10 Weird-but-true Food Facts

How Hippo Nearly Became America's Other Dark Meat
Imagine spying that "lake cow" in the Louisiana bayous. patrisyu/iStock/Thinkstock

The turn of the 20th century was marked by a bold optimism concerning what was possible through science and industry coupled with a willingness to explore the most outlandish options available. Faced with a problem, real or perceived, you could count on someone to offer solutions ranging from the impractical to the morally dubious.

At the time, the U.S faced a serious problem: a booming population and not enough meat with which to feed it. Proposals ranged from introducing antelope to establishing ostrich farms, but probably the most remarkable remedy lay in the proposed use of hippopotamuses as a local meat source. The advantages were several. Hippos would live and feed in areas unfit for traditional cattle, and the so-called "lake cows" (as at least one marketing-savvy editorial called them, even if hippopotamus literally means "river horse" in Greek) would remove a blight from Louisiana's bayous to boot, an invasive water hyacinth that was clogging waterways and knocking off fish [source: Miller].

Despite the support of such luminaries as former President Teddy Roosevelt, the idea eventually gave way to burgeoning industrial farms.

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