I love street art!
For many years I enjoyed seeking out the murals created during Sacramento’s annual Wide Open Walls festival. (Click here to read my post from March 30, 2018)
I recently moved to central Texas, about 24 miles northeast of Austin.
While I am aware that the capitol city boasts many murals, I am delighted to find unique and whimsical art right here in my new home town, Hutto, Texas!
The Legend of the Hutto Hippo
In a July 2022 article published in in the East Wilco Insider, writer Fernando Castro shares the legend of the original Hutto Hippo.
In 1915, a circus train reportedly pulled into the Hutto depot. According to legend, a hippopotamus escaped from a railcar and went for a dip in Cottonwood Creek next to the rail line. The other name for a hippo is, of course, river horse.
Circus workers tried to coax the animal from the creek and return it to the train as nearby farmers and merchants watched in hilarity. Meanwhile the depot agent telegraphed [nearby towns] Taylor and Round Rock with a message to “Stop trains; hippo loose in Hutto.”
Whether or not this tale is true, the schools, businesses and residents of Hutto have embraced the hippo as their town mascot.
I recently spoke with “Hippo Mayor” Mike Fowler, local historian and author, retired State of Texas employee, and former Councilman and Hutto City Mayor.
In his article “The Hippo Legacy in Hutto and Our World,” Mr. Fowler writes extensively about the history of the Hutto Hippo, with an eye toward promoting the hippo branding for the community.
I think his branding efforts have been very successful! Statues of hippos, large and small, adorn residential lawns.
Business logos and other identifiers are painted on hippos greeting customers.
Mr. Fowler was one of the founders of the “Hippos Unlimited” 501(c)3 non-profit organization (now disbanded), whose primary purpose was “to advertise and promote the Hutto community in a positive manner through the use of its primary identifier, the hippopotamus.”
Here are just a few of the many accomplishments of Hippos Unlimited:
- Promoted hippos everywhere in the community;
- Brought in over a thousand concrete hippos, of various sizes, which are now sold by the Hutto Chamber of Commerce and seen throughout the community;
- Donated 16 large concrete hippos to the Hutto Independent School District, and 10 large concrete hippos to the City of Hutto;
- Co-sponsored (along with “Everything Hippo,” a brick and mortar hippo store) a 2008 Hippo Calendar, the proceeds of which benefited the Hutto Independent School District’s band program;
- Acquired the hippomobile, “Harmony,” which was used in parades, and area and community events.
“Harmony” has since been repainted, renamed “Hermes” after an ancient Greek deity (who is also considered a protector of travelers), and is privately owned locally.
As Mr. Fowler says, “Just looking around our community today, it is really hard not to smile at our many unique hippos and the great pride that we take in them.”
(All photos by Jeri Murphy Photography)