Bison Timeline

Bison History Timeline

As I research historical accounts of bison, most of which I located from, new information and articles are being added almost daily. It’s a long process, but a mission worthy of my time investment, and I hope; worthy of your time spent reading the articles. I have re-typed the historical news articles, word-for-word, so as to capture the spirit and essence intended by the authors. If you see “____”, this means I cannot transcribe a word for reasons of legibility.

Note: You may notice conflicting information as you read. This is not unusual when researching history. I offer no theses or biased conclusions, only the words written by observers of the time-period.

I hope that like us, you become excited and interested in the historical news reports and accounts that are all-about-bison. I also hope that the readers will contribute with trails to historic news about bison to the benefit all.


“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation.
The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves”.
Will Rogers

Bison history Timeline Ancient Bison Fauna

Scientists are calling what is believed to be the oldest bison fossil ever recorded the “mother of all bison,” a huge discovery in explaining not only where these massive animals came from but also the “land bridge” that once connected North America to Asia.


The First Explorers Sightings of Bison and The Last Bison Killed by State


In their study, published in the journal The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, paleontologist Duane Froese and his team reveal that bison traveled to North America in two waves:

The first wave between 195,000 and 135,000 years ago.

The second between 45,000 to 21,000 years ago. Both waves align with geological records of very low sea levels, low enough to expose the Bering Land Bridge.

3000- Bison bison appears

1500’s An estimated 30 to 60 million bison living in North America.

A. D. 1520 Horses brought to America

1535 Cabeza de Vaca was the first recorded European to see a buffalo on the plains

1540, Cartier traded buffalo hides and buffalo calves every year with the natives. (Quebec- Montreal)

1542 It was in that year that he (Coronado) reached the buffalo country and traversed the plains that were “ full of crooked backed oxen, as the mountain Serena in Spain is of sheep. ” This is the description of the animal as recorded by one of his followers, Castañeda, and translated by W. W. Davis:
“Another thing which struck us was that all the old buffaloes that we killed had the left ear cloven, while it was entire in the young; we could never discover the reason of this.”

1600 60 million buffalo roam North America

In the 1600s, the Monks of St. Frances in Zacatecas, (central Mexico), had two buffalo that pulled a two-wheeled cart. (David Dary, The Buffalo Book)

1690 On the Canadian prairies, Henry Kelsey, reported that the Cree called these noble animals Thatanka, which the English of his day called “buffillo.” More appropriately, “buffillo” were actually bison, but since first sighted by Europeans, the name buffalo stuck in common parlance. 

The nêhiyawak (Cree) call buffalo paskwâwi-mostos, or just mostos (which now is a term most used for domesticated cattle, but used to mean only buffalo). (source)

1700-50: Horse reaches the Great Plains.

1701 East coast of North America is when the first efforts to raise buffalo began.

1700’s- 1800’s As Euro-Americans settled the country, moving westward from the east coast, they brought changes to native habitat through plowing and farming. Introduced cattle diseases and grazing competition with feral horses also impacted bison prior to direct impact by Euro-Americans.

1720s: Comanches establish hunting territories in southern Plains.

1730 (As early as ) buffalo calves had frequently been taken by the settlers, and brought up among the domestic cattle; being, however, mainly as objects of curiosity. According to Gallatin, a mixed breed was quite common ninety years ago( 1786) in some of the north-western counties of Virginia; but they gradually became merged into the common domestic herd, through lack of fresh supply of wild blood.

1770’s No bison were seen in the West Branch Valley of Pennsylvania, George Washington (President) raises buffalo.

1780-82: Epidemics shift power from villagers to nomads.

1802 Bison gone from Ohio, pushed out by pioneers and settlers.

1802 Bison slaughter of 350 head at Middle Creek, Penn. “Old Logan” (Thought to be more Wood Bison , than Plains)

1802 and 1803 The Cork Mercantile ad, Ireland sale ads ran for buffalo robes.

1804-06: Lewis and Clark expedition travels the upper Missouri River.

About 1815, Wickliffe trained some for oxen work. (only, still very wild)

1816 April 2, The Evening Post 24 bales of buffalo skins for sale.
Oct 1 The Pittsburgh Gazette 500 Buffalo Robes just received & for sale Bosler & Co.

