The Extermination of the American Bison eBook

William Temple Hornaday
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 330 pages of information about The Extermination of the American Bison.

“The doctor determined to watch the performance.  After a few moments the knot broke up, and, still keeping in a compact mass, started on a trot for the main herd, some half a mile oft”.  To his very great astonishment, the doctor now saw that the central and controlling figure of this mass was a poor little calf so newly born as scarcely to be able to walk.  After going 50 or 100 paces the calf laid down, the bulls disposed themselves in a circle as before, and the wolves, who had trotted along on each side of their retreating supper, sat down and licked their chaps again; and though the doctor did not see the finale, it being late and the camp distant, he had no doubt that the noble fathers did their whole duty by their offspring, and carried it safely to the herd.”

(6) Temper.—­I have asked many old buffalo hunters for facts in regard to the temper and disposition of herd buffaloes, and all agree that they are exceedingly quiet, peace loving, and even indolent animals at all times save during the rutting season.  Says Colonel Dodge:  “The habits of the buffalo are almost identical with those of the domestic cattle.  Owing either to a more pacific disposition, or to the greater number of bulls, there, is very little fighting, even at the season when it might be expected.  I have been among them for days, have watched their conduct for hours at a time, and with the very best opportunities for observation, but have never seen a regular combat between bulls.  They frequently strike each other with their horns, but this seems to be a mere expression of impatience at being crowded.”

In referring to the “running season” of the buffalo, Mr. Catlin says:  “It is no uncommon thing at this season, at these gatherings, to see several thousands in a mass eddying and wheeling about under a cloud of dust, which is raised by the bulls as they are pawing in the dirt, or engaged in desperate combats, as they constantly are, plunging and butting at each other in a most furious manner.”

On the whole, the disposition of the buffalo is anything but vicious.  Both sexes yield with surprising readiness to the restraints of captivity, and in a remarkably short time become, if taken young, as fully domesticated as ordinary cattle.  Buffalo calves are as easily tamed as domestic ones, and make very interesting pets.  A prominent trait of character in the captive buffalo is a mulish obstinacy or headstrong perseverance under certain circumstances that is often very annoying.  When a buffalo makes up his mind to go through a fence, he is very apt to go through, either peaceably or by force, as occasion requires.  Fortunately, however, the captive animals usually accept a fence in the proper spirit, and treat it with a fair degree of respect.


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The Extermination of the American Bison from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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