Three Bizarre Historical Facts You Never Learned in School

The following historical facts were never read in history books or taught in schools. Nevertheless, they did happen and belong somewhere in the phrase: “what the hell were they thinking?

The American Hippo Bill is a little-known historical fact

This odd episode in American history occurred during a meat crisis in 1910. The United States Congress devised a bold and unprecedented plan to introduce hippopotamus ranching to the southern wetlands of Louisiana. They believed this legislation would solve two problems simultaneously; one, the national meat shortage, and two, the growing ecological crisis caused by the invasive water hyacinth that was killing fish and choking off waterways. They believed this plan would serve as a food source for the hippos that in turn could provide what was dubbed: “lake cow bacon.”

This was one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time. Harnessing swamps and bayous that weren’t at all productive for grazing cattle was an interesting and seemingly ecologically sound project. But it didn’t pass and the idea of hippo ranching soon slipped into oblivion.

Three Bizarre Historical Facts You Never Learned in School
Historical Images

An historical fact about one pope whose corpse was put on trial

The Cadaver Synod marked the beginning of one of the most corrupt eras in the history of the papacy. It all happened in Rome in January of 897 at the Basilica San Giovanni Laterano. Pope Stephen VI, who hated the pope who had ruled before him, put the rotting corpse of Pope Formosus, who had also been the bishop of Porto, on trial. He dragged the corpse out, dressed it in papal robes and propped it against a chair in the basilica. A church deacon spoke for him, but as a dead pope, Formosus didn’t have much to say. He was found guilty, stripped of his papal robes and had the three fingers he used for blessing on his right hand chopped off.

Pope Stephen IV buried Formosus in a pauper’s grave, but then changed his mind, dug him up and threw his remains in the Tiber River. The people of Rome were quite fed up with Pope Stephen, who despite his papal robes was a pulsating lunatic. He was thrown into jail where someone later strangled him in his cell.

Operation Kuwaiti Field Chicken (KFC)

No Kentucky Fried chicken here. More than a century ago, it was not uncommon to use birds as detectors of poison and poison gases. Their delicate lungs reveal signs of respiratory distress long before a human will even sense danger. Canaries particularly, were alarm systems for mine workers, warning them of exposed trapped gas or other life-threatening pollutants.

Three Bizarre Historical Facts You Never Learned in School  Three Bizarre Historical Facts You Never Learned in School
Chickens in Gulf War

Using this same sort of logic, the United States Marine Corps launched Operation Kuwaiti Field Chicken and “Poultry Chemical Confirmation Devices” in which chickens served as sitting ducks, so to speak, in both Gulf Wars. In the first one, the chickens became sentinels outside camps. One morning, when some soldiers emerged from their tents, they saw all of the chickens lying dead on the ground. No poisonous gasses within smell range or sight; the chickens had frozen to death from the cold. They became the evening’s dinner, so not all was lost.

During the Second Gulf War, they tried again with the chickens. In the first year of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the US military bought 43 chickens that rode in lookout cages on top of military vehicles. The poor birds died in transport and the idea could not be tested. The birds were buried respectfully, complete with wooden tombstones bearing their names: Captain Popeye, PFC King, Lance Cpl. Pecker, and the grave of The Unknown Chicken.

What the hell were all these people thinking?

Who can say?

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