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Hippo ranching in Louisiana, proposed in 1910 by two adversarial spies
June 6, 2014 12:42 PM   Subscribe

The United States is dealing with a booming population and shortage of good rangeland to raise cattle, paired with an increase in foreign demand for beef, resulting in a spike in the cost of meat. Frederick Burnham and Fritz Duquesne, formerly sworn enemies, put aside their grievances to answer the meat question, and an unrelated invasion of the Brazilian Water Hyacinth in one fell swoop with the the introduction of African Hippopotamuses to the bayous of Louisiana.

Frederick Burnham, American scout and world traveling adventurer who was known for his service to the British South Africa Company promoted the idea of hippo ranching in the early 1900s (excerpt), and lake cow bacon got as close to becoming reality as getting support from the House of Representatives' Committee on Agriculture, who wrote up H.R. 23261 to allow the import of wild and domestic animals, with $250,000 set to support this importation (Archive.org online reader)

Ultimately, the bill did not pass, hippos were not imported as food stock. Jon Mooallem, author of American Hippopotamus, posited that if there were email at that time, we might be eating hippo jerky now (This American Life transcript; audio excerpt).

We might not have lake cow bacon, but the short article/story has been optioned as a full-length movie, focusing on "the rivalry of the hippo duo," who each had their orders to assassinate the other, but ended up before Congress to provide expert testimony on the merits of importing African game animals into the United States and to work together to obtain funding support for this concept.
posted by filthy light thief (45 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Lake cow bacon, made from the delicious hyacinth-fed hippopotamus of Louisiana's lily-fringed streams..."

God that's beautiful.
posted by Floydd at 12:48 PM on June 6 [7 favorites]


Or we could, you know, eat less meat?
posted by blue_beetle at 12:50 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


Hippos are dangerous creatures, man.
posted by zarq at 12:54 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


... I think I now know what I want to do when I grow up.
posted by skycrashesdown at 12:57 PM on June 6


Calling it "lake cow", even though hippopotamus means "river horse", seems a bit disingenuously misleading. I assume they were probably looking to avoid any reference to "horsemeat" but a hippo is no more "cow" than it is "horse"; and "lake cow" just sounds way more stupid than "hippo jerky".
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:57 PM on June 6


Coming soon to a theater near you!
posted by whir at 12:57 PM on June 6


Man, that's a lot of quotes
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:58 PM on June 6


So instead of hippos they imported nutria, for the same reason. I mean, I guess that's a good thing. Except nutria.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:04 PM on June 6


The real question is: Is a hippopotamus a hippopotamus, or just a really cool Opotamus?

still miss you Mitch!
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:06 PM on June 6


Or we could, you know, eat less meat?

What are you, some pinko-fascist? A communist and/or communist sympathizer?

Interestingly enough, in my search for anything on the "New Food Supply Society" (which was founded by Burnham, Duquesne and Congressman Robert Broussard of Louisiana,) I came across an article titled END OF MEAT EATING.; Horace Fletcher Says Boycott Marks Beginning of Universal Vegetarianism, from 1910. Sadly, it's a subscriber-only article.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:08 PM on June 6


In some seriousness though, I caught this the other week on TAL, and it's a really interesting story. It is genuinely weird that Americans eat such a small variety of animals - like most people eat what, 3 regularly? I would love to try some hippo.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:09 PM on June 6


mudpuppie: So instead of hippos they imported nutria, for the same reason. I mean, I guess that's a good thing. Except nutria.

Well, if it's an option between hippos and nutria, I take nutria. Hippos are also rather adaptive, as seen in Colombia.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:09 PM on June 6


Also combining this with the imminent whiskey shortage, soon most of us won't be able to afford to be happy even a little bit.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:10 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


so if you were a hippo rancher, would you be a hippoboy or hippogirl? what if there were hippos in the rodeo? would the movie featuring heath ledger and jake gylenhaal have been called Split Island Lake? how about a lake cow burger with cheese? or a hippo steak?
posted by ChuckRamone at 1:10 PM on June 6


Seriously, they can bite a man's head and shoulders right off their body. Scary mf-ers, those hippos.
posted by zarq at 1:13 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


I think I read that Hippos are actually the most dangerous animal in Africa (well other than Homo Sapiens) so passing on the lake cow initiative may have had advantages, but other than gators and crawdads, what good is the bijou?
posted by sammyo at 1:14 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


so if you were a hippo rancher, would you be a hippoboy or hippogirl?

