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The Crazy, Ingenious Plan to Bring Hippopotamus Ranching to America

•, By Greg Miller
 Hippos imported from Africa and raised in the bayous of Louisiana, proponents argued, would provide a delicious new source of protein for a meat-hungry nation. In the process, the animals would gobble up the invasive water hyacinth that was killing fish and choking off waterways. It would be an epic win-win. A bill was introduced in Congress, and newspaper editorials extolled the culinary virtues of “lake cow bacon.”

This week in The Atavist, writer (and WIRED’s Mr. Know-It-All columnist) Jon Mooallem describes the hippo ranching scheme and the story of two fascinating men behind it: one a modest frontiersman and soldier of fortune, the other a self-aggrandizing con man. Both were spies. Each was sworn to kill the other. But the great cause of hippo ranching brought them together.

 Mooallem spoke with WIRED about this odd episode in American history and the future that might have been. An excerpt follows.

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