Thomas County , Kansas April 19, 1888
THE BUFFALOES FATE
Extinction of the Noblest of all the American Game Animals
……It is believed that there are now only a few hundred representatives of the main the bison which, when, Fremont across the continent, roamed over our great Western plains. A few small herds have very likely escaped the notice of hunters and settlers. Nearly two years ago residence along the upper Missouri and Yellowstone rivers reported that the bison was probably extinct in that region, but later the hunting party organized by the taxidermist of the Smithsonian Institution found a herd of about fifty animals in one of the valleys of Eastern Montana, where, in the midst of wild and uninhabited tract south of the Missouri, they had entirely escape notice. This region has since been occupied by ranchmen, and it is now thought that the bison in his wild state has entirely disappeared from Montana except in the Yellowstone Park and its environs, where, secure from hunters, a few specimens still exist. It is reported also that along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains a few small herds still range, almost as far south as Texas.
……About two years ago the directors of the Smithsonian Institute awoke to the fact that if they wished to replenish their inadequate and unsatisfactory collections of this great game animal, it was high time to set about the task. It was to the hunters employed by this institution that the best specimens of the last herd in Eastern Montana fell of prey. Thus the few remaining American buffalos were slaughtered in order that their skeletons and skins may perpetually recall the memory of the numerous family which was so recklessly exterminated to meet the great demand for buffalo robes. The skin was the one commodity that was always welcomed and barter by the agency of traders. Not a few of our troubles with the Western tribes have had their origin primarily in the fact that the bison had disappeared from the hunting grounds of tribes that, like their fathers before them, had regarded this animal as essential to their well-being. The wild and merciless savage had hundred the bison for centuries, yet when our fathers came to this country the plains were probably as black with herds as they had been in past ages, and so doubtless they would have continued to be.
……The latest Smithsonian report says that in a very few years more than elk, mountain sheep, goat, deer and moose will be wholly exterminated. Thus all the great game animals of our country are entirely disappearing before the advance of settlement and the ruthless assaults of the Hunter – N.Y.
Cimmaron New West
Cimmaron, Kansas May 24, 1888
BAD FOR THE BUFFALO
The Wanton Cruelty of Man Has Left but a Hundred Bison on the American Plains.
And a Party Has Started Out to Capture the Few Remaining Specimens of a Noble Race.
A Hardy Breed of Cattle, Making Excellent Beef, Obtained by Crossing With Domestic Cows.
Details of the Job Put Up on the Few Surviving Monarchs of the Prairies.
From Chicago Times.
A buffalo hunt! Who has not read of one and pictured to himself the glorious sport? The mighty herd sweeping like a tornado over the plains, the earth shaking with the thunder of their tread, the sharp hoofs obliterating every vestige of vegetation as the wild charge goes on, and only a barren pathway marks the track of that furious flight for safety. Nothing so overwhelming was to be seen on the plains as a buffalo stampede, and no man was daring enough to try and stay the rush of that living Niagara. Behind and on every side followed the crowd of horsemen, their rifles unslung, and each man eager for the slaughter. The ping of the bullets as they struck the fleeing animals was like the patter of a hail-storm, and ere the last poor buffalo in the herd had halted, weary and jaded from the hunt, a thousand of his kind had fallen. A buffalo hunt indeed! A willful massacre of the largest and choicest game beast on the continent, a cruel extermination of the most unique and characteristic of America’s wild animals, and for what? That man’s insatiate greed for gain might be satisfied, that his lust for blood might be appeased. To-day the wide plains are fertilized with the bones of countless millions of these noble natives of the soil, and the last few of the race of American bisons sadly roam in sequestered spots, awaiting their inevitable doom. The frontiersman, cowboy, Indian and the tourist hunter have all combined to destroy a and wipe out the buffaloes. So unceasingly has the slaughter gone on that there remains absolutely no trace of them and places where a few years ago they wandered foot free and contented over a thousand miles of territory.
In 1870 it was estimated that ten millions of the shaggy animals roamed the plains at will. To-day, less than a score of years after that count, only a hundred are to be found. Shot down and left to rot, hides only being wanted by ruthless slayers, this noble game has at last become extinct. The buffalo hunt is a thing of the past. No more will a tribe of Indians prepare with ceremonious precision to engage in the annual slaughter; no more will the young brave sing around the campfire of the number of the slain; the buffalo dance and the gluttonous orgie of the half-cooked morsels, when that day’s work of destruction is done, are stories now told by sire to son, and well may the old chief exclaim as he recalls the days ere the white man came, “Our food and are covering are gone forever. The pale-face has killed that which the Great Manitou gave us. Cursed be his race.”
With what remorse must the white hunter gaze over the plains and see the bleaching bones of the slain; how bitterly lament the greedy madness that tempted him to exterminate this most magnificent of wild creatures! The natural historian, depicting the majestic power and rugged beauty of this animal, proclaimed him the king of horned beasts, and set him upon a pedestal of fame as the most valuable of all his tribe. Numerous as he was and widespread his territory, the propagation of the species could not keep pace with the unrelenting butchery by man, and total eradication of America’s great bison in an accomplished fact.
Two years ago the United States government for saw that the buffalo was about to be annihilated, and sent a special commission to secure and preserve for its museum specimens of the race. The intention was at first to capture alive a family of bison and keep them in the National park of the Yellowstone, but there were difficulties in the way. At last it was decided to preserve specimens by the taxidermist art, and five superb samples are now at the Smithsonian institute, performed in a wild group that gives some idea of the animal on its native plain. A few living specimens are to be seen in the zoological collections, circuses, and wild-west shows, but they are generally small and poorly kept, so that nothing but the form and general appearance can be observed by the student and natural history.
