Canada History


Henry Kellsey, a factor of the Hudson Bay Company, in a report of his explorations in the far west of Canada, in 1691, tells of his party sighting buffalo in large numbers. A few years later this explorer became the first white buffalo hunter on the plains of western Canada. He tells that everywhere the Indians were slaughtering, taking only the choice pieces and leaving the greater portion of each slain body to the wolves which followed in large bands. The Saturday News May 21, 1914


 In 1786 statistics show that over 705,000 skins were exported from Québec alone, valued at over £203,000. Muskrat, 202,719; deer, 133,271; beaver, 116,623; raccoon, 108,521; marten, 48,463; otter, 23,684; bear, 19,362 (what a chance for the Zoological Garden!) : wolf, 12,923; elk, 7,555, with numerous others, the particular designation of which are now unknown. This was a single years business from one port, and at that date the traffic had fallen off largely, as the country was beginning to get drained of the supply. What a paradise must Detroit have been for the hunter! Indeed, much of the real zest of sport must have been lost when all the cook had to do was to step to the door of her cabin and with her unerring gun or arrow bring down from the encircling line of forest whatever description of game happened to suit her fancy.

The trade in bison skins had hardly commenced when Cadillac came, and during the lifetime of many readers hereof the race of animals furnishing this valuable item of merchandise will probably become extinct. History or tradition affords some light respecting the immense fortunes that were realized from this trade. Jacques Le Ber, of Montréal, was the Vanderbilt of that day, and it is well known that the great fortune of John Jacob Astor, with whom the last of our old traders had large accounts, was largely derived from this source.

Published by Detroit Free Press, Detroit, Michigan Nov 4 1883


The Lethbridge Hearld Alberta Canada
May 8 1850

Will Move Cattalo To Manyberries Area

Plans are being made for the transfer late in May of the Cattalo cows and bulls from Wainwright Buffalo park to the new home of the cross-bred animals at the Dominion Range Experimental Station near Manyberries. The calves were moved to Manyberries last fall and wintered well in their new preserve.

H.F. Peters officer in charge of the range station states it may be necessary to truck the cattalo-cross between native buffalo and cattle – from their Wainwright enclosure to the loading point at Wainwright. They will then be shipped by rail to Bain on the Foremost line of the CPR. They will be unkaced at Bain and tra ed to their new range.


Gull Lake NWT circa 1870s?
Vancouver Archives from Matthews, James Skitt, Major Collection


The Galveston Daily News Nov 18 1876

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.


Manitoba Free Press
April 8, 1878


The ordinances passed at the first legislative session of the Council of the Northwest Territories, under the “North-West Territories Act, 1877, “ having been laid before Parliament in accordance with the requirements of the statute, we have now to hand the text of the law for the preservation of the buffalo which went into force on 1st June last. The particulars we have already published were strictly accurate, but of the excellent provisions contained in the first, fifth, and sixth clauses we were not till now aware. It will be seen that the Indians are not debarred from killing buffalo to satisfy their immediate wants, even during the close season for cows, which close season, so far as the Indians are concerned, commences three months later than for other persons. Under these circumstances we can but believe that the tribes will gratefully accept and support a law so obviously constructed in their own interest, if they only have its nature and object fully explained to them. The matter is of such importance to all persons dwelling in the North-West were visiting it, that we deem it wise to publish this full text of the ordinance, in order that there may be no excuses on the part of white men or half-breeds going west for infringing its provisions:

