Friday, October 8, 2010

(continued from above post)
Buffalo Nickel Minted from 1913 to 1938
In 1886 the Smithsonian Institute sent an exhibition out to collect specimens for the U.S. National Museum. After a lengthy search twenty-five head were killed in Montana. The following year The American Museum of Natural History, perhaps not wanting to be one-upped by the Smithsonian, sent out their own expedition in search of buffalo. After searching for three months they found none!
According to William T. Hornaday, Chief Taxidermist of the National Museum, there were 85 free ranging buffalo left in 1889, 200 in the federal herd at Yellowstone National Park, 550 at Great Slave Lake in Canada, and 256 in zoos and private herds.

Poachers shot two bulls, a cow, and a calf near Lost Park, Colorado in 1897. These were the last known wild buffalo in America.

Forty Thousand Buffalo Hides in the Corral of Wright & Rath, Dodge City, Kansas
The naturalist, Baynes, captured several buffalo calves from the Corbin Herd. He selected two of them to train as oxen. He named them Tomahawk and War Whoop. In reading his book by the same name anyone who has trained calves to the yoke can appreciate his experiences. ( War Whoop And Tomahawk: The Story Of Two Buffalo Calves) After a series of mishaps he did achieve some success. He began showing the ox team at county fairs and at larger expositions. He didn’t stop there. He wrote numerous letters and over forty magazine and newspaper articles concerning the plight of the buffalo. He gave exhibitions of buffalo robes and artifacts, and free lectures. One letter got the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt. I am much impressed by your letter, Roosevelt wrote back, and I agree with everything you say.
Baynes then founded the American Bison Society. William T. Hornaday from the National Museum became the society’s president, and Teddy Roosevelt its honorary president. Of his team of buffalo-oxen Baynes wrote, They raised so much enthusiasm that the money collected put the Society on its feet. They had shown not only what they could do but what every buffalo could do, and if there is ever a contest of the strength of the buffalo and the [domestic] ox, weight for weight, I think I know what the result will be.

Crated Buffalo Moving West by Wagon Train
In just three years the first federal buffalo range was established (on land previously designated as Indian reservation). Another federal buffalo range was begun in Montana. Buffalo were shipped west from captive herds in the eastern states. Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota got fourteen head of buffalo from the New York Zoo in 1913.

A buffalo count in 1929 estimated there were 3,385 head in the country. The American Bison Society felt their goal had been accomplished and a year later they voted to disband.

War Whoop and Tomahawk were quietly returned to the Corbin Herd at two-and-a-half years of age. It is believed that with their increased  size and strength they had become impossible to handle. The job they had done was a more important one than proving their worthiness as oxen. They had helped raise awareness of the plight of their species

A few white buffalo calves have been born over the years, causing no small stir amongst Native American tribes. But the numberless-numbers of brown buffalo, undulating across the western landscape, appear to be gone forever. Gone too, are the sustenance and lifestyle of the hunters who once hunted them. But thanks in part to War Whoop and Tomahawk, the population of buffalo is currently being managed at a sustainable level of about 500,000 --- allowing for the harvest of lean, healthy, buffalo meat.

The Time of the Buffalo

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