It has been stated that there are now in a wild state only about one hundred buffaloes, and this is the estimate of the remnants of the species given by the most experienced hunters in the west. To save this small number from extermination, which would most certainly occur before the present year is gone, and expedition of remarkable proportions and unique endeavor has been formed and will leave for the buffalo country to-morrow. It is no less a plan than to capture alive and bring into camp every one of the remaining buffaloes now at large. For such a seemingly impossible task there has been brought together by the originator of this scheme the most perfectly organized band of hunters that ever went forth. This party goes not to destroy, but to save; not for the paltry gain to be derived from the sale of the pelts, but to secure themselves and heirs a lasting revenue. They are not pot-hunters, but proposed to supply a whole nation with meats. The leaders of this original hunting party are worth knowing, and one is quite sure, after listening to the conversation of the head of the expedition, that he not only is an enthusiastic nimrod, but also a vary superior businessman, and his record in Kansas, where he is best known, proves him to be more than ordinarily successful in both fields of endeavor. There are very few people and southwestern Kansas who don’t know and admire C. J. Jones, better known as Buffalo Jones, because if there is one thing he takes an interest in more than another it is a buffalo. He is a typical frontiersman, having lived for twenty-two years beyond the sound of the locomotive whistle, and where camp life has made him familiar with the habits of the big game on the plains. Buffalo Jones is tall, bronzed and bearded. His blue eyes are bright and fearless, and his manner is one of quiet dignity, as modest and retiring when speaking of himself as though it were no extraordinary task to start out and capture alive one hundred wild buffaloes, and unworthy of any particular mention. It must not be supposed that Mr. Jones is now the pioneer he was when first he settled down in Kansas. As a matter of fact he is a banker, hotel owner, real estate dealer, and railroad magnate. He has served two terms in the state legislature and is that wealthiest man in his country and several dozen other countries by a good many thousands of dollars. His home is at Garden City, Finney county, Kansas, and that thriving little city stands in the section of land that Mr. Jones took up when he was a frontiersman. He owns the city, in fact, and takes as much pride in it as a boy with a pony. He puts up a neat cut-stone and brick block every few months, paves the streets, and builds churches. He would rather let a good, energetic young man live rent free for six months then have him turn his back on Garden City, and Buffalo Jones thinks a man that would do that don’t know a Texas steer from a buffalo bull.
People in Chicago saw buffalo Jones in the convention that nominated Blaine for president. He headed the Kansas delegation and made and waved that famous Kansas banner that brought the unruly members of the delegation into line for the Maine statesman. He believes in progress, and nothing is too good for Garden City. Some of the adjoining country was arid and useless for cultivation. He and Senator Plumb built and irrigating canal that turned that waste land into the garden spot of the state. He is president of the Nickel Plate railroad that will soon tap his city, and there is no modern invention that adds to comfort or convenience but is adopted. This is the man who leads the great buffalo hunt about to begin, and why he goes may be of interest.
A few years ago Mr. Jones began to experiment in domesticating the buffalo. He captured and placed on his ranch a select few, and found that in a surprisingly brief space of time the animals lost all fear and settled down to the comfort and peace of tame and stall fed cattle. The next experiment was in the direction of cross-breeding, and his success in this was not less wonderful than the first effort to domesticate. It was discovered that the domestic cow crossed readily with the buffalo bull. The product is a large, hardy animal, easily kept, that has no equal among range cattle. The neighboring ranchmen became enthusiastic over the production of such a breed of cattle, then meat of which is finer grained and sweeter than the best cattle now bred for market, and it is no exaggeration to say that in a few years the new breed well usurp the place of the Texas steer and be sought after by lovers of good meat. Here was an animal that could be turned out to range and grow fat on the plains where the domestic cattle would starve. It was so hardy that not even a blizzard could affect it. Animals of this breed turned their faces to the storm, go through it, instead of turning their backs like the domestic beast, and dying from exhaustion. Mr. Jones has forty head of buffalo on his place, and quite a herd of cross-breeds. He finds the Galloway cow the best for breeding purposes, but believes that other fine stock can be used with equal success.
The party of hunters that go forth to capture alive the last of the species is composed of seven persons. Next in command to Buffalo Jones is his brother, H. C. Jones, and experienced plainsman, and Lee Howard, a cowboy, who is known in the district of Garden City as the most expert horsemen and rider of his fraternity. He knows every foot of territory that the buffaloes roam, and will have most of the trailing to do. The remaining four members are cowboys, all skilled with rifle, lasso and horse. The party has twelve horses, so that there may be frequent changes made when long distances are to be traveled. These horses are not the ordinary scrub animals, such as bronchos or Mexican ponies, but carefully selected thoroughbred, combining great speed with endurance. Ten imported Scotch collies, or shepherd dogs, and two blood hounds form an important part of the working force. The shepherd dog will guard the buffaloes when corralled, and the blood hounds will tract them should any escape at night. Three mule teams in light weight spring wagons will carry the three months provisions and the camp paraphernalia. A large wire cage will be taken along to confine some of the calves that are captured. Two camps will be established, one on the east side of the drive and one on the west. The region to be covered lies between the two Canadian rivers; that is to say, the main river on the south, extending from Indian territory to New Mexico, and the north fork of the Canadian, which also runs east and west about 150 miles above the main stream. Inclosed thus between the two rivers is a vast plateau, over which the buffalo wanders, and here the last grand roundup of the herd will be made.
