Warren Buffett Wanted to Kill an Elephant, But Will Settle for a Zebra in His Zoo

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Or maybe a pony? Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Warren Buffett, billionaire, philanthropist ... zookeeper? In his 2010 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, just released yesterday, Buffett compared himself to a big-game hunter on safari when he wrote: "Our elephant gun has been reloaded, and my trigger finger is itchy.” 
Buffett was referring to acquiring big, industrial businesses with near-monopoly positions like his purchase of Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad last year. But on CNBC this morning, Buffett seemed less bullish than he did in the letter, when he wrote:

"The prophets of doom have overlooked the all-important factor that is certain: Human potential is far from exhausted, and the American system for unleashing that potential - a system that has worked wonders for over two centuries despite frequent interruptions for recessions and even a Civil War — remains alive and effective."

Now Buffett is saying the recovery will be more uneven due to the decline in the U.S. employment rate. When Squawk Box's Becky Quick followed up about that elephant, Buffett said it was more like "maybe a zebra, you know," adding, "And I've always got a gleam in my eye, you know. I'm always looking at the girl, but the girl may not be looking at me. I mean, that's my problem," referring to losing a high-profile acquisition a couple days ago.

Buffett also downgraded his safari to more of a menagerie:

You know, as I said, we're looking for elephants. Well, for one thing, there aren't very many elephants out there, and all of the elephants don't want to go in my zoo either, you know. So I have to find an elephant that thinks being in the Omaha zoo is, you know, the greatest thing there is in life, which of course it is.

That's the spirit, old boy!

CNBC Buffett Transcript Part 2: The 'Zebra' That Got Away [CNBC]
Buffett sees uneven recovery, craves big deals [Reuters]
Going on Safari With Warren Buffett [WSJ]