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Sunday, 21 July 2013

Buffalo (or Bison)

Bison or buffalo are large, even-toed mammals. "Bison" is a Greek word meaning ox-like animal, while "buffalo" originated with the French fur trappers who called these massive beasts bÅ“ufs, meaning ox or bullock—so both names, "bison" and "buffalo", have a similar meaning.

By 10,000BC the mammoth was beginning to die out in North America and the buffako took its place as a principal source of food and hides.

The buffalo formed the mainstay of the economy of the Native Indians, providing them with meat for food, hides and fur for clothing and shelter, and sinew and horn for tools.

After a successful buffalo hunt a Native American adult might consume as much as 4 lb of buffalo meat a day.

The Indians' hunting activities had little impact on the buffalo population, but with the westward movement of white civilization in the 18th and 19th centuries, the bison were wantonly slaughtered in ever-growing numbers.


In the days of pioneer travel great buffalo herds, wading streams, sometimes halted a boat in midstream or, moving over the prairies, blocked and occasionally even derailed a train.

The westward-moving pioneers and railroad workers wantonly killed the huge animals by the thousands for food. Only the choicest pieces of the slaughtered buffalo, the hump and tongues, were cut out of the carcasses.

The near-extinction bison hunting in the 1800s was not only to gain food. The pioneers also wanted to restrict the American Indians' dominant food supply; herds were shot from trains and left to rot where they died.

By 1870s, the buffalo had been decimated east of the Mississippi River thus removing a major source of meat. The extension of railroads across the Great Plains had led to the destruction of the huge herds that foraged on the vast grasslands there.

One hunter, William F. Cody who was nicknamed "Buffalo Bill", killed 4,280 animals in 17 months while supplying buffalo meat for railroad construction crews.

The first buffalo ever born in captivity was born at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo in 1884.

The Buffalo Protection Act of 1894 was one of the earliest official recognitions of an endangered species problem in the United States. By the late 1880s fewer than a thousand bison were left on the continent, two thirds of them in Canada.  The law to protect the few remaining in Yellowstone National Park was the first federal legislation that focused on conserving a once-vast wildlife resource.

President Obama signed into law on May 9, 2016 the National Bison Legacy Act, which designated the bison as the official mammal of the United States.

Bison and wisent are the largest terrestrial animals in North America and Europe.

The Yellowstone Park bison herd (approx. 5,500) is descended from a remnant population of 23 individual bison that survived a mass slaughter in the 19th century by hiding out in the Pelican Valley of Yellowstone Park.

Today there are 350,000 bison in America.


Male bison live apart and only enter the female herds during mating season, when the males fight over access to females.

A buffalo can jump 6 feet.

Buffalo milk contains 25 per cent more protein than cow's milk.

Source Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc

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