How is it to be done? It looks like a Munchausen scheme, yet Buffalo Jones asserts that in thirty days after the camps are pitched he will have rounded up every buffalo in a territory covering 150 by 250 miles in extent. This is the way, and to properly understand the method it is necessary to knows some thing of the habits of the animal.
The buffalo is somewhat stupid beasts and of short memory. When scared in sent off on a stampede the herd will run, say five, ten or even fifteen miles in a straight line, but before half the distance is covered have forgotten what made them start, and they proceed to graze as if nothing happened. The original scare being over, they never think of danger again. Each disturbance to their peace is to them a new and quite unexpected attack. The only peculiarity about the herd when driven is that they never go back over their trail. They may meet danger ahead, but in that case they start off in a new direction to the right or left; they can not be made to hark back over the road once traveled. The hunter takes advantage of this, and when slaughter is the object of the chase one man can hold a herd. Once the herd halts after the first run the hunter has but to get in front, and with his rifle, shoot the leading bull as he starts off in a new direction. The herd pauses, selects another course, and again a bull leads off. He is shot, and again the herd ponders the curious difficulty. So the herd makes perhaps three to five attempts to run, never going in the direction where the danger came from, and never going back over its trail. Finally at standstill and apparently forgets all about danger, grazing calmly or lying down is if there was no such thing as a rifle or a hunter within a hundred miles. The hunter can ride up to the buffaloes now and mix in with them without any effort on their part to get away. They tried it a few times and didn’t succeed, and so give it up as a bad job.
When wolves attack a herd the buffaloes form a circle, heads out, and stand at bay. This fact led Mr. Jones to take along the dogs, and they will be used to hold the herd in a circle when once gathered together. The plan of the operation will be to run the herd untill the animals find they are in no danger of being hurt, when they will at once cease to stampede, and in less than two days they become so familiar with the site of men, horses and dogs that they can be driven like sheep. It is supposed that the remnants of the race are now divided up into not more than four herds, and these will be brought together by degrees until the final roundup is made and the trail for home and civilization begun. The hunters will be compelled to be ready for the chase at all times, as the buffaloes come to the streams for water only at night, and the men must follow them when they leave. They come and go with a rush, as they are fearful of wolves at night, and do not linger long after quenching their thirst. A system of signals has been arranged by the hunters, so that whenever a herd is discovered by one party that others can be notified and hastened to the spot. Once found, the whole attention of the party will be given to the task of teaching the buffaloes that they are being protected instead of harmed, and as one herd becomes tame another will be driven in to it. By the end of July the feat of capturing the last of the great host of American bisons will be an accomplished fact. The wild animals will be no more. The uses to which Buffalo Jones wishes to put the animals are various. In addition to the propagation of a superior beef cattle, which will bring high prices in the east, and which ranchmen will only be to glad to foster, there will be a stock of animals for sale to park commissioners and showmen.
Buffalo Jones and his little band do not expect to find the field altogether unoccupied, but they expect no trouble from Indians, as only the cowardly Cheyennes and Arapahoes hunt in that section of the country, and did not arrive until late in July, as a rule. The nature of the expedition is unknown except to the members of it, and wants and possession of the ground the pot-hunters that may come will have small chance of success in killing many of the buffaloes.
As an enterprise combining business with a philanthropic desire to preserve to posterity at least a few living specimens of a superb beast the trip of Buffalo Jones and his cowboys cannot fail to become historical, and the record of the great round-up will find a place in the archives of the Smithsonian institution along with the chronicles labeled Bison Americanus . – Chicago Times. April 29th, 1888.
New York Tribune
New York, New York May 27, 1888
A NEW BUFFALO BABY IN CENTRAL PARK
Much interest has centered about the buffalo stall at the Arsenal in Central Park, within a few days, over the arrival of a young female buffalo-calf. Its mother is an old cow who was captured on the plains more than ten years ago, when buffalo were still ranging there by the thousands. The mail is a healthy young buffalo bull, one of the last of these great herds, which was secured for the Park a few years ago. The young calf is the first offspring of this couple. It shows every indication of the health and vigor of its parents, nurses regularly, and is growing almost perceptibly.
Hundreds of visitors collect around the cage to watch the young calf which, except and having an unusually large head, does not look unlike ordinary calves, and is covered with a thick coat of soft, chest-nut-colored hair. The parent show great solicitude for their offspring, which evinces a striving desire to escape from the confined quarters of the stall and rush away over the green lawns of the Park. Director Conklin is highly pleased with the acquisition to his family of animals. He expects to make some arrangement by which they can have access to the meadows this summer to graze.
The Wichita Daily Eagle
Wichita, Kansas June 24, 1888
The Bison or the American Buffalo Is Nearly Extinct—-Large Herds yet reported in Northern Canada—The Railroads the Most Importan factor in Their Extinction – The Chicago “Times” Attempt to Capture and Domesticate the Last Buffalo – Capturing Full=Grown Buffalo – Amputating One’s own Leg—Lassoing a Rattlesnake—Capturing Buffalo Calves—A Night March to Save Them Alive – The Forked Pole Invention—Disastrous Consequences of Its Application.
