

Corporate beef monopolies, stricter regulations, and meat shortages all combined to create soaring meat prices nationwide.  Senator Robert Broussard proposed a solution: import African animals to the U.S. for meat (61st Cong. 2nd sess. H.R. 23261).

Broussard brought in experts to testify before Congress about the ideal conditions for raising hippopotami in Louisiana—and their taste. “It is a kind of a combination of pork and beef in taste,” Doctor W. N. Irwin stated (Hearings before the Committee on Agriculture during the second session of the Sixty-first Congress, Vol. 3, p. 338). The idea was that hippos could substitute for cattle, eating the hyacinth that polluted the rivers and swamps in the South while being harvested to feed hungry Americans. Other possible animals on the menu included giraffe, antelope, rhinoceros, and camel.

While the experts’ testimony made this hippo hypothesis seem scientifically sound, it caused quite a stir in the press.  Some considered edible hippopotamus practical since “a little of him would go a long way gastronomically,” and many noted that President Teddy Roosevelt himself had been known to have dined on the giant beast. Others felt, however, “We cannot eat things that give us the shudders, no matter what their undisputed food value may be” (“Hippo Steak?The Washington Herald (Washington, DC), April 30, 1910).

Another possible problem? “The only objection to importing the hippopotamus, as I see it,” noted one zoo official, “is the danger that he would overrun the country around.”

I imagine a country overrun with hippos would look something like this:

Cover Details from Left to Right: Walt Disney’s Uncle $crooge Adventures, no. 8 (1988); Jungle Comics, no. 47 (1943); Animaniacs, no. 37 (1998).

Thankfully the South, and our stomachs, were spared this wild existence.

Additional Resources:

Topics in Chronicling America – Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906

Hearings Before the Committee on Agriculture During the Second Session of the Sixty-First Congress, Fulltext from HathiTrust

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