  1. No pound,., Or like enclosure or contrivance shall, at any time be formed or used in the North-West Territories for the capture of buffalo, nor shall it be lawful to destroy buffalo by running them into rivers or lakes, or over steep banks or precipices.
  2. It shall be unlawful at any season to hunt or kill Buffalo from the mere motive of amusement, or wanton destruction, or solely to secure their tongues, choice cuts, or peltries; and the proof in any case that less than one-half of the flesh of the buffalo has been used or removed shall be sufficient evidence of the violation of this section.
  3. It shall be unlawful to kill buffalo of either sex under two years of age, or to have the dead bodies or the peltries, or any other part of the bodies, of such young buffaloes in possession.
  4. On and after fifteenth of November, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-seven, and in every year thereafter, period between the fifteenth day of November in the fourteenth day of the following August, inclusive, shall be a close season for female buffalo: and during said season it shall be unlawful to kill such buffalo, or to have in possession the dead bodies, or the peltries, or any other part of the bodies of the female buffalo killed in the said close season:- Provided, that nothing contained in this section shall extend or apply to Indians or non-treaty Indians between the fifteenth day of November and the fourteenth day of the following February inclusive.
  5. Notwithstanding anything contained in this Ordinance, it shall be lawful for any traveler or other person in circumstance of pressing necessity to kill buffalo to satisfy his immediate wants.
  6. In order to convict any person of unlawfully killing buffalo, it shall be sufficient to prove that such persons was one of a party necessary to such killing: and taking the life of each and every buffalo unlawfully killed shall be deemed a distinct and separate offense.
  7. Every person convicted of an offense against any of the foregoing provisions of this Ordinance shall be liable for each and every offense to a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars, with cost of prosecution, and in default of payment to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding three months.
  8. When any offense is committed against this Ordinance, it shall be the duty of any sheriff, policeman, constable, sub-constable, or other peace officer, upon view their of or upon the information of any two persons, who shall declare their names and places of abode, to forthwith arrest such offender by the authority of this ordinance, and without further warrant to bring him before a judge, stipendiary magistrate, or justice of the peace, to be dealt with according to law.
  9. Every offense against any of the sections of this Ordinance may be presented in a summary manner before any judge, stipendiary magistrate, or justice of the peace.
  10. One-half of any pecuniary penalty recovered under this Ordinance shall be paid to the informer.


The Clay Center Dispatch
Clay Center, Kansas May 28 1885

Hunting Buffalo near the Saskatchewan
Battleford Correspondence of the Port Arthur Sentinel.

When the party struck buffalo, a permanent camp was pitched, and the “buffalo runners” (horses trained to the work) were caught and examined. Scouts were sent out to locate a herd, and on their return all the men intending to take part in the run presented, themselves mounted, with gun on arm. and whip suspended by thong to the wrist. Under direction of their captain they quietly separate in skirmishing order, and advancing under cover of the undulations of the ground, almost, if not altogether, surrounded the entire herd. At a given signal all dash for ward, and as they charge the light of battle shines in their faces and their very steeds quiver with excitement. Hurrying to the top of a hill a non-combatant sees a wide and almost circular plain filled with horsemen and wild, terror-stricken animals, dashing hither and thither, and over all the confused tumult the bellowing of bulls and the sharp crack of the rifles are heard. See that beautiful back dash up to a fat bull and almost halt, while its rider sends the death dealing bullet. Like a flash the buffalo turns and charges the horse, but a slight pressure of the knee causes him likewise to swerve, and the buffalo rushes past. In another instant the horse is again alongside, and a second shot rolls a magnificent fellow over dead.

All this is fair fighting compared with the treacherous “pound” designed by the great chief of this district, viz: Pound-Maker; and from which he got his characteristic name. The entrance to this enclosure is by an inclined plane made of rough logs leading to a gap through which the buffalos suddenly jump about six feet into a ring, and from which there is no retreat. In their entrance converge little heaps of brush and buffalo dung for several miles into the prairie which surrounds the clump of woods in which the pound is concealed, and these lines serve to decoy the buffalo to their doom when they have been driven into the neighborhood. When this piece of strategy is effected the animals run round and round violently, and the Indians affirm, always with the sun. The scene now becomes a busy and sanguinary one, the work of butchering going on until the last buffalo is killed. Such are the tactics indulged in by the braves under Chief Pound Maker of the Battleford district.


The Observer
London, Greater London, England  Oct 10, 1886

Their numbers are estimated, every little herd is known, and it is not believed that there are 500 in existence. Only recently and agent of the National Museum, after searching for several weeks, obtained only three specimens. The end must therefore be near. The Canadian Government is protecting buffaloes, so far as the preservation of a few in an enclosure can accomplish this, and in the Yellowstone National Park the little herd there is forbidden to be molested. Yet outside the limits of this reservation the slaughterers lie in wait, and knowing the price that a hide or a stuffed head commands, use every effort to drive the Government animals outside the sanctuary which has been decreed them. (read more)


The Marion County Herald
Hamilton, Alabama Jan 10, 1889

Raising Buffalo for the Shambles.