Hipster.
posted by RogerB at 1:16 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


Sounds like someone hasn't seen Mega Python vs Gatoroid
posted by elizardbits at 1:16 PM on June 6


Scary mf-ers, those hippos.

And hungry, hungry. Or so I've heard.
posted by Floydd at 1:18 PM on June 6 [8 favorites]


Pigs can be pretty fucking scary too. Maybe not by themselves, but if you've ever fallen into a pig pen...

Still, we get our bacon.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:19 PM on June 6


And hungry, hungry. Or so I've heard.

It's actually a shame because white marbles are way cheaper than the feed we give cows.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:21 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


http://www.nytimes.com/1865/07/12/news/the-meat-question.html

Just as a sidenote, can I say how much I love this URL? It's such a perfect combination — it's a matter of clear, rationalist good sense in archival indexing, and yet it's also such a surreal juxtaposition of registers and contexts to see a date beginning "1865" in a Web-browser address bar that it keeps throwing me for a loop every time I notice it again.
posted by RogerB at 1:33 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


just some more grist for the old joke mill...

once upon a time in southern louisiana, two general stores, lafite and thibodeau, faced off against each other across a rural, sunbaked bayou highway. these two stores were very similar in almost all respects, same size, design, product lines, signage, parking...but there was one significant difference. lafite was a bustling operation, parking lot frequently full, cash register ringing like a sonofagun all day long. thibodeau, not nearly so much. three or four cars in the lot was about the max it had ever seen.

one day, mr. thibodeau decided to go over to lafite and scope out the operation to see if there was anything he could learn to improve his business. he found mr. lafite to be a friendly, helpful guy. "thibodeau" said mr. lafite, "there's only one rule in retail. push de produck. always push de produck."

at that moment, the little bell over lafite's door rang, and in walked jacques, a local man. "good afternoon jacques" said mr. lafite. "how all is?"

"all is pretty good" replied jacques. "i'm putting in a new lawn and i need some grass seed. do you have grass seed?"

"jacques, we're a general store. of course we have grass seed, about eight different varieties. let me show you."

the three of them went over to the grass seed, and in a couple minutes, jacques made his selection. back at the register, mr. lafite looked at him and said "jacques, what is the state of your hose inventory? do you have enough hose to go from your spigot to where this lawn is going?"

jacques thought about it. "i'm gonna need another 120 feet." they went over to the hoses, and jacques picked up two 60-footers and walked back to the register. mr. lafite looked at him and said "jacques, if you want a nice lawn this year, you're gonna need to fertilize it. we have louisiana's best chicken manure."

jacques nodded and said "that's a fact." whether he was referring to the first part or the second part of mr. lafite's statement was unclear; in any event, the stock boy was swiftly dispatched, and 100 pounds of airdried chickenshit was added to jacques' tab. mr. lafite looked at him and said "hippo fence!"

"hippo fence?"

"yes" said mr. lafite. "you don't put up a hippo fence, hippos gonna get in there and eat up your lawn." jacques subscribed to this proposition. finally back at the register, mr. lafite looked at him and said "jacques, could i possibly interest you in a top of the line, gasoline powered riding mower with all the bells and whistles to go with this order? it's the kind of machine that's basically reserved for a man of your station in society."

jacques nodded. "i've been a good boy this year, i've done my fair share of delayed gratification and self-denial, and i deserve a good riding mower."

mr. lafite ran up his tab, and several thousand dollars later, he was last seen driving away from lafite's loading dock with a gleaming new machine in the back of his full-size pickup. inside the store, mr. lafite turned to mr. thibodeau and said "you see, thibodeau? that's how simple it is. you gotta push de produck!"

mr. thibodeau returned to his own store, deep in thought. a minute later, the bell rang over his door and in walked marie, a local woman. "good afternoon marie" said mr. thibodeau. "how all is?"

"all is not so good mr. thibodeau" said marie. "i'm on my period and i'm all out of tampons. do you carry tampons?"

"marie, we're a general store, of course we carry tampons, let me get you a box." mr. thibodeau walked down an aisle, picked up a box of tampons and returned to the register, and as he was doing so, the mantra was coursing through his brain "push de produck. PUSH DE PRODUCK!" he put the box down on the counter, looked at her and said...

"marie, could i possibly interest you in a top of the line, gasoline powered riding mower, with all the bells and whistles, to go with this order? it's the kind of machine that's basically reserved for a woman of your station in society."

marie looked at him funny. "mr. thibodeau, why on earth would i want a riding mower to go with my tampons?"