1817 Jan 28th the Pittsburgh Gazette Buffalo Robes for sale.

1818 Nov 17th 70 bales of Buffalo Robes for sale Bosler & Co.

1819 Dec 6 1000 Buffalo Robes for sale George Astor, Dec 13 400 Buffalo Robes for sale Halsey & Ebbets.

1820: Bison extinct east of the Mississippi River. Native American tribes, forced off land in the east, bring horses and guns to the Great Plains, and increased pressure on bison.

1820s: Robe market begins (trade on the Northern Plains from 1820-80).

1821 Dec 17 The Evening Post 2500 Buffalo Robes for sale Dilworth & Voorhees (ad ran Oct Nov & Dec)

1822 May 31 The London Times, Beautiful Buffalo Cow and Calf for sale.

1823 & 1824 Pittsburgh Advertiser Buffalo Robes for sale Robert Lindell & Co.

1824 The Evening Post, Public Auction 10,000 Buffalo Robes, The American Fur Co.

1826 The Evening Post Public Auction 9500 Buffalo Robes, The American Fur Co.

1827 The Evening Post 327 Buffalo Hides and a Few Horns for sale by N.L.& G Griswold
The Evening Post 9500 Buffalo Hides for sale at Auction at the store of Joseph Howard, Salem Massachusetts
The Evening Post Buffalo Robes by the bale or single-skin, for sale by Munn

1828: Fort Union established at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers (North Dakota).

1828 July 1st Capt Thomas Anthony writes: Twenty-seven of our Creek Indians have been on a buffalo hunt, and after absence of twenty days, returned with the meat of 24 buffalos, which they killed. They saw about 600 buffalo and an immense number of deer, whilst out, and would have killed more, but had not the means of bringing the meat home, every horse having as much as he could carry. A second party will go out next month when they anticipate much sport. All the Indians are delighted with this country, which is rich and well calculated for our people, who can live well by agriculture and hunting.

1830 Mass destruction of the once great herds of bison began.

1832: The artist George Catlin says, “The buffalo’s doom is sealed.”

1840’s West of the Rocky Mountains, bison (never in large numbers) disappeared. Native American market hunters concentrated on cow bison, because of their prime hides for trading.

1844 This may have been the peak year for the Hudson’s Bay Company as 75,000 bison robes were traded to posts in Canada.

1846 May 5th Milwaukee Daily Gazette 333 No 1& 2 Buffalo Robes for sale

1849 Cattalo calves shipped from Wainwright Buffalo Park to Bain, near Manyberries, Alberta, Ca.

1850 April 25th Milwaukee Daily Sentinel sale ads for Buffalo Robes
Cattalo shipped from Wainwright Buffalo Park to Bain near Manyberries, Alberta, Ca.

1859 General Randolph B. Marcy himself had journeyed from Fort Randall on the lower Missouri to Fort Laramie without seeing a single buffalo.The experience had convinced him that the animals were “rapidly disappearing, and a few years will, at the present rate of destruction, be sufficient to exterminate the species.”

1860’s during the Civil War, a pair in Kansas, extremely gentle and trained for yoke.

1864 Idaho State Legislature passed the first law to protect the bison – after they were gone from the state.

1866 Charles Goodnight, captured a few bison calves and he had 6 in all and tried to start a captive herd on his Elk Creek Ranch, Throckmorton County, Texas. The bison were sold shortly after, unbeknownst of Mr. Goodnight. His partner wore tired of them and sold the little herd and never paid Charles for his half. (1866-1867 Charles was not married and he was driving cattle up north with Loving.)

1866 July 6th, Brooklyn, New York
A St Paul paper publishes some facts which indicate that the cattle disease is raging among the buffalo on the Northwestern prairies, numbers of these animals having been found dead, with no marks to account for the cause of death. Many cattle also have been attacked, and died at Pembina, with what is supposed to be disease identical with that now spreading through Europe.

1867 “Every buffalo dead is an Indian gone.” said by Colonel Dodge
1860’s Railroads built across the Great Plains during this period divided the bison into two main herds – the southern and the northern. Many bison were killed to feed the railway crews and Army posts. During this time, A Buffalo Bill Cody gains fame.

1860s-80s: Railroad divides bison into northern and southern herds.

