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Harvey Wallbanger, racing buffalo

Wallbanger, a formidable sprinting buffalo seen on racetracks of the 1980’s and ‘90s across America, Canada and Mexico, here ridden to a win by his owner and trainer Collin ‘TC’ Thorstenson.[/caption]

Harvey was an orphan buffalo who thought he was a horse, according to his owner, trainer and jockey Collin ‘TC’ Thorstenson and many fascinated spectators who watched him race.

Thorstenson said he was raised on a Sioux Indian reservation in the hills of North Dakota, was always fond of animals and trained small pets as a youngster.

He drove coal trucks in Wyoming and became a jockey and trainer.

Harvey’s story began in 1980 when his mother was shot by a poacher.

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Low-Stress Buffalo Handling

We’ve reported stories to you in this space about the early days of hard-riding buffalo wranglers running half-wild buffalo. Some amusing. Some tragic.

Often, they rounded-up and stampeded buffalo into makeshift corrals and loaded them into boxcars in some of the roughest ways possible, even dragging them at the end of several ropes.

At the time, it seemed to men who were used to working cattle like the only way to get the job done was to run the buffalo hard, and stay ahead of them.

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Part II. American Serengeti—Let’s take Another Look

In our BLOG of June 23, 2020, we published “American Serengeti—What is going on in Montana?,” which discusses the enormous wildlife project that is shaking the foundations of community development and progress in Phillips County, Montana, and Malta, its county seat, and nearby communities.
The American Prairie Reserve—APR, or simply the Prairie Reserve–on the upper Missouri River is a plan to develop a huge grazing unit—the largest nature reserve in the continental United States.

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Part III. Viewing Sites 9 and 10—Fort Yates and Jamestown

If you’re a traveler coming into the Hettinger-Lemmon area from the east or west, you will likely plan to complete your tour by visiting Sites 9 and 10 either before or after the main section of your tour.

Otherwise, separate trips might take you through Fort Yates and Jamestown—which are somewhat to the northeast.

Tribal herds can be viewed at Ft. Yates, and other reservations. The “largest buffalo,” and a National Buffalo Museum that includes a full-body mount of the famed White Cloud reside in Jamestown.

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Tour of Buffalo Sites near Hettinger, Part II

At the center of the Northern Plains is a rugged section of Badlands, buttes and fertile grasslands, where buffalo, cattle and sheep graze, and deer and antelope still roam.  Please join us on the 10-site tour we’ve put together of the last great hunts and other...

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Tour 10 Buffalo Sites in the Northern Plains, Part I–The Last Great Hunts

At the center of the Northern Plains is a rugged section of Badlands, buttes and fertile grasslands, where buffalo, cattle and sheep graze, and deer and antelope still roam.

We’d love to have you join us on the 10-site tour we’ve put together of the last great hunts and other historic and contemporary buffalo events, each clearly marked by a yellow sign.

These sites include three of the last great buffalo hunts, including the valley of the last stand—the final harvest of the last 1,200 wild buffalo by Sitting Bull and his band on October 12 and 13, 1883.

At the center of these events are previously untold stories and authentic, unspoiled places to envision where they took place.

This region, bordered by the North Dakota towns of Hettinger, Reeder and Scranton, and the South Dakota towns of Lemmon, Bison and Buffalo, is where Native people conducted the last traditional hunts of the majestic wild buffalo that once roamed here in huge herds on what was then the Great Sioux Reservation.

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Legacy of White Buffalo—Big Medicine

The most famous white buffalo that ever lived was probably Big Medicine, born in 1933 on the National Bison Range in Western Montana.

Soon after birth he was dubbed “Big Medicine” by the local Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai people of the Flathead Valley. He lived there all of his 26 years.

White buffalo are sacred to many Native American tribes and they believed he brought good news and supernatural powers. The Blackfeet tribe farther east also considered him the property of the sun as well as “good medicine.”

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The Sad Demise of Sir Donald

In 1907 Canada purchased the Pablo Buffalo Herd from the western plains of Montana. Banff received 77 of these animals, and a new paddock of 300 acres was built north of the railroad to hold the increasing herd.

Sir Donald was a handsome bull. It was said he represented well the ideal that Native hunters preferred—a bull with well-built forequarters and large head.

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Pablo’s Great Buffalo Shipments to Canada

In 1907 the Michel Pablo herd from western Montana began arriving in Canada. At their end of the railroad, Canadians cheered the buffalo’s arrival.

They knew they had scored a coup in getting “the finest buffalo herd in America,” as William Hornaday, president of the new American Bison Society, called Michal Pablo’s half-wild herd from Montana.

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Pablo’s Great Buffalo Roundup and Grand Shipment – Part 1. Pablo’s Grand Buffalo Roundup

When Michel Pablo sold all of his buffalo to the Canadian government, it took 6 years to get them rounded up and loaded. He expected the job to take one summer.

They were wild, and did not take kindly to being chased to the railway station in Ravalli, Montana—or getting loaded into railway cars. Especially the renegade bulls.

Pablo’s buffalo—he thought there were somewhere between 300 and 700 head—were grazing in the Bitterroot Mountain Range and the Lolo National Forest along the Flathead River.

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Author
Francie Berg


Assistant
Ronda Fink



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