hippopotamus is a large, aggressive herbivore indigenous to equatorial
Africa. Oh, and Hutto,
Of course, the sub-species Lone Star hippo exists only as the mascot
for Hutto High School. In recent years, as Hutto's
proximity to Austin has
caused it to boom, Hippos have been showing up painted on walls or
in statuary form as public art. So, other than the happy alliteration,
and hippo beginning with an "h" and each containing four other letters,
how did Hutto
and hippo become connected?
mayor and retired state worker Mike Fowler, in a brief article posted
on the Williamson County Historical Commission's web site, says Hutto's
identification with hippos dates to 1915. That year, legend holds,
when a circus train stopped at the International & Great Northern
depot in Hutto,
the troupe's animal keepers tended to their various exotic creatures.
They needed to be fed and watered.
Somehow, the story continues, a hippo escaped. Being a riverine creature
by nature, the 2,000 to 3,000 pound, big-bellied, short-legged animal
headed for the nearest body of water, which was Cottonwood Creek.
To the delight of local residents, from school kids to farmers to
merchants, circus personnel had quite a time getting the wayward hippo
out of the muddy water and back on the train. The show had to go on
and so did the hippo.
While the large African mammal remained at large, the Hutto
depot agent is said to have wired the nearby depots at Round
Rock and Taylor
an urgent message on the order of: "Stop Trains. Hippo Loose In Hutto."
If all that happened, it didn't make much of a splash in the newspapers.
A check of a large digitized newspaper web site reveals only two instances
where the word "hippopotamus" appeared in Texas newspapers in 1915.
Neither mentions anything about an escaped hippo causing a sensation
in and around Hutto.
(To be fair, the website does not contain the back issues of every
On April 10 that year, the El Paso Herald carried a long page-one
story on the Belgium Congo (then an African colony a fourth the size
of all Europe). Well into the article, the author noted that the "list
of native animals includes elephants, the hippopotamus, buffalo, antelope,
chimpanzee, rhinoceros and crocodile."
The second hippoppearance came in the June 12, 1915 edition of the
Houston Post. That Sunday's issue of the Bayou City newspaper
featured a line drawing of a wide-mouthed hippo, beneath which appeared
a poem by some anonymous rhymer:
| "This is the
His name is much too long for us.
He has a big ungainly frame
About as awkward as his name.
He would not win a prize, I know
At any sort of beauty show.
In fact his virtues are so few
I cannot mention one to you."
| Well, not so
in Hutto, where
hippo and Hutto
practically have become synonyms. Exactly when that happened apparently
went unrecorded, but at some point not too long after the purported
hippo incident, the Hutto
school decided the hippopotamus would make a fine mascot. By 1923,
Fowler notes in his article, an image of a hippo was printed on the
Naturally, some theorists who all loyal Hutto
residents doubtless view as hippo-crites have advanced other stories
about the town's toothy, big mouthed icon. Both of the "alternative
fact" stories are based on football, which has been a huge part of
well before its school could field more than a six-man team.
One of the stories has the coach of a visiting team declaring the
players of Swedish or German descent were "big as hippos." The other
story, which seems much less likely, is that the Hutto
team could not afford fancy jerseys so instead used feed sacks for
their uniforms. Again, the coach of a team in town to face the Hutton
six is said to have declared that they looked like hippos in their
and hippo became linked, as Fowler writes, Hutto
is "the only school district and the only community in the United
States to have the hippo as its primary identifier."
Doubtless with all due apology to George and Ira Gershwin and their
famous "You say tomato, I say tomhato..." song line, the Hutto
cheerleaders regularly rally the crowd at Hutto High sporting events
with this cheer: "You say Hutto, we say hippo."
"Texas Tales" April
6, 2017 column
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