Stories

Here’s your BUFFALO STORY OF THE WEEK!

If you have a roomful of eager 7th or 8th graders-just waiting to hear a buffalo story– great!

And if you don’t–well tell this one to your Dad or Mom–or someone at work or the Senior Center who has a soft spot in their heart for buffalo.

You can brighten their day. And brighten your own with the telling and the chuckle you both can share.

Please share your favorite (true) buffalo story with us. We’d love to hear it.

Write it here and email to fmberg@ndsupernet.com.

Kiowa Farewell to the Buffalo

Kiowa Farewell to the Buffalo

The buffalo provided everything the Kiowas ever needed.

Their tipis were made of buffalo hides, stitched together with sinew. So were their clothes and tough moccasins.

They ate dried buffalo meat and pemmican all through the year. Containers in which they kept food and provisions were made of hide, bladders and stomachs.

Even more important, the buffalo sustained the Kiowa culture, their spirituality and religion.

When possible, a white buffalo calf must be sacrificed in the sun dance.

The priests and medicine men used parts of the buffalo to make their prayers when they healed people or when they sang to the powers above.

Buffalo were the lifeblood of the Kiowas.

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Buffalo Survival in Winter

Buffalo Survival in Winter

Buffalo are known for their great natural vigor, surviving the worst blizzards of the north.

A freak blizzard in October 2013 killed tens of thousands of cattle in western South Dakota, as well as sheep and horses, when four feet of heavy wet snow with powerful winds drove them over banks, into creeks and waterholes and piled up against fences in deep snowdrifts.

Some ranchers lost fifty to seventy-five percent of their livestock and faced financial ruin.

Following that deadly storm, the National Bison Association checked with local buffalo breeders; none reported buffalo loss.

In another deadly storm the winter of 1997-1998, with heavy financial losses to livestock, the toll was apparently only one buffalo death. He was run off an icy bridge by an eighteen-wheeler.

Those who raise buffalo testify to their hardy endurance in cold weather.

The animals have dense hair growth, so dense—coarse guard hairs with soft wool underneath—that every square inch has ten times as many hairs growing as does an inch of cow hide, reports Dale F. Lott, University of California Wildlife, Fish and Conservation biologist.

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Hornaday’s taxidermy project of six buffalo

Hornaday’s taxidermy project of six buffalo

Returning to Washington, after their great success in buffalo hunting, William Hornaday and his assistants set to work.

Hornaday’s vision developed before he even left Montana. This would be a grouping of bulls, cows and calves. He took time to collect some native soil, a few plants and sagebrush.

He selected six prime specimens—his masterpiece stub-horn bull, cows, calves, a young bull.

After a full year they unveiled their masterpiece. There, in a huge glass case, visitors to the Smithsonian Museum viewed an enchanting scene–six buffalo in an authentic Montana setting.

The Washington Star described the exhibit on March 10, 1888:

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Hornaday’s Buffalo Hunt for the Smithsonian

Hornaday’s Buffalo Hunt for the Smithsonian

By 1883 the vast herds of buffalo had entirely vanished. Only a small pocket survived here and there in remote areas—and even these, as soon as any hunter learned of them, did not last long.

Clearly the buffalo would soon be extinct as a species.

Alarmed, William Hornaday, as the Chief Taxidermist at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC—America’s greatest museum—took stock of his museum’s buffalo inventory.

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Sam Walking Coyote’s Buffalo calves

Sam Walking Coyote’s Buffalo calves

Samuel Walking Coyote of the Pend d’Oreille tribe had no intention of raising buffalo—he just wanted to hunt them. But there were no buffalo west of the Continental Divide where he lived with his Flathead wife on her reservation in western Montana. Yet Walking Coyote...

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Wild European bison will roam free in England

Wild European bison will roam free in England

Wild bison will return to the United Kingdom for the first time in thousands of years, with the release of a small herd near Canterbury in East Kent planned for spring 2022, according to the Guardian, July 10, 2020.

The Steppe Bison went extinct about 10,000 years ago. Now the UK is bringing back their nearest relative—the European Bison or Wisent (Bison bonasus), also known as the zubr—in the hope of restoring the area’s ancient woodlands.

The $1.4 million Wilder Blean project, to reintroduce the animals, will help secure the future of an endangered species. They will also naturally regenerate a former pine wood plantation by killing off trees. This is expected to create a healthy mix of woodland, scrub and glades, boost insect, bird and plant life.

Populations of the UK’s most important wildlife have dropped an average of 69% since 1970. Britain is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, despite the best efforts of conservationists.

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Photographer nearly trampled to death

Photographer nearly trampled to death

One of the men attracted to Michel Pablo’s grand roundup of his near-wild buffalo was Norman A. Forsyth, a young photographer who began selling stereo cards and viewers door-to-door while attending college at Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Nebraska.
After college he moved west, still selling for Underwood and Underwood, an early producer and distributor of stereographic views. Attracted by the scenic beauty of Yellowstone Park, Forsyth worked as a tour guide and stage driver in Yellowstone five summers, taking scenic stereographic views along the way, and then set up a photography studio in Butte where he sold them.
Fascinated by what he read of Michel Pablo’s great roundup of near-wild bison he took his cameras to Ronan, MT. There he made friends with Charlie Russell, a cowboy painter also attracted to the dramatic buffalo action they saw every day.
Forsyth shot stereographic views and Russell painted and sketched numerous scenes over the first three summers during which the Pablo buffalo roundup shipped most of the animals to Canada.
One day Forsyth scrambled down into some trees to get the perfect shot as the cowboy wranglers brought in a herd of buffalo across the river toward the corrals.

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Bud Cotton and his Buffalo Roundup Gang

Bud Cotton and his Buffalo Roundup Gang

E.J. (‘Bud’) Cotton was the Buffalo Park Warden at Wainwright, Alberta from 1912 through 1940. An old-fashioned buffalo handler who rode hard and worked his crew hard, he preferred to change their lathered-up horses at noon if at all possible.

Cotton hired a hard-riding Buffalo Roundup Gang—as he called them for “fall” roundup, which they tackled in stride during the coldest days of winter.

Long before the advent of low-stress handling practices were being advocated for buffalo, the buffalo herds were literally wild animals, and they came stampeding between the drift fences toward the open gate at a dead run.

Cotton said his corral fences looked strong enough to hold an elephant “but just stick around until we run a bunch of buffalo into them, then watch the splinters fly!”

When worked, the thousands of buffalo they corralled and manhandled bore some scars—but so did the riders, he wrote. Even years later the men “still bear scars and sore bones as mementos of those same good old days.”

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Buffalo Heifer attacked by Grizzly

Buffalo Heifer attacked by Grizzly

In another unusual rescue, a Blackfoot Indian reported seeing a buffalo bull charge a grizzly bear that had attacked a heifer.

The grizzly was lying in wait, hidden by a trail near a creek when a small bunch of buffalo trailed down to drink. Led by a young buffalo heifer, they came down the bank in single file.

As the heifer passed under the clay shelf where the grizzly hid, he reached down with both paws and caught her around the neck, then leaped on her back. She struggled to escape.

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Noble Fathers we saw in Actiond

Noble Fathers we saw in Actiond

Buffalo bulls are born with a strong sense of responsibility.

The “noble fathers,” as they’ve been called in earlier times, for protecting mothers and calves from the ravages of wolves. In blizzards and fierce storms, it was said, they form a triangle facing into the wind and shield cows and calves from wintery blasts.

I saw those “noble fathers” in action once myself.

We were riding horseback in the North Unit of Teddy Roosevelt Park with some friends.

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Author
Francie Berg


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Ronda Fink



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