The Extermination of the American Bison Part 12

Since the acquisition of this northern herd and the subsequent press comment that it has evoked, Mr. Jones has been almost overwhelmed with letters of inquiry in regard to the whole subject of buffalo breeding, and has found it necessary to print and distribute a circular giving answers to the many inquiries that have been made.

_Herd of Mr. Charles Allard, Flathead Indian Reservation, Montana._--This herd was visited in the autumn of 1888 by Mr. G. O.

Shields, of Chicago, who reports that it consists of thirty-five head of pure-blood buffaloes, of which seven are calves of 1888, six are yearlings, and six are two-year olds. Of the adult animals, four cows and two bulls are each fourteen years old, "and the beards of the bulls almost sweep the ground as they walk."

_Herd of Hon. W. F. Cody ("Buffalo Bill")._--The celebrated "Wild West Show" has, ever since its organization, numbered amongst its leading attractions a herd of live buffaloes of all ages. At present this herd contains eighteen head, of which fourteen were originally purchased of Mr. H. T. Groome, of Wichita, Kansas, and have made a journey to London and back. As a proof of the indomitable persistence of the bison in breeding under most unfavorable circumstances, the fact that four of the members of this herd are calves which were born in 1888 in London, at the American Exposition, is of considerable interest.

This herd is now (December, 1888) being wintered on General Beale's farm, near the city of Washington. In 1886-'87, while the Wild West Show was at Madison Square Garden, New York City, its entire herd of twenty buffaloes was carried off by pleuro-pneumonia. It is to be greatly feared that sooner or later in the course of its travels the present herd will also disappear, either through disease or accident.

_Herd of Mr. Charles Goodnight, Clarendon, Texas._--Mr. Goodnight writes that he has "been breeding buffaloes in a small way for the past ten years," but without giving any particular attention to it. At present his herd consists of thirteen head, of which two are three-year old bulls and four are calves. There are seven cows of all ages, one of which is a half-breed.

_Herd at the Zoological Society's Gardens, Philadelphia, Arthur E.

Brown, superintendent._--This institution is the fortunate possessor of a small herd of ten buffaloes, of which four are males and six females.

Two are calves of 1877. In 1886 the Gardens sold an adult bull and cow to Hon. W. F. Cody for $300.

_Herd at Bismarck Grove, Kansas, owned by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Company._--A small herd of buffaloes has for several years past been kept at Bismarck Grove as an attraction to visitors. At present it contains ten head, one of which is a very large bull, another in a four-year-old bull, six are cows of various ages, and two are two-year olds. In 1885 a large bull belonging to this herd grew so vicious and dangerous that it was necessary to kill him.

The following interesting account of this herd was published in the Kansas City Times of December 8, 1888:

"Thirteen years ago Colonel Stanton purchased a buffalo bull calf for $8 and two heifers for $25. The descendants of these three buffaloes now found at Bismarck Grove, where all were born, number in all ten. There were seventeen, but the rest have died, with the exception of one, which was given away. They are kept in an inclosure containing about 30 acres immediately adjoining the park, and there may be seen at any time. The sight is one well worth a trip and the slight expense that may attach to it, especially to one who has never seen the American bison in his native state.

"The present herd includes two fine bull calves dropped last spring, two heifers, five cows, and a bull six years old and as handsome as a picture. The latter has been named Cleveland, after the colonel's favorite Presidential candidate. The entire herd is in as fine condition as any beef cattle, though they were never fed anything but hay and are never given any shelter. In fact they don't take kindly to shelter, and whether a blizzard is blowing, with the mercury 20 degrees below zero, or the sun pouring down his scorching rays, with the thermometer 110 degrees above, they set their heads resolutely toward storm or sun and take their medicine as if they liked it. Hon. W. F. Cody, "Buffalo Bill," tried to buy the whole herd two years ago to take to Europe with his Wild West Show, but they were not for sale at his own figures, and, indeed, there is no anxiety to dispose of them at any figures. The railroad company has been glad to furnish them pasturage for the sake of adding to the attractions of the park, in which there are also forty-three head of deer, including two as fine bucks as ever trotted over the national deer trail toward the salt-licks in northern Utah.