[Special Chicago Correspondence]
The fact that the buffalo of the American plains are almost extinct is generally pretty well known. So rapid was this disappearance towards the last that an expedition recently sent out by the Smithsonian Institution to get some good specimens of the animal were only partially successful from the great rarity of it, and this, too, where it once darkened the earth hardly a decade ago. Far north, away beyond the reach of railroad influence, it is said that there are yet large herds of these animals protected by their isolation, although but little is known concerning them. The report seems likely, however, for it was the facilities given by the transcontinental railroads in shipping robes and meat that did more than any other one thing towards destroying so much of the big-game, the buffalo, the elk and others. Among the eastern spurs of the Rocky Mountains a few small herds are known to exist, but some people assert that these timber abiding buffalos – “wood buffalo” or “mountain buffalo” they call them — are a different species, or at least a different variety, from those that recently roamed the plains in such countless herds. Certainly they very in habit and if specially different, then the only true buffalos — as the bison is universally called in this country – in the United States are a few herds in Western Texas or that general region. The forlorn hope of these frontier animals has been brought prominently into notice by a leading Chicago paper organizing an expedition — the last buffalo hunt they term it — to secure some of the animals to breed from those caught, and thus prevent the extinction of this most interesting animal. While attempts to tame or domesticate the buffalo date back almost to the first contact of civilization with these animals, and almost uniformly with the same result, it will be interesting no doubt to a large class of people to watch this attempt, undoubtedly the last one that will ever be made in its way. It is not my intention to discuss the attempts that have been made to domesticate, or to breed the buffalo or to cross it with domestic animals, although I could write a few columns on such a subject from my knowledge of it on the plains, but to give some of the adventures I have had in trying to catch buffalo alive and the results.
My first experience was on the Medicine, a tributary of the Republican in Nebraska, in the late fall of 1872. I had a party from Omaha on a buffalo hunt in this vicinity, when we came across a frontier genius near Clifford’s ranch, who claimed he was catching full-grown buffalos on some sort of an agreement with Eastern people. When we saw him here he had captured one, a medium-sized cow, but it had broken its leg in its efforts to escape, and we supposed he would kill it as worthless for any purpose he could possibly have, but he and informed us that he intended to amputate the leg and save the beast. He performed the operation very well, searing the stump with a red-hot iron, but whether he got it East alive I do not know. He joined our party next day to show us how it was done. A big buffalo bull was run into the pocket of a canyon and a rope thrown over his horns from above and then the brute was tied to the trunk of a lone cottonwood tree until next morning, when some of the hunters came to look after him and found the rope broken off near the tree.
This particular buffalo was lassoed by our own scout, Cody (Buffalo Bill), it being the first he ever captured in this way, although he had killed more probably from the saddle than any two men living. On the hunt our lasso “sharp” captured some two or three altogether, but whether he ever filled his contract or got them East alive I do not know. He claimed that the older ones were more likely to live than the calves when captured, a statement which is true under some circumstances, but not under all. It was my first and last experience in seen full-grown buffalo lassoed. Our expert was a half-breed from the Indian Territory, and he could throw a lasso over anything within the length of the rope, either when he was standing or on the swiftest running horse. One of his most interesting feats was in lassoing a rattlesnake, capturing it alive and thus exhibiting it in his hands. It was not truly an act of lassoing, however, as he seemingly confused the reptile by quick gyrations and numerous oscillations of a short stretch of the rope in both hands so that it could not coil to spring at him, and when it would make an unlucky ducking of the head wind his hands and rope were very close, he would grasp its neck so close to its head that it was impossible for it to turn and bite.
Having a nice inclosed park-like parade at a frontier post where only my company of calvary was stationed the Captain and I determined to take advantage of some of our spring scouting and capture a few young wild animals to put in the huge yard, simply for want of something else to do and to really have a little exercise when in the field.
My first operations were on the head waters of the Red Willow in Southern Nebraska. Just as we were going into camp one afternoon on that stream a flanker to the west reported a fair sized herd of buffalo within a mile of the Government road that had here taken to the winding valley of a small stream in order to descend by easy grade to the Red Willow bottom. As there was yet time for a run and near camp would be the best place to capture calves, on account of immediate attention, I determined to give chase at once. In that run we got six calves, a sergeant and myself running a fine-looking little black fellow out of the herd and only capturing him after a long run which ended in a swamp, where he stuck, and we lassoed him after the sergeant. Had been lifted up the bank with his small but effective horns. When the wagon came up with the other five calves we were somewhat surprised to find we had caught a last year’s calf — a yearling, in fact, for the others were brown little rascals, with no sign of the hump on their shoulders, and grunting like so many hungry pigs. They yearling and the other calf died that night, and before next morning to others had died; but as a small party of men the second day, we really had seven that evening. I determined to take advantage of the cool nights so universal on the plains to send these seven back to the post by a night trip of one wagon at once, and this was done, although I heard that one or two had died on the way, and none were alive when I got back to the post some two weeks later.
There was nothing in the calvary about throwing lassos, and, as a consequence, the troopers were not very good with that uncertain implement of warfare. The greatest difficulty was in getting the noose to spread out, so as to go over the calf’s head, and, as a consequence, some of the writers would throw three or four times before they caught the animal, although each time the rope would fall in such a way that had it spread a foot even, it would have noosed the running beast. One of the most irritating consequences of the lasso’s missing was to have the news roll off the calf and pick up a yucca plant, a cluster of sunflowers or a bunch of buffalo grass, when on a terrific chase. These plants seem to hold on with a tenacity of a thousand tons to the square inch, and when the writer came up to the end of that lariat, the instant after throwing it, he could, if he held onto the rope, feel every bone in his body snap and have all the experience of a “dull, sickening thud.” without having to die on the gallows to do it. Some tied the end of the lasso to the pommel of the saddle and let that take the sudden strain of a misfit throw; but that, too, had its disadvantages.
One inventive individual conceived the plan of cutting a forked stick, which would spread the lasso so that it could be put over the calf’s head readily, and, when applied, the slip news that fastened it to the prongs would drop out and the writer be left to struggle with the calf. The inventor of the guillotine died by his instrument, according to the uncertain records of history; the constructor of “the Maiden,” used in inquisitorial times, was crushed or pierced by it, and the less known discoverer of the forked stick was a success, and the men had no difficulty in picking up any calf they selected within a hundred or two hundred yards of where the herd was “jumped.”