1868 Things start ramping up, triple the ads and articles reported in newspapers.

1868 Gen. Sherman wrote to his friend and comrade-in-arms General Sheridan, “as long as Buffalo are upon the Republican the Indians will go there. I think it would be wise to invite all the sportsmen of England and America there this fall for a Grand Buffalo hunt, and make one grand sweep of them all. Until the Buffalo and consequent[ly] Indians are out [from between] the Roads we will have collisions and trouble.” February 1868. Lieutenant Colonel Luther P. Bradley “Private Journal,” Bradley described his mission: “Ordered to the forks of the Republican to make permanent camp: to kill all the buffalo we find, and drive the Arapahoes and Cheyennes south, and the Sioux north.” Bradley carried out his orders energetically, but his troops were able to find and kill comparatively few buffalo.

1870 An estimated two million bison were killed this year on the southern plains. Germany had developed a process to tan bison hides into fine leather.

Homesteaders collected bones from carcasses left by hunters. Bison bones were used in refining sugar, and in making fertilizer and fine bone china. Bison bones brought from $2.50 to $15.00 a ton. Based on an average price of $8 per ton they brought 2.5 million dollars into Kansas alone between 1868 and 1881. Assuming that about 100 skeletons were required to make one ton of bones, this represented the remains of more than 31 million bison.

1870’s It became obvious that owning bison was profitable. More and more people were capturing free ranging bison to establish private herds.
(Early 1870’s) Henry Bergh, president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
He was then engaged in a campaign to gain support for congressional legislation to protect the buffalo from white hunters

In 1870-71 two young brothers, Bill Alloway and Charlie Alloway came to Winnipeg as privates in the Wolseley expedition from Hamilton, Ontario where their father was a Queen’s Own Rifles captain. Charlie became a keen hunter and horseman. Often he roamed the Prairies trading and hunting with Métis and Indians. A description of one of his adventures appears in Wild West magazine of January 1972. On a trip to the Qu’Appelle Valley in Saskatchewan, his party was warned by Indians to move camp, which moments later was plowed to pulp by a “brown river of buffalo” while “for 24 hours men watched the steadily loping herd go by at the rate of about 10 a second” Alloway estimated that over a million bison passed by. Charlie, who took over the amateur veterinary practice Bill began and added a trading post, saw the handwriting in 1873 after buying 21,000 buffalo hides at $3-$4 each from a single brigade. He turned his attention, instead, to try to stop the senseless slaughter of these fine animals.
1871: Appearance of hide market with railroads penetrating Kansas; new tanning technologies; hunting all year.
This year marked the beginning of the end of the southern herd. The greatest slaughter took place along the railroads. One firm in St. Louis traded 250,000 hides this year. Demand for bison skins escalated as a Pennsylvania tannery began commercially tanning bison hides. With this newly discovered tanning process, bison were now hunted year round.

Territorial delegate R.C. McCormick of Arizona introduced a bill that made it illegal for any person to kill a buffalo on public lands in the United States, except for food or preserving the robe. The bill indicated that the fine be $100 for each buffalo killed. Mysteriously, this document disappeared.

Wyoming passed a law prohibiting the waste of bison meat. Since such laws were not enforced, they did little to protect the bison.

1871. William F Cody recounted how the army assisted a party of prominent businessmen who visited Fort McPherson in 1871 as Sheridan’s guests. Many officers accompanied the party, and two companies of the Fifth Cavalry provided an escort. Cody remarked that any guest “who wished could use army guns.” In fact, the Springfield army rifle was initially the favorite weapon of the hide hunters. The party killed over six hundred buffalo on the hunt, keeping only the tongues and the choice cuts, but leaving the rest of the carcasses to rot on the plains

1872 It was reported: That for many years have been extinct in regions east of the Mississippi river and highly probable to be entirely extinct in the next thirty years. In May, 25,000 bison have been killed south of the Kansas Pacific railroad for the sake of their hides alone, which were sold for 2.00 a piece for shipment to the East. in addition, it was estimated that about 5000 bison were killed by the Indians to supply people on the frontier with meat, so at least 30,000 bison have been killed in one month in the Southwestern territories.

1872: Yellowstone National Park established. Sharp’s .50 caliber rifle developed.
During this year and the next two, an average of 5,000 bison was killed each day, every day of the year, as ten thousand hunters poured onto the plains. One railroad shipped over a million pounds of bison bones. Bison hunting became a popular sport among the wealthy.
The Kansas legislature passed a law prohibiting the wasting of bison meat, but the Governor vetoed it.

Colorado passed a law prohibiting the wasting of bison meat; it was not enforced.