"While the bison at Bismark Grove are splendid specimens of their class, "Cleveland" is decidedly the pride of the herd, and as grand a creature as ever trod the soil of Kansas on four legs. He is just six years old and is a perfect specimen of the kings of the plains. There is royal blood in his veins, and his coat is finer than the imperial purple. It is not possible to get at him to measure his stature and weight. He must weigh fully 3,000 pounds, and it is doubtful if there is to-day living on the face of the earth a handsomer buffalo bull than he. "Cleveland's"

disposition is not so ugly as old Barney's was, but at certain seasons he is very wild, and there is no one venturesome enough to go into the inclosure. It is then not altogether safe to even look over the high and heavy board fence at him, for he is likely to make a run for the visitor, as the numerous holes in the fence where he has knocked off the boards will testify."

_Herd of Mr. Frederick Dupree, Cheyenne Indian Agency, near Fort Bennett, Dakota._--This herd contains at present nine pure-blood buffaloes, five of which are cows and seven mixed bloods. Of the former, there are two adult bulls and four adult cows. Of the mixed blood animals, six are half-breeds and one a quarter-breed buffalo.

Mr. Dupree obtained the nucleus of his herd in 1882, at which time he captured five wild calves about 100 miles west of Fort Bennett. Of these, two died after two months of captivity and a third was killed by an Indian in 1885.

Mr. D. F. Carlin, of the Indian service, at Fort Bennett, has kindly furnished me the following information respecting this herd, under date of November 1, 1888:

"The animals composing this herd are all in fine condition and are quite tame. They keep by themselves most of the time, except the oldest bull (six years old), who seems to appreciate the company of domestic cattle more than that of his own family. Mr. Dupree has kept one half-breed bull as an experiment; he thinks it will produce a hardy class of cattle. His half-breeds are all black, with one exception, and that is a roan; but they are all built like the buffalo, and when young they grunt more like a hog than like a calf, the same as a full-blood buffalo.

"Mr. Dupree has never lost a [domestic] cow in giving birth to a half-breed calf, as was supposed by many people would be the case. There have been no sales from this herd, although the owner has a standing offer of $650 for a cow and bull. The cows are not for sale at any price."

_Herd at Lincoln Park, Chicago, Mr. W. P. Walker, superintendent._--This very interesting and handsomely-kept herd is composed of seven individuals of the following character: One bull eight years old, one bull four years old, two cows eight years old, two cows two years old in the spring of 1888, and one female calf born in the spring of 1888.

_Zoological Gardens, Cincinnati, Ohio._--This collection contains four bison, an adult bull and cow, and one immature specimen.

_Dr. V. T. McGillicuddy, Rapid City, Dakota_, has a herd of four pure buffaloes and one half-breed. Of the former, the two adults, a bull and cow seven years old, were caught by Sioux Indians near the Black Hills for the owner in the spring of 1882. The Indians drove two milch cows to the range to nourish the calves when caught. These have produced two calves, one of which, a bull, is now three years old, and the other is a yearling heifer.

_Central Park Menagerie, New York, Dr. W. A. Conklin, director._--This much-visited collection contains four bison, an adult bull and cow, a two-year-old calf, and a yearling.

_Mr. John H. Starin, Glen Inland, near New York City._--There are four buffaloes at this summer resort.

_The U. S. National Museum, Washington, District of Columbia._--The collection of the department of living animals at this institution contains two fine young buffaloes; a bull four years old in July, 1888, and a cow three years old in May of the same year. These animals were captured in western Nebraska, when they were calves, by H. R. Jackett, of Ogalalla, and kept by him on his ranch until 1885. In April, 1888, Hon. Eugene G. Blackford, of New York, purchased them of Mr. Frederick D. Nowell, of North Platte, Nebraska, for $100 for the pair, and presented them to the National Museum, in the hope that they might form the nucleus of a herd to be owned and exhibited by the United States Government in or near the city of Washington. The two animals were received in Ogalalla by Mr. Joseph Palmer, of the National Museum, and by him they were brought on to Washington in May, in fine condition.