The inventor had got a calf in a run and in trying to twist out the pole the prongs caught in the ground, the butt of the pole took him below the belt, and in much less time than it takes a messenger boy to go a block the timber had lifted him out of the saddle and put him on the ground in a way not provided for in the regulation dismounting, while the horse and the calf were playing the game of the Siamese twins across the boundless prairies of the broad West, in being united together by a lariat reaching from the pommel of the saddle to the calf’s neck. Altogether fifty-six calves were caught, and altogether the greatest possible care was taken of them only to survive. It was hard to tell the direct cause of death in every case. I have known a large, robust calf to be caught within fifty yards of the place where it stood; when first surprised it makes no unusual effort to escape, and yet be dead when the wagon arrived an hour and a half after. Fright seemed to be the only conclusion that could be reached in such a case. One of the calves that lived was chased about three miles by a trooper, who had lost his lasso, until the little beast was so exhausted that the man could dismount and catch it, when, recovering some of its strength, he had such a Gracco-Roman wrestle with it that he determined to tie its legs with the small leather straps from the pommel of his saddle, and look up the wagon to get it home. He did not find the wagon until it was too late to reach his That night, but it was visited next day early, found all right and brought in to begin a life in civilization that I am not sure has yet finished.
I think if we could have had cows to suckle the youngsters at once more would have been saved, not on account of the milk, as ninety-nine out of 100 would suppose, but on account of their being the nearest substitutes to their mothers in the way of company, etc. All of our calves not actually dying of fright on the field reached all the milk they could use before they could have been very hungry after such a fright and chase as was needed in order to capture them, while a calf that had had its mother killed by some soldiers on another trip and that was allowed to run among the horses and followed them got nothing to eat for three days until it reached a post, and yet lived.
In a year or two we had to move to another post, the calves were given to the Colonel of the regiment who, in the meantime, had written to a friend of his in Camden, N.J., who owned a large park, and there they finally found a resting place. Whether they are alive now or not I do not know, but they were in excellent condition when they started East, and I heard that they were both alive four years after. FREDERICK SCHWATKA.
The Livingston Enterprise Livingston Montana Aug 4 1888
The buffalo bone business is quite lively along the line of the Manitoba in the Milk river valley. A buyer has hundreds of Indians and half-breeds engaged in gathering and hauling them to different stations along the load, where they are loaded into cars and shipped east. He made a contract recently to deliver to one party in Chicago 135 car loads./
Cimarron New West
Cimarron, Kansas Sep 6 1888
Mr. C. J. Jones Gives Full Particulars About His Experiments.
[The following communication is taken from the Farmers Review a sixteen page agriculture paper, published at Chicago,Ill.]
To The Farmers’ Review: Will you allow me space in your valuable paper to say a word in favor of hardy cattle? I have lived in Kansas for twenty-two years, have traveled extensively in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Nebraska, and in fact over the great plains that afford the United States with beef cattle. In all my meanderings I have not found a place but I could count more carcasses then living animals. Who has not road over some of the western railways and counted dead cattle by the thousands? The great question is, where can we get our race of cattle that will stand blizzards, and endure the drifting snow, and will not be driven with the storms against the railroad fences, the many rivers and pasture fences, there to perish for the want of nerve to face the northern winds for a few miles, to where the winter grasses could be had in abundance? Realizing these facts, both from observation and pocket, we pulled on our ‘thinking cap’ and these points came vividly to our mind:
- We want an animal that is very hardy.
- We want an animal with the earth and endurance.
- We want an animal that faces the blizzards and endures the storms.
- We want an animal that will rustle the prairies and not yield to discouragement.
- We want an animal that will fill the above bill and make good beef and plenty of it.
All the points above could easily be found in the buffalo, excepting the fifth, and even that is more than filled as to the quality, but not in quantity. Where is the “old timer” who has not had a cut from the hump or sirloin of a fat buffalo cow in the fall of the year, and where is the one that will not make affidavit that it was the best meat he ever ate? Yes. The fat was very rich, equal to the marrow from the bone of domestic cattle. And the man that fed on such delicious and nourishing meat became as cragy a young thoroughbred or he knew what was the reason, even if he had hailed from the city and emancipated from fast living. This was the cause of so many dance houses on the frontier during the great slaughter of buffalo in the years of 1871 and 1872.
The great question remained unsolved as to the quality of meat from the buffalo. I finally heard of a half-breed buffalo and Colorado, and immediately set out to find it. I traveled at least 1,000 miles to find it, and found a five-year-old half-breed cow that had been bred to domestic bulls and had brought forth two calves — a yearling and a sucking calf — that gave promise of great results.
The cow had ever been fed, but depended altogether on the range, and when I saw her in the fall of 1883 I estimated her weight at 1,800 pounds. She was a brindle and had a handsome robe, even in September. She had a good hind-quarters as ordinary cattle, her fore parts were heavy and resembled the buffalo, yet not near so much of the hump. The offspring showed but very little of the buffalo, yet they possessed a woolly coat, which showed clearly that they were more than domestic cattle. I endeavored to buy the herd, but the owner would not sell at figures I could pay. I resolved to try the experiment of crossing buffalo with cattle, so in June, 1884, I made a trip to where I expected to fine buffalo calves, which was near the Colorado line, between the Union Pacific and Santa Fe railroads. I found quite a number of old ones, but not a calf could be found. This delayed me until 1885 when I made a trip to the South Canadian River, in Texas, and secured eleven calves and succeeded in saving six. In 1886 I captured fourteen and raised seven. In 1887 I made greater efforts and drove domestic cows to Texas and captured thirty-six calves and saved thirty. This year I captured seven calves and saved all of them: also caught the last of the old ones (eleven). I have them hobbled (with the wild ones) and will try to keep them for breeding purposes. My oldest buffaloes are now three years old, and I am breeding 100 domestic cows to them this year. I am breeding the Galloway cows quite extensively: also some Shorthorns, Hereford’s and Texas cows. I expect best results from the Galloways. If I can get the black luster of the latter and the fur of the buffalo I will have a robe that will bring more money than we get for the average range steer. I have not had any half-breeds yet, nor will I have any before February next.
