Ahoy there me mateys! So apparently there was a meat shortage in the United States in 1910, so this dude Robert F. Broussard introduced what was known as the “Hippo Bill” or H.R. 23261 to Congress. In it, he proposed to import hippos from Africa and let them loose in Louisiana! These hippos would eat the hyacinth that polluted the swamps and in turn be eaten by the American meat-loving people. Anyone fancy a hippo steak?
Now obviously this did not happen. At least I never saw hippos running around during my time in the South. But the great thing is that this author took the idea of hippos in Louisiana and wrote two novellas in a alternate American timeline of the 1890s about what could have been. And what could have been is this:
Yes me hearties, cowboys riding hippos! Or hoppers as they are known. The first novella follows hopper Winslow Remington Houndstooth as he goes on adventures with fellow mercenary hippo wrangers while on his river horse, Ruby. I don’t want to get into the plot because this is one ye must enjoy for yerself. How much did I love it? I finished and immediately paid for and read the sequel. I want more!!! So instead of spoiling the plot, I will give ye five fun interestin’ hippo facts:
- the word hippopotamus is from the 1560s, from Latin, from Greek hippopotamos river horse, from hippos horse + potamos river (source)
- “A group of hippos in known as a ‘herd’, ‘pod’, ‘dale’ or ‘bloat’” (source) or school or sieges (source). I love bloat. Hardy har har!
- Hippos cannot float or swim! (source). They walk on the river bottom.
- The “average female [hippo] weighs around 3,000 lbs. (1,400 kilograms) while males weigh 3,500 to 9,920 lbs. (1,600 to 4,500 kg).” (source)
- The Library of Congress has an awesome site where ye can read actual articles from the newspapers from 1910 about the “Hippo Bill.” I had to do a happy hippo dance! No I am sadly not joking.
Hippos are awesome. These novella’s are awesome. I suggest ye get them now. Or if ye can wait a little bit, both novellas will be published in a single volume called “American Hippo” in May of 2018. I am glad I didn’t wait.
Side note: The author’s Foreword recommended reading more about hippo ranching in Jon Mooallem’s article “American Hippopotamus” in the Atavist Magazine. I gladly did. I included the link for ye lazy scoundrels.
Goodreads has this to say about the first novella:
In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.
Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.
This was a terrible plan.
Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.
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