The circus has come to town in Las Cruces. It is the Do Portugal Circus, which I understand is based in Mexico and travels around to smaller markets in the United States. It will be here for about a week and one-half.
The large purple and white tent started setting up two weeks ago in the parking lot of our local mall — the most exciting thing to happen there in about 10 years.
There was a really funny comment about this on our neighborhood social media link, which we do not contribute to but occasionally check out for really dumb comments. In this post, we were not disappointed. The person was convinced the erection of the enormous purple and white tent tent was actually going to be some kind of new fast food outlet. A “Biscuits and Butter” franchise, they speculated.
We had a couple of friends who tried to attend the circus with their three year old, but had to leave because it was so loud for him.
The circus website, which was pretty thin in information, said there would be fantastic aerial displays and other human performances, but no animal acts.
Which brings me to my topic.
When I was growing up in Ruidoso, we had a visiting circus stop by for a one-night performance. It was a big deal for a small town (maybe 1,500 hardy souls at that time) and everyone was planning to turn out as they set up the tents in what is the Gateway park on the southeast side of the city along Sudderth Drive.
The big draw for the circus — and I am not making this up — was the chance to view a “blood sweating hippopotamus.” I mean seriously, who could miss a chance to see something this weird.
The day before the one-day show, I came down with a bad cold or the flu. It was the middle of the winter, and at that time, temperatures got really cold during January and February. It was clearly not a good time to be out and about with a body temperature of more than 100 degrees. My parents, knowing that I would not want to miss the event of the year in Ruidoso, asked our family doctor if he thought it would be okay if I went to the circus — especially to see the blood seating hippo. Knowing the importance of this kind of thing to a kid and the odds that I would recover (and hopefully not infect too many others) he reluctantly said I could go.
I don’t remember much of the circus acts but I do remember staring at the poor hippopotamus in its red and gold trimmed cage. It was obviously bored and feeling the sting of the cold weather. Its cage smelled like wet straw and hippopotamus poop, although my cold or flu blunted the full olfactory experience.
I did not see it sweating blood, however. That was a major disappointment.
On researching the internet, I found that hippos do in fact look like they are sweating blood. It is kind of a pinkish secretion when they are exposed to very hot temperatures — which I can confirm were not around in mid-winter Ruidoso.
According to an obscure Japanese animal researcher named Professor Hashimoto, he and his colleagues collected samples of a hippo’s sweat and examined it to see what makes it so reddish colored. They found it is made up of two pigments – one red, called “hipposudoric acid”; and the other orange, called “norhipposudoric acid.” With my high fever, I probably had a better chance of sweating blood that day than did the poor hippo.
So there you have it. And if you really want a hippo for Christmas, don’t expect it to sweat blood, unless maybe you are in Florida or Australia.