The legislation creating Yellowstone National Park provided against the wanton destruction of the fish and game found in said park. Staffing and funding were not provided to enforce this law.

1872 Columbus Delano said in his annual report, “The rapid disappearance of game from the former hunting-grounds must operate largely in favor of our efforts to confine the Indians to smaller areas, and compel them to abandon their nomadic customs.”

1872 General Sheridan and his military entourage joined Alexis (3rd son of the Czar of Russia) and his attendants in Omaha
Special accommodations were made on a train headed for North Platte, Nebraska. In five days of exuberant hunting, the party slaughtered hundreds of buffalo.

1872 Jan 2 Colonel William B. Hazen, not usually one to respect Indian rights, wrote to Bergh (president of the ABS prevention of cruelty to animals): The theory that the buffalo should be killed to deprive the Indians of food is a fallacy, as these people are becoming harmless under a rule of justice. I earnestly request that you bring this subject before Congress with the intention of having such steps taken as will prevent this wicked and wanton waste, both in the lives of God’s creatures and of the valuable food they furnish.

1872 or 3 With the aid of his wife Sabine, Walking Coyote, a Pend Oreille Indian, acquired some bison calves, bringing them into the Flathead Valley with the intent of starting a bison herd.

In Canada, west of Winnipeg, James McKay acquired five bison and established a small herd.

1873 On the southern plains, slaughter reached its peak. One railroad shipped nearly three million pounds of bones. Hides sold for $1.25 each, tongues brought 25 cents a piece – most of the bison was left to rot. A railway engineer said it was possible to walk A100 miles along the Santa Fe railroad right-of-way by stepping from one bison carcass to another.
Columbus Delano, Secretary of the Interior, under President Grant, wrote in his 1873 report, AI would not seriously regret the total disappearance of the buffalo from our western prairies, in the effect upon the Indians. I would regard it rather as a means of hastening their sense of dependence upon the products of the soil and their own labors.

1874 Terms like “roamed” “once” being used for the bison population. 3,160,000 pounds of buffalo bones were shipped over the Kansas Pacific Railway and it’s connections. In the same year the following is the shipment buffalo products over the Atchinson, Topeka, Sante Fe Railroad: bones 6,914,950 pounds; of hides, 3,114,300 pounds; of meat, 632,800 pounds. This shows how fast the American Bison is passing away.
1874: Buffalo runners left Fort Dodge, crossed the “dead line,” and opened a base of operations in the Texas Panhandle at Adobe Walls on the north fork of the Canadian River. Several hundred enraged Comanches and Cheyennes attacked that outpost on 27 June 1874
This year marked the seeming end of the great southern herd. Auctions in Fort Worth, Texas were moving 200,000 hides every day or two. One railroad shipped nearly 7 million pounds of buffalo bones. Congress advanced their efforts to save the bison. Both the House and Senate passed a bill that protected female bison and did away with wanton destruction. (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals tried to intervene on their behalf—legislation was introduced in Congress by Republican Rep. Greenburg Fort of Illinois in 1874 that would have made it, “unlawful for any person who is not an Indian to kill, wound, or in any manner destroy any female buffalo, of any age, found at large within the boundaries of any of the Territories of the United States.” ) However, President Grant refused to sign the bill.

Around this time, William and Charles Alloway of Manitoba, Canada, with the aid of a milk cow, captured three bison calves to start their own herd.

1874-80: Bison decimated in Texas and Oklahoma.

1870s-80s: Cattle increase greatly on Great Plains. Drought in northern Plains.

1872, 1873 and 1874 the Atchison, Topeka and Sante Fe (Rail) road carried out 459,463 buffalo hides, and Colonel Dodge considers it quite certain that its two rivals (Kansas Pacific and Northern Pacific, and Union Pacific railroads) carried an equal if not greater number, making a grand total of 1,378,389 hides.”

1871-75: Southern Herd: c. 4 million bison killed to ship 1.4 million hides from Dodge City, Kansas.

1875 The term “bison” is being used more than “buffalo.”

1875 Despite the danger of Indians, however, the hide hunters returned to Texas to continue their bloody work. In response, conservation-minded men in the state legislature introduced a buffalo protection bill. Few bison remained in Texas when the state legislature moved to protect the bison. However, General Phil Sheridan appeared before the assembly and suggested that every hunter be given a medal with a dead buffalo on one side and a discouraged Indian on the other. He added that once the animals were exterminated, the Indians would be controlled and civilization could advance.