I have just returned from Manitoba, where I went to investigate a herd of half and three-fourths breed buffalo. I was more than pleased with the results. Mr. L. S. Bedson, of Stony Mountain, Manitoba, is the lucky owner. I found the buffalo and half breeds in one herd, and the domestic cattle and another. I learned the reason was because when the blizzards came last winter, the half breeds would forsake their mother and face the wind the same as buffalo, while the mother and all domestic animals would turn their tails to the storm and skip for a warmer climate, and had to be gathered and housed. The buffalo and half-breed endured the winter on the natural range, while the thermometer ranged at forty degrees below zero, and came out in the spring in good shape, not one yielding to the curious storms along the West shores of Lake Winnipeg, without shelter of any kind.
Mr. Bedson housed a three-fourths buffalo steer last fall and slaughtered him last March. He dressed 1,280 pounds as fine meat as was ever eaten by the inhabitants of the city of Winnipeg. I send you here with a photograph of a ten months’ half-breed calf, taken December 1. You will see how even the fur is, being as long on the hind parts as on the shoulders and neck, very much unlike the buffalo, which is so shaggy about the shoulders and so thin further back. It was an iron gray and is a cross with a common domestic cow.
The half and three-fourths breeds are splendid feeders. They are handy and always full, if there is anything to eat, even if it is covered with snow six or ten inches deep. They take the traits of the buffalo animal paw the snow and root for the dead grass.
They might be but down as typical of American life and will supply buffalo meat for the markets, which will for generations be sought after with great eagerness. I have an offer of 50 cents per pound for my fat buffalo for Eastern markets during the coming winter. I am offered $200 each for all I have, just for the head and hide for taxidermist purposes. I have 61 head at present, which is no small fortune for an ordinary farmer.
What can we rely on by having one-forth, one-half and three-fourths breeds, might be analyzed as follows.
We can depend upon a race of cattle under equaled in the world for hardiness and durability; a good meat burying animal; the best and only for bearing animal of the bovine race; the animal always found in a storm where it is overtaken by it; a race of cattle so clannish as never to separate and go astray; the animal that can always have free range, as they exist were no other animal can live; the animal that can water every third day and keep fat, ranging from twenty to thirty miles from water; in fact they are the perfect animal for the plains of North America. One-fourth breeds for Texas, one-half breeds Colorado and Kansas, and three-fourths breeds for a more northern country, is what will soon be sought after more than any living animal. Then we will not be confronted with dead carcasses from starvation, exhaustion and lack of nerve as in years gone by. C.J.Jones
Mr. Jones sends with the foregoing article — Britain expressly for the Farmers’ Review– the photograph of a half-bred buffalo at ten months of age, taken December 1, 1887. We are sorry that as the picture give a front view of the calf we cannot well and grave it for use in our columns, as the idea given would not do justice to the animal. The picture shows the calf to be well grown, very hardy looking and covered evenly with long and apparently fine hair. There seems, too, to be every evidence of a good covering of meat well let down to the hocks. The hind quarters (what can be seen of them) are much better than those of typical buffalo. Since writing the article Mr. Jones has at our request sent us another photograph, but this unfortunately cannot be used to and grave from as the animals are not in a suitable position or distinct enough. The picture is, however, most interesting, showing a group of over twenty buffalo grades, bulls, calves, etc. They seem to be very contented, in good condition and evidently well adapted to their surroundings.
The Topeka Daily Capital
Topeka, Kansas Nov 28, 1888
THEY VOTED SKULLS.
A Choice Morsal of Early Kansas History
Men, Skulls and an Old Directory
Mr. James C. Hill of Indiana has recently commenced a suit in the United States Circuit court of this city against the board of county commissioners of Harper county, to recover $30,000 and interest on bonds issued in 1873. The county refuses to pay the bonds, claiming that they were issued through fraud.
There was probably not a white man in Harper County at the beginning of 1873. Some time in the spring or summer of that year, however, three or four men found their way over the uninhabited prairie and built a low one-room hut out of lumber brought with them, very close to the exact center of the county. They were perhaps the only white men within forty miles or more. Probably they caught and occasional glimpse of buffalo. Certainly the smaller wild animals of the plains were their near and numerous neighbors. The face of the earth around them was covered with the fine, soft buffalo grass which seems to be as wild as the animals that roamed over it, for it disappeared almost as quickly as the antelope and wildcat, upon the incoming of civilization. Scattered over the prairie thickly enough to furnish fuel to the inhabitants for years afterward where those strangest of fuels that man ever used to kindle his fires — buffalo chips. The white bones of one-time prairie monsters were so plentiful that people who first settled in the country found a profitable business and gathering them by the wagon load and hauling them a hundred miles to sell them.