Since their arrival they have been exhibited to the public in a temporary inclosure on the Smithsonian Grounds, and have attracted much attention.

_Mr. B. C. Winston, of Hamline, Minnesota_, owns a pair of buffaloes, one of which, a young bull, was caught by him in western Dakota in the spring of 1886, soon after its birth. The cow was purchased at Rosseau, Dakota Territory, a year later, for $225.

_Mr. I. P. Butler, of Colorado, Texas_, is the owner of a young bull buffalo and a half-breed calf.

_Mr. Jesse Huston, of Miles City, Montana_, owns a fine five-year-old bull buffalo.

_Mr. L. F. Gardner, of Bellwood, Oregon_, is the owner of a large adult bull.

_The Riverside Ranch Company, south of Mandan, Dakota_, owns a pair of full-blood buffaloes.

_In Dakota_, in the hands of parties unknown, there are four full-blood buffaloes.

_Mr. James R. Hitch, of Optima, Indian Territory_, has a pair of young buffaloes, which he has offered for sale for $750.

_Mr. Joseph A. Hudson, of Estell, Nebraska_, owns a three-year-old bull buffalo, which is for sale.

In other countries there are live specimens of _Bison americanus_ reported as follows: two at Belleview Gardens, Manchester, England; one at the Zoological Gardens, London; one at Liverpool, England (purchased of Hon. W. F. Cody in 1888); two at the Zoological Gardens, Dresden; one at the Zoological Gardens, Calcutta.

+--------------------------------------------------+ _Statistics of full-blood buffaloes in captivity January 1, 1889._ +---------------------------------------------+----+ Number kept for breeding purposes 216 Number kept for exhibition 40 --- Total pure-blood buffaloes in captivity 256 Wild buffaloes under Government protection in the Yellowstone Park 200 Number of mixed-breed buffalo-domestics 40 +--------------------------------------------------+

There are, without doubt, a few half-breeds in Manitoba of which I have no account. It is probable there are also a very few more captive buffaloes scattered singly here and there which will be heard of later, but the total will be a very small number, I am sure.



The causes which led to the practical extinction (in a wild state, at least) of the most economically valuable wild animal that ever inhabited the American continent, are by no means obscure. It is well that we should know precisely what they were, and by the sad fate of the buffalo be warned in time against allowing similar causes to produce the same results with our elk, antelope, deer, moose, caribou, mountain sheep, mountain goat, walrus, and other animals. It will be doubly deplorable if the remorseless slaughter we have witnessed during the last twenty years carries with it no lessons for the future. A continuation of the record we have lately made as wholesale game butchers will justify posterity in dating us back with the mound-builders and cave-dwellers, when man's only known function was to slay and eat.

The primary cause of the buffalo's extermination, and the one which embraced all others, was the descent of civilization, with all its elements of destructiveness, upon the whole of the country inhabited by that animal. From the Great Slave Lake to the Rio Grande the home of the buffalo was everywhere overrun by the man with a gun; and, as has ever been the case, the wild creatures were gradually swept away, the largest and most conspicuous forms being the first to go.

The secondary causes of the extermination of the buffalo may be catalogued as follows:

(1) Man's reckless greed, his wanton destructiveness, and improvidence in not husbanding such resources as come to him from the hand of nature ready made.

(2) The total and utterly inexcusable absence of protective measures and agencies on the part of the National Government and of the West States and Territories.

(3) The fatal preference on the part of hunters generally, both white and red, for the robe and flesh of the cow over that furnished by the bull.

(4) The phenomenal stupidity of the animals themselves, and their indifference to man.

(5) The perfection of modern breech-loading rifles and other sporting fire-arms in general.

Each of these causes acted against the buffalo with its fall force, to offset which there was _not even one_ restraining or preserving influence, and it is not to be wondered at that the species went down before them. Had any one of these conditions been eliminated the result would have been reached far less quickly. Had the buffalo, for example, possessed one-half the fighting qualities of the grizzly bear he would have fared very differently, but his inoffensiveness and lack of courage almost leads one to doubt the wisdom of the economy of nature so far as it relates to him.

Chapter end

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