1876 The estimated three to four million bison of the southern plains were now dead. The Northern Pacific Railroad, anxious to advance, ignored tribal treaties and sent in a survey party. Native Americans killed some of the men, and General George Custer was sent to investigate, making history with the Battle at Little Big Horn.

1876, July31 the Free Press reported that between 40,000 to 50,000 buffalo hides were shipped from Alberta to Montana and another 6,000 were sent to Winnipeg. “These numbers represent a slaughter of about 120,000 buffalo. (not every buffalo killed, gave up their hide easily, some reports, every 3 killed, gave one hide)

1877 A few remaining free roaming bison were discovered in Texas and were killed.
A law was passed in Canada that forbade the use of pounds (corrals), wanton destruction, killing of buffalo under 2 years of age, and the killing of cows during a closed season.
Lt. Col. Samuel Bedson of Stoney Mountain, Manitoba (Canada) purchased bison from the Alloway herd, the McKay herd and from some Native Americans.

1877 Bison were crossed on short-horn dairy cattle and produced successfully 14 quarts of very rich milk, per day.

1878 Bison in Canada were disappearing rapidly. Canada repealed the 1877 law.

1878 when the buffaloes were being slaughtered all around her, this lady (Mrs. Goodnight) conceived the idea of saving some of them. She begged her husband and brothers to get her some of the tawny calves and let her try to rear them at the Palo Duro Kanch. then the Goodnight home. Personally, Charles Goodnight was not very enthusiastic over the suggestion, but thinking that the calves would amuse his wife in her isolated home. Charles captured two and her brothers two, 1 died leaving her with 1 bull (Old Sikes) and 2 heifer calfs. (nucleus of the now famous herd)

1879 Charles Goodnight had small herd. Indians and whites a like were killing off the migratory herds and he conceived the idea of saving some for preservation and future propagation. So he caught a few young ones, which were the beginning of the herd, he is now (1906) willing to place in a national preserve. With the many-sided assistance of the frontier army, the buffalo runners managed to destroy virtually the entire southern herd by 1879

1880 Slaughter of the northern herd had begun. New Mexico passed a law to protect the bison; unfortunately, the bison were already gone from this state.

1881 This year’s winter marked the largest slaughter of the northern herd. One county in Montana shipped 180,000 buffalo skins. Robes brought $2.50 to $4.00 each. Around this time, the Glidden and the Dupree herds (of the Dakotas) were established.

1882 Over 10,000 bison were taken during one hunt of a few days length in Dakota Territory in September.
The fate of the northern herd had been determined. A herd appeared on the northern side of the Yellowstone where a high plateau overlooked Miles City and Fort Keogh in the valley below. Fifth Infantrymen sent from the post killed so many animals that their meat filled a half-dozen four-mule team wagons. General Hugh Scott remembered that soldiers had no trouble keeping a six-mule team wagon carrying fresh buffalo meat into Fort Meade “all the time,” early in 1883. Hunters thought that the bison had moved north to Canada, but they hadn’t. They had simply been eliminated.

1880-83: Northern herd reduced to less than 100 animals – plus 200 in Yellowstone.

1883 Nov. One forlorn bull was seen grazing in the outskirts of Souris, the last representative in Manitoba of the wild herds that had by the thousands wandered freely across the province’s prairie land. As with his kin that proceeded him, the bull soon after being sighted wandered off never to be seen again.

1883 By mid-year nearly all the bison in the United States were gone. The Dakota Territorial Legislature enacted a law to protect bison; it was not enforced. In Oklahoma, the McCoy brothers and J.W. Summers caught a pair of bison calves, 2 of very few left on the southern plains.

1883 in the U.S., the number of hides shipped, fell to a mere 25,000, a single car load shipped from Dickinson, Dakota Territory, by J.N. Davis

1884 There were around 325 wild bison left in the United States – including 25 in Yellowstone. Congress gives the Army the task of enforcing laws in Yellowstone National Park in an effort to protect the final few wild bison from poachers. Michel Pablo and Charles Allard of Montana purchased 10 bison from Walking Coyote for $2500.00 in greenbacks (see article in history, also written in Head, Hides & Horns pub 1985.) Another source says they purchased Walking Coyotes herd for $2000.00 in gold coin (The Buffalo by F Haines pub 1970)

1885 C.J. Jones purchased a few bison from Charles Goodnight, along with capturing 13 bison from southern Texas, starting his own private herd.