The three or four men who built their hut on Bluff creek fifteen years ago made a profitable use of these bones. They populated the county with them. Strange, unique, audacious as it was, suggestive of graveyards, and of walking skeletons, they literally peopled the country with skulls, made eight legal municipality, with all the officials and formalities requisite, and had the auditor of the state declare it well done. They gathered 300 or 400 buffalo skulls, set them up in a row, and gave to each a name from an old Cincinnati directory, which they brought out for the purpose. Whether they were particular to choose dead men’s names is not known, but dead or not they became citizens of this new county, with a vote to be cast as the political bosses of the country dictated. And they all voted to make the new an enterprising town of one hut, four men and a Cincinnati directory, the county seat. This done, the necessary officers were chosen in due manner and then another election was called. This was to vote on the question of bonding the county for internal improvements. The records say that the bonding proposition was carried by a large majority. This done, the four creators of counties at once had bonds printed in the proper form, and signed by the proper officers, some of whom, it is presumed, were Cincinnati directory-name buffalo skulls. The endorsement of the auditor of state was secured and the bonds actually sold in the east. It is these bonds, or a part of them, which the county now refuses to pay.
One such audacious job was not enough for these pioneers. As soon as the organization and the bond issuing in Harper county were completed, they moved on to Comanche county, leaving the buffalo skulls in supreme control in Harper. Bonds were afterward ensued into other counties in the same manner.
It is questionable whether the courts will sustain Harper’s refusal to pay the bonds. A case somewhat similar to this has been tried in Kansas and the court decided that it could not go beyond the signature of the auditor of state, to discover whether or not county bonds are fraudulent. If the auditor’s signature is proven to be correct, the bonds must be paid, according to this decision.
Topeka, Dec 7 1888
COL. STANTON’S FINE HERD AT BISMARCK GROVE
“Cleveland” the Handsomeness Specimen of a Race Almost Extinct
……While the only simon-pure buffalo ranch on the American continent is unquestionably the one located near Garden City, it is nevertheless a fact that there is a remarkable find herd at Bismarck Grove, owned Colonel H. H. Stanton, proprietor of the Union Pacific hotel and this city.
Colonel Stanton has been a resident of this state for many years and had business interest all along the line of the Kansas Pacific long before the last herd of bison was swept from the prairies of Kansas, or ruthlessly slaughtered for mere fun of this thing or for the paltry price their hides would bring. His first venture as a purchaser of this now valuable stock was in 1879, when he brought a bull buffalo calf at Wallace, in the extreme western part of the state, for which he paid $8. The man from whom he bought represented the calf to be eight days old, though in reality it was not three, and the Col. taught it to drink milk and nursed it through its bab hood. He brought it down to Topeka and put it in the park in front of the railroad hotel, where he Did for a year, by which time it became unruly and was at the request of a Union Pacific official taken to Bismarck Grove for keeping and as an attraction for visitors. Meantime the owner had bought from someone who had made the overland trip in a prairie schooner, two buffalo heifers, for which he paid $25 each. These three animals were the origin of the present herd, and all are now dead. The bull, christened “Barney,” may still be seen, as large as life, if not quite so natural, in a glass case in the museum at the Statehouse, his remains having been skillfully preserved by a taxidermist.
THE STANTON HERD
……The descendents of these three buffalo now found at Bismarck Grove, where all were born, number in all ten. There were 17, but the rest have died with the exception of one which was given away. They are kept in an inclosure containing about thirty acres immediately adjoining the park and they may be seen at any time. The site is one well worth a trip and the slight expense that may attach to it, especially to one who has never seen the American bison in his native state.
The present herd includes two fine bull calves, dropped last spring, two heifers, five cows and a bull, six years old and as handsome as a picture. The latter has been named “Cleveland,” after that colonel’s favorite presidential candidate. The entire herd is in as fine condition as any beef cattle, though they were never fed anything but hey and are never given any shelter. In fact they don’t take kindly to shelter and whether a blizzard is blowing, with the mercury 20 degrees below zero, or the sun pouring down his scorching rays with the thermometer 110 degrees above, they set their heads resolutely towards storm or sun and take their medicine as if they liked it. Hon. W. F. Cody, “Buffalo Bill.” Tried to buy the whole herd two years ago to take to Europe with his Wild West show, but they were not for sale at his own figures, and indeed there is no anxiety to dispose of them at any figures. The railroad company has been glad to furnish them pasturage for the sake of adding to the attractions of the park, in which there are also forty-three head of deer, including two as fine bucks has ever trotted over the national deer trail towards the salt licks and northern Utah.
PRIDE OF THE HERD
……while the bison at Bismarck Grove are splendid specimens of their class, ‘Cleveland’ is decidedly the pride of the herd and as grand a creature as ever trod the soil of Kansas on four legs. He is just six years old and is a perfect specimen of the kings of the plains. There is a royal blood in his veins and his code is finer than the imperial purple. It is not possible to get at him to measure his stature and weigh him, but as he stands in the past year he appears to be as tall as a thoroughbred Norman-Percheron stallion and as massive as an elephant direct from the jungles. He must weigh fully 3,000 pounds, and it is doubtful is there is today living on the face of the earth a handsomer buffalo bull then he. His fur is just now in its best state, even thick and compact, while the long hair on his neck and legs is of a glossy seal brown. As he turns and faces the visitor, one can imagine what it must have been to see countless thousands roaming on the plains and to hear the thunder of their hooves in a stampede. “Cleveland’s” disposition is not so ugly as old Barney’s was, but at certain seasons he is very wild and there is no one venturesome enough to go into the inclosure. It is then not altogether safe to even look over the high in heavy board fence at him, for he is likely to make a run for the visitor, as the numerous holes in the fence where he has knocked off the boards will testify.