The Manitoba as fast freight from Winnipeg recently brought into St. Paul, Minn., a queer load of cattle in the shape of a herd of eighty-three buffalo. The herd is the famous wine raised by Warden Bedson, of Stony Mountain, Northwest Territory, since 1877, from a young bull and four heifers. They have been bought by C. J. Jones, of Garden City, Kan., who has for some years been making a special study of the buffalo, and he has at present a herd of about fifty on his ranch in Kansas. He began crossing them with cattle and his experiments have been successful, the half-breed buffalo being a hardy and sturdy animal, while much less wild in its nature. The raising of the bison has become a profitable business, as fifty cents a pound for buffalo meat can be obtained in Chicago. The animals will be shipped south. Cattle raisers everywhere are watching the Jones experiments with much interest, and bison in their wild state are almost unknown, a fact which makes be attempt to domesticate and perpetuate this species the more interesting. – Chicago Herald.


The Cook County Herald – LOC
Grand Marais, Minnesota Jan 19 1901


Like Their Kin of the States They Seem Destined to Extinction.

The wood bison, as the buffalo of British North America is known, appears to lie doomed to extinction. J. A. Allen of the American Museum of Natural History in his notes on the wood bison summarizes the number of these buffalo estimated to exist during the last ten years as follows: Estimate in 1889 of Professor Hornaday, now director of the New York Zoological society, 550; Russell, 1894, a few hundred; Jarvis, 1897, about 300; Moberly, 1897, 250 to 300, and Stone, 1899, 50. The home of the wood bison has been in the neighborhood of the Great Slave lake in the northwest territory. Within the last six years these bison seem to have worked northward, and Mr. Allen says: “It is pretty safe to assume that they have been exterminated entirely from their former range south of the Peace river, and that a few years more will suffice for their complete extermination.” Frank Russell, who hunted the wood bison in 1894, wrote of them in 1898, saying: “The herd at present consists of a few hundred only. They are so wary that only one effective shot can be fired, when they betake themselves to instant flight, and, as with the moose, pursuit is altogether futile. They cannot be hunted in summer, as the country which they inhabit is mosquito infested and a wooded swamp at this season. They can only be killed by stalking in midwinter, when their pelage is at its best. The Indians along the Peace and Slave rivers make occasional trips into the buffalo country with dog teams to establish lines of marten traps. When they discover a band of buffaloes, they, of course, kill as many as they can, but they have not made systematic efforts to hunt them for their robes, as they have the musk ox. Fortunately the officers of the company have exerted their influence toward the preservation of the buffalo, not trading for the robes until the recent advent of rival traders. During the winter of 1892-93 forty buffaloes were killed, the largest number that had been secured for several years. I saw most of these robes, which were very dark, the hair thick and curled, making a robe superior to that of either musk ox or plains buffalo. They were so large that the Indians had to cut many of them in half for convenience in hauling on the sleds. From $10 to $50 is paid for the robes.”


Buffalo herd at Banff Pillsbury Picture Co January 5 1906 -LOC
Buffalo herd at Banff Pillsbury Picture Co January 5 1906 -LOC

April 21 1909

Sir Donald Bison Bull Banff
Sir Donald – Banff

Old Sir Donald, the Patriarch of the American Bison, Trampled and Gored to Death in Corral at Banff _ Was captured in 1872 When a Two-Year-Old by the Late Hon. James McKay, of Deer Lodge – Head of the Band For Many Years –