1885, wrote Hornaday, “not a single hide was on the market, and the buyers announced the end had come.”

1886 The Smithsonian Institute sent an expedition out to obtain bison specimens for the National Museum. After a lengthy search, some were found near the LU Bar Ranch in Montana. Twenty-five were collected for mounting and scientific study. (The original mounted specimens were brought to the Fort Benton (MT) Museum of the Upper Missouri in the mid-1990’s, close to where the original bison were taken.)

1887 The American Museum of Natural History (New York), wishing to obtain their own bison specimens for an exhibit, mounted an exhibition to Montana. They found no bison.

One of the last lots of bison robes sold in Texas for $10 per robe.

1888 Austin Corbin established a herd of bison on New Hampshire’s Blue Mountain Game Preserve.

1889 William Hornaday estimated total bison population to be just over 1000 animals – 85 free ranging, 200 in the federal herd (Yellowstone NP), 550 at Great Slave Lake (Canada) and 256 in zoos and private herds. Last commercial shipments of hides anywhere in United States.

1889-1901: Yellowstone herd reduced from 200 to 25. (see ABS for census)

1892, Recorded: First time a Cutting Horse is used to work bison. (“Buffalo” Jones)

Late 1800s: Establishment of private captive herds. (see Who Saved the Bison)

1895: New York Zoological Society (NYZS) established at the Bronx Zoo.

1896 The Pablo/Allard herd in the Flathead Valley totaled about 300. Allard died, and his widow sold her portion to Charles Conrad of Kalispell, MT.

1899: Bison herd established at the Bronx Zoo.

In 1901, Congress placed 61,500 acres within the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache Indian Reservation under control of the Department of the Interior establishing the Wichita Forest Reserve. Four years later, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the area a game preserve as well as a forest reserve and transferred it to the Department of Agriculture. Designated “the Wichita Forest and Game Preserve,” plans immediately began to relocate buffalo to the land which had once been their natural habitat. Dr. W. T. Hornaday, director of the New York Zoological Park and President of the American Bison Society, offered animals from the zoo to begin a herd. Mr. Charles Johnson started to prepare for the arrival of the animals by overseeing the installment of a buffalo-proof fence for over 8,000 acres (which ultimately cost $15,000).

1902: Congressman Curtis of Kansas introduced a bill this winter, entitled ” A bill to set apart a preserve for the American bison and other purposes” in New Mexico. Bison restoration begins in Yellowstone National Park with sources from Colonel Goodnight (3 Bulls) in Texas and the Pablo-Allard (15 Cows) ranch in western Montana. There were est. 700 bison in private herds. The Yellowstone herd was estimated at 21-23 animals
“Buffalo” Jones is appointed warden of Yellowstone Nat’l Park. by the President.

1904: Ernest Harold Baynes moves into a house on Corbin’s game reserve in New Hampshire with captive bison herd. Baynes believes that the only way to save the bison from extinction is to put under government control the existing herds on private lands. Buffalo Jones resigns from Yellowstone Park, as manager.

1905: American Bison Society founded on December 8th at the Bronx Zoo. Bison offered by NYZS for Wichita Preserve, J. Alden Loring, engaged by NYZS, surveys site in Oklahoma for preserve. Government bison herds held about 100 animals (Yellowstone NP and the National Zoological Park in Washington, DC). The American Bison Society founded by private citizens to protect and restore bison. Ernest Harold Baynes, founder; William T. Hornaday, president; Theodore Roosevelt, honorary president.

January 1, 1905. a total of 1,722 bison in captivity, of which 1,116 were in the United States, 476 in Canada and 130 in Europe, besides about 300 wild bison in Canada and 25 in the United States. Most of these animals are under the control of 45 private owners in the United States and 19 in Europe. William T. Hornaday

Hornaday (director of NY Zoological Park) gifted 12 of their bison to Wichita National Forest Preserve. This became the first gift of bison to establish/increase government herds.

1906-1912 Pablo sold his bison herd to Canada after Congress turned down funding for purchase for the United States. After 7 years of rounding up, a total of 695 animals were shipped to Canada. Pablo received $170,000.

The National Bison Society donated 6 bison to the Fort Niobrara Game Preserve.

