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The American Buffalo

Updated on October 31, 2010

The American Buffalo

Around 200,000 years ago, the Eurasian bison or buffalo came from Asia to the Americas, an animal about half again as large as the buffalo we know today.

The European buffalo or Wisent lived in Europe until 60,000 years ago.

Their descendants, the modern American buffalo, weigh on average about 800 kg, but an adult male animal is really impressive, with a length of up to 3 meters, a weight of up to 1,000 kg and a height of about two meters ! 

The American buffalo has a lifespan of some twenty-five years. It can reach a speed of some 50 kilometers per hour. Their young can stand on their feet half an hour after being born, and a few hours later, they are able to walk.

picture of buffalo skulls - ca. 1870

Buffalo Population

Around 1800, there were an estimated sixty to eighty million bisons in the prairies.  Seventy-five years later, their numbers had been decimated to less than one million .

By 1900, there were only thirty-nine buffalo's left !

Another remarkable fact is, that though the American Indians were the victims of this massive and systematic extermination, many Indian tribes actually, if only initially, cooperated enthusiastically with these killings, because of the money they received for a buffalo skin...

In the north, the Sioux Indians attempted to protect the buffalo herds from the white man.  However, after the battle of Little Big Horn , the federal army killed all of their horses, which meant the end of their control over the entire area.  It also meant that the remainder of the buffalo could be, and were indeed, exterminated.

At present, there are an estimated 350,000 bisons in the United States, most of which are bred for meat.

About 15,000 buffalo's still roam free in nature parks and animal parks.


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    • slusterbubble profile image

      slusterbubble 6 years ago from Florida

      I found an incredible photo to illustrate the enormous killing that went on. I'll post it in this hub, but it's really scary...

    • scarytaff profile image

      Derek James 6 years ago from South Wales

      I read a book about the hunters who used to spend the winter killing buffalo. They had so many hides they could hardly get them back to civilisation. When they got back, the market for hides had collapsed and so they got nothing for them. What a terrible waste of a breed. I'm not surprised the numbers diminished so. Thanks for this hub.