Louisiana is synonymous with a lot things - like the mighty crawfiish, or the humble gator.  When you think of Voodoo, you think of New Orleans.  When you think of  B-52 Bombers, the best medical facilities in the South, and great looking radio hosts - Shreveport / Bossier City pops up immediately.  In my opinion, Louisiana means great food, great people, and a great place to live.  But at one time it was almost known as the Hippopotamus State.

The tale begins in 1884, when a delegation from Japan brought the citizens of Louisiana a beautiful, but terrible gift.  The water hyacinth.

Wu Xinghai's Day Of Cleaning Lemna Minor
VCG via Getty Images

Thanks Japan.

Although it produced a beautiful flower, in the marshes, wetlands, and waterways of Louisiana - it grew unchecked.  The water hyacinth is what biologists today call an invasive species.  Without a local animal species that relied upon the plant for a food source, the water hyacinth spread far and wide, clogging waterways necessary for trade.  Not only had the plant started to choke out native aquatic plant and animal species, it started to interrupt commerce.  That led Louisiana Congressman Robert Broussard to a brilliant idea in 1910.

The entire country, Louisiana especially, was in the grip of a meat shortage.  With immigration surging to incredible numbers, and populations exploding in the cities - the demand for meat just couldn't be met.  This drove the prices for any kind of meat sky-high.  Mr. Broussard knew that hippos loved them some water hyacinth having observed them chowing down on the aquatic plant in Africa.  He also observed the African locals eating hippo meat.  Light-bulb!  If he could convince America that "Lake Cow Bacon" was delicious - Louisiana could become the hippo ranch-inest place in the world.  The hippos would turn all that stupid water hyacinth into meat, and clear the waterways at the same time.  Then, Louisiana water-ranchers would sell some sweet hippo-steaks to the masses and profit, profit, profit!  Why, with all that swamp land - it was a guaranteed hit!

The bill that "Cousin Bob" proposed would grant a quarter of a million dollars to aid the importation of useful animals (hippos).  This plan had endorsements from some very influential folks, like the New York Times and Teddy Roosevelt.  People legitimately thought is was a great idea to let the one off the most dangerous animals on earth loose in the swamps.  Annually, hippos are responsible for 2,900 deaths in Africa alone. Imagine if these giant river horses with over sized flip-top heads full of huge teeth were waiting to torpedo your boat the next time you pull into your secret fishing spot.

The bill failed to pass by one vote, and America moved on to other meats.  Otherwise, we could be known as the Hippopotamus State.  And, our gumbo would be way different.

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