1907: Bronx Zoo ships 15 bison by railroad to the new Wichita Reserve Bison Refuge in Cache, Oklahoma.3

In 1907, Mr. Frank Rush began his long tenure as superintendent of the Wichita Forest Preserve. That same year, the name of the facility was changed to Wichita National Forest and Game Preserve. Mr. Rush received the first shipment of 15 bison on October 9, 1907 from the Bronx Zoo. The herd thrived, doubling in size in five years and obtaining a six-fold increase in ten years. In 1921, Supervisor Rush recommended distribution of twenty bull buffalo, noting that there was no longer any danger of the species becoming extinct. Subsequently, annual programs to improve the herd and maintain it at an optimum size resulted in donations and sales of many hundreds of bison.

1908, A considerable number of bison was purchased by the Canadian Government, but the buffalo census shows an actual increase of about 200. National Bison Range established for a permanent Range for the herd of bison to be presented by the American Bison Society.

1909: Montana National Bison Reserve established by USGO after lobbying by NYZS, ABS, and others. $10,560.50 raised by ABS to buy nucleus herd for Montana National Bison Reserve.
Thirty-four bison purchased from the Conrad herd (Kalispell, MT) by the American Bison Society, donated and release on National Bison Range.

1910 The American Bison Society Census estimated 2,108 bison in North America (1,076 in Canada and 1,032 in the U.S.). Bison in public herds in the U.S. totaled 151.

1911: Hornaday declares bison no longer in danger of extinction.

1913: Six bison introduced to Niobrara reserve, Nebraska. NYZS gives 14 bison to Wind Cave National Game Preserve, S.D.

1915: American Bison Society feels it has achieved its goal of preserving bison through the establishment of four federally sponsored bison preserves.

1919 Estimated population of North American bison at 12,521, and 489 calves born.

1920 there were 1700 calves born. (ABS)  Captive in the United States, 3,303; wild in the United States, 90; captive in Canada, 4,580; wild in Canada, 500; total, 8,473.

1922 Golden Gate Park has a set of triplets. (Next recorded set to arrive in 2000-Buffalo Horn Ranch , Alberta) see images

1924 The National Bison Range donates 218 bison from a herd total of 675 to other public herds. This is the first of many donations and sales of live bison.

1934-35: Sioux (Pine Ridge) and Crow establish herds in South Dakota and Montana.

1935: Last meeting of American Bison Society. Because of the secure populations of bison in public herds, the American Bison Society votes itself out of existence.

1936 ABS bison population estimate of 22,00 for the U.S.

1943: Buffalo meat, now offered “fill in” for wartime shortage.

1966: National Bison Society established as National Buffalo Association.

1990’s An estimated 20,000-25,000 bison were in public herds in North America.
At least 250,000 bison in private herds by end of the decade. Private bison herds on the rise. Many bison raised for eventual slaughter – selling point of bison meat is it leanness and low levels of cholesterol. Many Native American Tribes reintroducing bison to their lands through the effort of the Intertribal Bison Cooperative and donations from federal herds.

1991 Tim & Rhonda Frasier got their first calf.

1993 The North American Bison Co-Op member-owned processing plant, processed over 12,000 bison yearly.

2000 April, the Buffalo Horn Ranch in Alberta has a set of triplets, first recorded in Canada. 

2002: More than 232,000 bison in private herds in U.S.; 150,000 bison are being raised in Canada. (Extermination & Conservation of Am. Bison, states 350,000 both private & public)

2005: Wildlife Conservation Society re-establishes American Bison Society.

2006: Bison Summit is held in Denver to plot out bison’s ecological future.

2008: Meeting on “Building Blocks for Bison Ecological Restoration” held in Rapid City, S. D. Wood bison from Elk Island National Park in Canada arrived at their temporary new home at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center on June 19, 2008.

2009 YNP, the population is estimated to be 3,300 bison. The estimate is based on a series of aerial surveys conducted in June and July.
The Copper River herd originated from 17 animals taken from the Delta Herd in 1950. Over the years, the herd size has ranged from 51 bison in 1967 to a high of 143 in 2009. The Chitina River herd at last count, in 2009, was 41 animals and the herd is slowly increasing.

2010 51 head escaped bison head was shot in King Co. Texas, by a neighboring rancher.