Colonel Stanton is very proud of his herd, particularly of Cleveland, and he has a right to be. He would rather lose his best hotel that his buffalo, nor would any cash price induce him to part with them. He will probably, in the near future, place them in a more convenient location and tend to breeding them and crossbreeding with cattle. He certainly has a splendid foundation to begin on and it is a lucrative business, a single buffalo been worth more than of whole drove of common cattle.
The Saline Country Journal
Saline, Kansas Dec 20, 1888
Hon. C.J. Jones of Garden City, familiarly known to Kansas as “Buffalo Jones,” and the owner of the only herd of domesticated buffalo in the world, was in the city last night and registered at the Copeland, where a reporter called on him and piled him with numerous questions in regard to buffalo breeding. In return he imparted some valuable information concerning his business, which will prove of more than passing interest to the general reader.
“How many full-blooded buffaloes have you?” was asked.
“I have 127 full bloods, about half bulls and half cows.”
“How many cross-breeds have you?”
“Twenty-three ranging one-half, three-fourths, seven-eighths and fifteen-sixteenths.”
“Are there any buffaloes remaining in a wild state?”
“There may be a few isolated ones, but they are in the mountains and are exceedingly hard to find.”
“Do you breed them for beef or robes?”
“I have only slaughtered one steer – three-fourths buffalo, 3 years old. He dressed 1,250 pounds. I sold the meat for 18 cents a pound, and the robe for $75, undressed. I raise them for breeding purposes.”
“What is the weight of a full-grown buffalo?”
“Bulls will way from 2,000 to 3,000 pounds: cows, 1,200 to 1,800, cross breeds are much heavier than full-boods.”
“Can they be kept under fence?”
“Yes; although the Bulls are sometimes unruly during the summer seasons, and need stronger fences than cattle; otherwise they are about the same as cattle.”
“Anything that cattle will live on will fat buffalo or cross-breeds, and they will keep provender that cattle would starve to death on.”
“Is the meat of the buffalo as tough as the wild ones used to be?”
“The wild buffalo knew nothing but to exert his muscles and running and roaming over the plains, which made his flash exceedingly tough. The domestic is as tender as any domestic beef.”
“How are the cross-breeds for milk?”
“As far as tried to cases they give a fair quantity, and it is very rich. The calves show up extraordinary, which proves their good qualities.”
“Do you cross domestic cow with the buffalo bull or vice a versa?”
“The buffalo cow was never known to get with calf from domestic bulls, though often served; cross breeds calves readily from domestic bulls as well as from buffalo bulls. The half breeders are procured by crossing domestic cows with buffalo bulls.”
“To what age do buffalo live?”
“The only case that has been tried, that I know of, was in Kentucky. The buffalo lived to be 27 years old, and was killed at that age.”
“Are your buffalo domesticated so that they can be handled like cattle?”
“Yes, just the same.”
“Would you sell a car load of buffalo, mostly bulls ready for service?”
“I would not sell any females, I would sell a few Bulls, but not a car load.”
“I have no crosses for sale before the fall of 1889.”
“Do the crosses have the hump and shaggy neck and shoulders of the buffalo?”
“The hump almost disappears in half-breeds but shows more prominently as they get near the buffalo. The shaggy neck and shoulders are not recognized in half and three-quarter breeds. The fur is evenly spread all over; is very thick and compact, and is a great improvement on the full blood buffalo robe.”
“To the cross breeds drift with the storm as do cattle, and do they scatter easily?”
“The crosses take the instinct of the buffalo and always stand and face the storms — even the severest blizzards, when the thermometer ranges at sixty degrees below zero. They are very clannish, and never separate accept the old Bulls leave the herd when whipped out by younger ones.”
“Where do you expect a market for buffalo and cross breed robes?”
“All over the world where the thermometer reaches zero. The fur bearing animals are virtually gone. The Hudson Bay Fur company are disbanding their forces because there are no furs to buy, and furs are of as much value as pure gold.”
“What class of cattle crossed with buffalo would you recommend?”
“The Galloway or Polled Angus by all means. The half-breeds are choice for meat and have an excellent robe. The three-quarter and seven-eighths have a robe as choice as the seal skin, and are the exact color. My honest opinion is they will sell as well for ladies’ coats as the genuine seal skin. I have named them the “Seal Buffalo.” I have twelve head and would not take less than $5,000 each for the best ones.”
“Would you sell your herd of buffalo and half-breeds to a syndicated and if so about what would be your best figures?”
“Yes, I would sell, but my figures would scare you so badly I fear you would never recover. I might sell one-half interest to a company or individual, at what I would consider their figures, but would not sell unless I could have the management of the herd.”
“How much would you charge for a fine bull head already mounted? Also how much for a pair of full-grown buffalo set up full sized by a good taxidermist?”
“A good bull head is worth $200. One all ready for setting up full-size would cost you $200, and you can have it mounted by whom, and as you prefer.”
“Will the cross-breeds succeed on the open prairie, like the buffalo has done for ages past?”
“Yes. They appear to be fully equal in all respects to the buffalo. No care is required on the prairies of Manitoba, where they have been thoroughly tested. If they can succeed there I can see no obstacle in more southern or western districts.”
“Please give me the prices that can be obtained from each article of a buffalo and cross-breed.”
“There is no fixed market now for the product referred to. I have been offered 50 cents per pound for the whole carcasses; $75 for a choice head and hide for the taxidermist’ for purposes. At this rate a bull would figure up $800 in value, a cross would be about the same and cows would range about $500 each.”
It will be seen from these figures that there was nothing visionary in Mr. Jones’s scheme to start a buffalo ranch, and that bison breeding beats the breeding of fine stock of any kind when it comes to the dollars and cents there are in it.