Know What You're Dealing With.
that there were perhaps #30to60million
American bison, also known as the American #buffalo
, roaming the American plains in the mid-19th century. By the 1880s, a few hundred wild bison living in Yellowstone Park were among the last that remained. While exact numbers remain elusive, at least tens of millions of bison were certainly #exterminated
byhunters during the course of America’s #westwardexpansion
in the 19th century.
An Extraordinary Food Supply
Bison were the #perfectfoodsupply
for the American Indians, providing them with almost everything they needed. Bison weigh up to 2,000 pounds, could be almost a dozen feet in length, stand up to six feet tall and live for 25 years. Their humps provided protein-rich #meat
; their hides, horns, hooves and sinews gave Indians clothing, drinking vessels, rope and bowstrings. #BeforeEuropeans
came to America, there was little threat to the bison population from #NativeAmericans
-- without horses or firearms, Indians had to hunt on foot with spears or bows and arrows or stampede bison over cliffs.
The killing of bison increased when Indians acquired #horsesandgunsfromEuropeans
, but it was not until the arrival of white settlers that the slaughter truly began. The Western artist George Catlin estimated in 1841 that two to three million bison had been slaughtered for their hides -- sent to Eastern markets -- in the first 30 years of the 19th century alone. The bison was ruthlessly hunted by hunters, or "runners," as they called themselves, who were interested only in the valuable hides and who #leftthemeattorot
on the plains.
Death on the Rails
The coming of the Transcontinental Railroad, which linked the country in 1869, also helped sound the death knell of the bison population. The railroads began to advertise what they called "#huntingbyrail
." Parties of hunters using .50 caliber rifles headed west by rail to shoot bison from the roofs or windows of trains, in these cases not even bothering to take the hides. Killing bison in these numbers had the added effect of #robbingNativeAmericansoftheirfoodsupply
, in effect #starvingthemintosubmission