2010 on the Bitterroot Bison Ranch the first bison calf grafting occurred

2011 Bison Meat Sales Top $278 Million

2012 To celebrate the bison’s central place in the history and culture of the United States, conservationists, bison producers, sportsmen, and Native American tribes came together this spring to craft and advance the National Bison Legacy Act.

2013 Gov. Rick Perry signed Senate Bill 174, May 10. The measure was authored by Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, and was sponsored in the House of Representatives by Reps. Charles Anderson, R-Waco; Charles Perry, R-Lubbock; and Dan Flynn, R-Van. Both the Senate and the House voted unanimously for the bill.

2014 The second time Bitterroot Bison had a grafting calf.

2016, May 9th The president signs bill, declaring bison as the national mammal.


Buffalo hunt — twice-annual hunt involved hundreds of Métis from Red River and White Horse Plains by Bruce Cherney(Compiled from: Isenberg 2000; Lueck 2002; National Bison Society website; S. Johnson unpublished from WCS.)
This is a compilation of information attained from the Internet, videos, books, and articles. If there are discrepancies, please contact:
US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Bison Range, 132 Bison Range Road, Moiese, Montana, 59824.
Heads, Hides, and Horns Larry Barsness
Time of the Buffalo Tom McHugh
The Buffalo Book David Dary
Death Wind on the Plains Big Sky Western Heritage Productions
Discovering Lewis and Clark
The Missoulian Missoula, MT newspaper
National Bison Range Annual Reports
1 For bison population estimate as of January 1, 1889, see map on the extermination of the bison, published as part of William Hornaday’s monograph, The Extermination of the American Bison, with a Sketch of its Discovery and Life History (Smithsonian Institution, 1889).
2 J. Alden Loring surveys site in Oklahoma for preserve, November 1905, Tenth Annual Report of the New York Zoological Society, for the year 1905, pages 181-200.
3 Hornaday, William T. The founding of the Wichita Bison Herd, pp. 55-69 in First Annual Report of American Bison Society.
4 After resigning as president of the American Bison Society and accepting honorary membership, he wrote: “The American Bison Society is a splendid organization. It will go from strength to strength, until the time comes that it is no longer necessary to consider movements for the saving of the bison. Then I predict your energies will be directed to saving other species of wild life that presently may be as much threatened with extinction as the bison was three or four years ago.” (Annual report of the American Bison Society for the year 1911, p. 32.)
5 The four reserves established by 1915 in connection with American Bison Society were: Wichita Bison Reserve (1907), Montana National Bison Reserve (1909), Wind Cave National Game Preserve (1913), and Fort Niobrara (1913). The count of eight reserves found in some accounts includes the herds at Yellowstone National Park and the National Zoo, founded many years prior to the American Bison Society, and the herds at Sully Hill and Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina, founded after 1915 and ultimately unsuccessful.
6 Future of the American Bison Society discussed, “whether it will be best to continue the Society as a separate organization or to combine with some similar organization and turn over the membership and the good will to them.” Eighth and Ninth Annual Reports of the American Bison Society, 1915-1916, published 1916, pages 22-23. (Note: Cover title says “Tenth annual report,” corrected in Hornaday’s handwriting.)
7 Last meeting. Bronx Zoo Press release, January 25, 1935, regarding meeting of January 24, 1935. No records of later meetings could be located. Dues: Lueck gives 1935 and 1936, variously, as date last dues collected, citing Coder and Dary’s Buffalo Book. I have been unable to trace this fact to a primary document, published or unpublished.
8 National Bison Association website, history and mission page. In 1995, the National Buffalo Association merged with the American Bison Association (founded in 1975) to form the National Bison Association.
Hutton, Sheridana nd His Army, 213-14; Cody, “Famous Hunting Parties,”
Sherman to Sheridan, 10 May 1868, The Paperso f PhilipH . Sheridan microfilm reel no. 17, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress,Washington, DC (here after Sheridan Papers).
Sheridan to Sherman, 15 October 1868, Sheridan Papers, microfilm reel number 86;13 September 1868 entry in Luther P. Bradley’s” Private Journal,”Box 1, Luther P. Bradley Papers,
United States Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks P, A.
Theodore R. Davis, “The BuffaloRange,”Harper’sNew MonthlyMagazine 3 8 (January1869): 153; Colonel R. B. Marcy, Thirty Years of Army Life on the Border (1866; reprint, Philadelphia,
1963), 301.