"well" replied mr. thibodeau, "since you're obviously in no condition to fool around today, you might as well cut the grass."
posted by bruce at 1:35 PM on June 6 [7 favorites]


Can this movie please star Jon Hamm and Kevin Bacon


HAMM   BACON
in
HUNGRY
HUNGRY
HYPOTHESES

posted by oulipian at 1:37 PM on June 6 [9 favorites]


Don't forget Shia Labeouf.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:40 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


Perhaps New Orleans would be host to stadiums where hippo-matadors flash their red capes and Mardi Gras would be counterweighted on the calendar by The Running of the Hippos.
posted by XMLicious at 2:01 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


armed with a sword and a cape, i would take on a bull. i would take on a horse-sized duck. i would not take on a hippo.
posted by bruce at 2:37 PM on June 6


Armed with one of these, I might consider it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:13 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of interesting material, but I'm just going to highlight this little bit here:
In 1918, Duquesne was convicted of insurance fraud and sentenced to prison. He feigned insanity and paralysis for two years then escaped by climbing over high walls and jumping to freedom.
posted by RobotHero at 3:17 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


Or one of these.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:18 PM on June 6


"lake cow" just sounds way more stupid than "hippo jerky"

swamp beef

c'mon, you know you want some now
posted by hap_hazard at 4:48 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


I for one, am pleased that this venture was a bust. "Lake Cow" my ass!
posted by HappyHippo at 6:33 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


Oh, man, the fucking water Hyacinth.

So instead of hippos they imported nutria, for the same reason.

The nutria were imported by the McIlhenny family as pets. They were only able to take over as an invasive species after a hurricane destroyed their coop.

To their credit, they're good eatin'* and won't kill you.

*Look, I'm Cajun, I've eaten a lot of weird things.
posted by Sara C. at 6:36 PM on June 6


once upon a time in southern louisiana, two general stores, lafite and thibodeau...

Nope. It's Boudreaux and Thibodaux or nothing. Who the fuck is this "Lafite" guy?
posted by Sara C. at 6:38 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


Mega Python vs Gatoroid

Hippo wins, because it's being cute and charming up until it opens a Buick-swallowing maw lined with jagged, razor-edged tusks, and savages you because it thinks savaging you is funny. Gatoroid's teeth aren't long enough to pierce the leather-armored blubber, and Megay Python's coils just bring its flesh within the range of an unforgiving hippo-tusk. It flicks its ear cutely as it blinks its huge, long-lashed brown eyes. It's like what if Ser Gregor was an 8' tall Peter Dinklage. Men would feel an urge to be friends, women would be unaccountably attracted to his honest and sincere OH MY GOD HE JUST CRUSHED THAT DUDE'S HEAD.

That's a hippo.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:04 PM on June 6


sara, i'm aware that it's usually as you say in cajun humor, but this is my version, and it has worked for me for about 40 years.
posted by bruce at 7:04 PM on June 6


The nutria were imported by the McIlhenny family as pets. They were only able to take over as an invasive species after a hurricane destroyed their coop.

I really do think, that if you are responsible for the transfer of invasive species due to either gross negligence or intentional action, government agents should hold you at gunpoint until you've removed ever single last member of the species from the new range.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:08 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


The McIlhenny story is not true.
posted by Bourbonesque at 7:34 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


In 1918, Duquesne was convicted of insurance fraud and sentenced to prison. He feigned insanity and paralysis for two years then escaped by climbing over high walls and jumping to freedom.

Riding a hippo to freedom, I hope.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:26 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


The real story of South American nutria in the American South (and Canadian beavers in Argentina), previously
posted by filthy light thief at 9:26 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


That FPP continues with the McIlhenny claim.

That said, I'm a little skeptical that it's not true. The McIlhenny family claims they got their nutria from elsewhere in Louisiana?

O RLY

The hurricane destroying the nutria pen is a bit gilding the lily, though, I'll admit. That part probably didn't happen exactly like that.
posted by Sara C. at 9:38 PM on June 6


Wait wait wait...whiskey shortage?

Happy to go meat free, but...whiskey free?

Off to the googles....
posted by sio42 at 5:54 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Esquire, Feb. 2014: The Shortage Worth Worrying About: Great Whiskey
There is a real, tragic shortage of whiskey. Not an overhyped, viral shortage.

In short: aged whiskey is now in high demand, and because there is no shortcut to age whiskey 12+ years, demand is outpacing supply with no resolution in sight.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:32 AM on June 7


it's the asian market. first they drank our milkshake and now they're drinking our bourbon.
posted by bruce at 7:29 AM on June 7


Hippo Goes Loose After a Walk in the Park
posted by homunculus at 9:13 PM on June 10


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