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Texas | Columns | "It's All Trew"

Separating buffalo fact
from fiction

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
For the past year my son, Mike Oldham of Lefors, and I have been presenting programs at museums about the buffalo-hunting era. I tell of the hide-hunting process and Mike, a gunsmith, demonstrates, shows and tells about the weapons, knives and reloading equipment used in hunting. We also present numerous artifacts for those attending.
Herd of Buffallo, Good Night Ranch, Goodnight Texas
Herd of Buffalo, Good Night Ranch, Goodnight, Texas
Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
This period, from 1868 to about 1878, is filled with historical events including fights against the Plains Indians, the demise of buffalo herds and, lesser known, the demise of a wolf species, the Great Plains lobo.

Much unpublished information found buried in libraries and museums has come to light because of the Internet. Many longtime historical writings are found to be misleading or exaggerated in content. Our presentation compares these writings.

For example, early-day estimates of the number of buffalo on the Great Plains are probably high. Newly found sales tickets from major hide buyers and freight charges from the few railroads servicing the hunting grounds all point to less buffalo than previously thought.

The "wanton waste" of buffalo meat and byproducts by hunters and heralded by the media and conservationists is somewhat refuted by railroad freight listings showing where hundreds of tons of meat, tongues, hair and bones were shipped to the Eastern markets.
Bison - Buffalo in Texas
Buffalo sighting in Central Texas
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
Bison / Buffalo close-up, Texas
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
More Texas Animals

Did you know a buffalo resembles a horse more than a cow in many ways? A cow can run only a short distance where a buffalo can run for miles like a horse. A buffalo can lie down, roll over on its back time and again like a horse. That is how they plastered their hide in mud to protect from the hordes of flying insects. A cow can only lie down but not roll over.

The reason buffalo stampeded at instant notice was because of the insects. Between flies, huge mosquitoes, buffalo gnats and hide lice in summertime, their patience wore out. They lurched into a gallop running into the wind leaving the insects behind trying to catch up. Hunters often located herds by following the clouds of insects left behind.

A buffalo sits down, then folds its knees to lie down like a horse. It also rises on its front feet then raises its rear. A cow does this in the opposite fashion.

Most hunters considered the buffalo extremely dumb. When fired on with a rifle from a distance, they merely milled in a circle allowing the hunters to kill an entire group in one spot. This was called a "stand." The animals were not dumb, they were ruled by instinct. To protect from the wolf, their most dangerous predator, they placed the calves, yearlings and old animals in the center of a large circle, protected by a circle of cows around that and the old bulls formed another circle outside that.

When an animal was shot and dropped, the herd smelled blood and death and began circling to protect from the lobo attack, not realizing the danger was from bullets fired from a nearby hill where a hunter lay hidden. That is the reason for the circling that caused a stand.


Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" February 10, 2008 Column
Related Topics: Buffalo | Texas Animals | Columns | Texas


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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