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Painted by Russell, The Cowboy Artist

1898 An Old Time Buffalo Hunt



Harrisburg Telegraph Pennsylvania December 15, 1898


A Woman Started the Now Famous Goodnight Herd

……It took just thirteen years to wipe out almost entirely that most magnificent characteristic of all American beast, the bison. From 1868 to 1881 over 31,000,000 buffaloes were wantonly and wickedly slaughtered on the great plains of the West. Thousands upon thousands of the great brown, shaggy beast were shot down, their tongues taken from them and their carcasses left to rot or to fat prairie wolves. Others were later slaughtered and their hides alone. Every year meat and enough to feed the poor of the world was left to rot or dry up in the sun. With the extinction of the buffalo began the decline of the American Indian.
……When Texas was the wildest spot almost in North America, a young man went there from Illinois with his wife, relates the Dallas News. He began to raise cattle when the buffalo still grazed before his door. In those days the vast plains of the Panhandle of Texas overflowed with buffalo. As he stood at his door he could see herds passing to the west or east. So great was their number that it often took the grazing herds several days to pass by. Now the only buffaloes in Texas are on the ranch of this man, whose name is Charles Goodnight.
……Soon the buffalo began to grow scarcer and scarcer, and there was assurance that they would become extinct. Those who had wantonly destroyed them began to be alarmed. But it was too late. The last of the great herds had been chased over the edge of the precipice beyond which was extinction.
……When Mrs. Goodnight realized the inevitable wiping out of the buffalo she urged her husband to endeavor to preserve them. He set aside at her request 600 acres from his great ranch of 60,000 acres for buffalo park. In a letter telling of his start as a buffalo raiser, Mr. Goodnight said:
“In the spring of 1879- to be exact, May 15th- at my wife’s request, started out to look for some young buffalo. At last I found a few younger ones in Palo Duro canyon, and ‘roped’ them from horseback. The month following W.W. Dyer, my wife’s brother, caught two young females. From this start we have now a herd of forty-five purebred buffaloes. In 1884 I began to cross them with Polled Angus and Galloway cattle, and have a herd of sixty of these cross-breeds. This year we have been fortunate in getting fifteen buffalo calves.
……“The buffalo breeds slowly in captivity. It seems incomprehensible that they should have grown into such an enormous herds as there were when I came to this country, and which, in fact, covered all the western plains.”
E.J, Davidson, of this city, has recently returned from a trip to Texas, at which time he visited the Goodnight ranch and photographed the buffalo there. Speaking of his trip, Mr. Davidson said:
…….“The mangy, faded, ragged buffalo one sees in the zoos or circus and those running in comparative wilderness on the prairie are two entirely different animals. The wild buffalo is a dark, glossy brown, and his whiskers and leggins are coal black. The cabs are cream-colored, with the tips of the nose and ears and the hoof a glistening black. They are beautiful little creatures and as frisky and playful as a lot of farm calves. The dime novel to the contrary, the buffalo does not bellow. When he is alarmed or angry he makes a queer rumbling sound in his throat, not much louder than the bleat of a goat. The buffaloes are very swift runners, and when they get started at a headlong pace nothing can stop them. In the summer they graze and take care of themselves on the three square miles that comprise their park. In the winter they are fed with what ranchmen call ‘roughness,’ that is, course fodder, cornstalks and hay.
……“The Goodnight ranch is a vast place, in all 60,000 acres. On the place is the railroad station and express and post office, as well as a church and school house. There is no town, as Mr. Goodnight would not be troubled with it. Goodnight, as the station is called, is thrity-eight miles east of Amarillo, on the Panhandle branch of the Santa Fe Railroad. The church and school house are the special care of Mrs. Goodnight. She was the first white woman to brave the dangers from the Indians and take up her abode in that part of the southwest. Her interest in her buffalo herd is unflagging, and, if the race of the typical American beast survives, it will be mainly owing to her efforts.”



Logansport Reporter, Indiana, Jan. 14 1898


Attempts at Cross-Breeding Between Domestic Cattle and Buffalo

[copyright, 1897]

……Cattle dealers throughout the country, especially owners of the great cattle ranges in the west and southwest, are greatly interested in a widely circulated report that certain western breeders have made a success of experimental cross-breeding of the American bison with domestic cattle.
It is claimed that they crossed breed combines the docility of the domestic animal with the endurance and the large size of the bison, and that the half-breeds grow to maturity in last time than domestic cattle. The flesh, also, is said to be very palatable, and the fur, while retaining all the good qualities of that of the bison, is much softer and finer.
……One of the alleged successful experiments is located on a cattle farm a few miles south of Durrant Wis., where, it is said, three bison captured a few years ago have, by cross-breeding, increased to a herd of 43 animals; and the owners of the herd believe that an extension of their method of cross-breeding will bring them a fortune in the near future.
The statement, however, has not been received with much favor by cattle dealers, who are aware of the ill success of several similar experiments during recent years.
……Some years ago, when the fact was suddenly realized that the bison was in imminent danger of extinction, the federal government took steps to avoid that calamity by the formation of buffalo farms, where, by careful breeding, at least specimens of the disposed monarch of the prairie could be preserved. Several private individuals also established buffalo farms for the same purpose. One of the most successful of these was that of the late Austin Corbin, the banker and railroad magnate. His herd originally consisted of 17 buffaloes, but now it comprises nearly 100 head of pure-bred bison, and it is said to be the largest single herd of these animals in the country.
……Mr. Austin Corbin, son of their original owner of the herd, when asked for his opinion as to the probability of successful cross-breeding of the buffalo with the domestic cattle, said: “it may be possible, but guided by a knowledge of experiments in that direction made by my father. I would require very strong proof of the fact before believing that it has been, or can be done with success. At the suggestion of the Duke of Marlborough, my father, several years ago, imported a herd of Polled-Angus cattle, some 30 in number, from Scotland, for the purpose of cross-breeding with the bison on our cattle farm at Newport, N.H. The conditions were most favorable, as the bison were thoroughly acclimated and had largely increased in numbers, but the attempt at cross-breeding was almost a total failure. The result was so unsatisfactory that the experiment was abandoned, and we returned to the raising of the bison, deer and unadulterated. The only successful attempts at cross-breeding that I have heard of was that of “Buffalo” Jones, owner of an extensive cattle range in New Mexico. When he was here, some five years ago, Jones claimed that his experiment had been a success: but when I saw him last, six months ago. I judged from his unwillingness to discuss the cross-breeding of bison that his experiment had not continued to be successful. What makes me most doubtful that it would pay Breeders to go into cross-breeding of bison with domestic cattle on an extensive scale is the fact that, while the half- breeds would bring little more than ordinary cattle, the raising of pure-bred bison would pay handsomely. There is no trouble in getting $1000 for first class buffalo cow and prices range all the way from that figure down to $500. It seems to me that it would pay these Wisconsin breeders to raise the simon-pure article of American bison, rather than the half-breed buffalo.”
……Mr. Corbin explained his recent action, in demanding the return of the 25 bison loan by him to the park commissioners, by stating that the animals are in a bad condition, owing to bad water, and the fact that they had not sufficient grazing ground. The section set apart for them contained 70 acres, but only 20 acres are available for grazing. The commissioners refused to increase the area, and therefore Mr. Corbin wanted his buffalo back on his own place, where he could take proper care of them.