Old Sir Donald, the Last Wild Buffalo in Captivity, Killed by Balance of the Herd at Banff Recently
Many thousands of visitors to Banff, the delightful resort in the middle of the Canadian National park, had seen and admired the grand old buffalo bull, Sir Donald, ____ had been the leader and chief of his herd for upwards of 38 years. But he never again will be the grand head and massive proportions of this animal, the only really wild bison in captivity, be viewed in their natural environment, for during the early hours of Tuesday morning, April 6, old Sir Donald came to his final end. He was found lying dead out in one of the paddocks, having apparently stumbled over some blogs, probably owing to his being blind in one eye, and while unable to rise he was surrounded by the rest of the herd, and, alas, for _____ respect among the bison some of the younger bulls took the opportunity to help him onto the happy hunting grounds by goring that huge beast with their short and sharp horns. Not content with this, the herd pawded and butted at the prostrate monarch till, except on the head and the legs, there was no hair left. The cowboy in charge of the paddocks saw Sir Donald walking about at five o’clock on Monday afternoon, and on looking for him next morning saw that he was down and apparently dead. He covered the carcass with tarpaulins to keep it safe from the prowling wolves and coyotes; but the buffalo herd returned to the scene and indulged in a further display of indignities to their fallen ____.
For some time past the advisability of shooting Sir Donald had been discussed, as he was obviously weakening with advancing years, and about a month ago Howard Douglas, the Commissioner of the parks, with a local taxidermist, went to the paddocks to inspect him, but so lively was the old bull than that he charged vigorously at his visitors, who prominently took refuge outside the fence. This was thought to indicate plenty of reserve strength in Sir Donald, and he was allowed to wander away. So that when the news of his death was telephoned to the superintendent’s office it caused quite a considerable sensation, and steps were at once taken with that view of having the whole animal mounted to be placed in the National Park Museum. A number of the park workmen with a few other interested persons in the government taxidermist, Ashley Hine, went to the animal paddocks with a large sleigh to transport the body to the Sign at the Goat taxidermy store for purposes of preparing and mounting it. On their arrival, however, they had to wait till the keeper had driven the buffalo herd far enough away to make it safe to go inside their enclosure. All inspection of the body showed that with the exception on the head and four legs there was nothing left with hair on that would be set up for exhibition. The remains were mass of jellied flesh, hair and blood. This historic animal and the loss of him as a museum specimen is no small one. However measures were at once begun to secure pictures of him as he lay in his last sleep, and while this was being done and during the subsequent proceedings of saving the head and the four legs, several of the workmen had some exciting chases after the rest of the herd, as the animals kept closing in, in a compact half circle round the group engaged on the dead bull. The horses attached to the sleigh got very alarmed, and their drivers prompt action alone prevented a runaway. Highland Mary, a small bright colored cow buffalo, a very early daughter of the dead bull, was the most aggressive, coming within 12 or 15 feet of the workers, but as she was nearly as old as Sir Donald, she was treated with the respect she deserved.
It was the work of several hours to get the hide off, which was in some places 2 inches thick. This was finally accomplished and the remains were then loaded onto the sleigh for transference to the town; most of the men taking a short cut over the fence for home. But here the herd took a hand again. As soon as the sleigh load drew nearer them they charged up to it on mass jostling and crowding each other to get near the head of their dead companion which adorned the back end of the sleigh. Three times the driver of the team fell over obstacles before he reached the gates, having to keep his eyes on his frantic horses and on the bellowing herd hind him. His companion proceeded to open the gate, and for a few moments it looked as if the whole herd would escape into the adjoining paddock. Very fortunately the two men were able to close the gate, after driving in the buffalo which got through and so prevented what otherwise would have been a very awkward state of affairs. The head of Sir Donald is now in the hands of the government taxidermist, and will eventually adorne the walls of the museum in Banff.
Captured about 1872 by James McKay, of Winnipeg, at which time the bull was about two years old, he was kept with that gentleman’s herd which roamed between Silver Heights and Little Stony Mountain, and often mixed with the herd of the late Col. Benson. Mr. (afterwards Sir) Donald Smith was associated in business with Mr. McKay at that time, and on the death of the latter came into possession of his herd of bison. In 1898 Sir Donald Smith (now Lord Strathcona) presented his herd of 12 to the National Park, including the captured wild bull since named after his donor. These 12 have increased till at present there are over 95 in the herd, besides 13 head which have been presented to different ________ and coast cities. The __disputed headship of the herd remained with Sir Donald for over 30 years, but about five years ago a terrific battle for supremacy occurred between him and a young bull of almost equal size imported from Texas. The fight began early in the morning, the great lowered and little red eyes glaring, tearing up the turf with their hooves, and with tails straight up in the air. With the crash like colliding engines they met over and over again. Several mounted men endeavored to separate the infuriated animals, but were themselves charged and put to flight. Sir Donald at last lost his left horn in one of the shocks, at the same time getting a blow in the left eye which destroyed its sight. After being thrown on his back and pummeled while down by his victorious antagonist, he gave up the struggle and retired from the gaze of the watching herd to begin his lonely wanderings. Since that time he has seldom been seen with the rest, preferring to wander and wallow alone in some favorite sand whole. He was a grand specimen of the breed, measuring about 49 inches from tip to tip of the horns, and about 15 ½ inches between the eye sockets across the four head. The remaining horn is 18 ½ inches long and its girth is 14 ½ inches. He answered best to the Indians description of the buffalo, being short and very thick and deep in the body, with great phone an extremely massive head in front. And he was undoubtedly a really pure-bred bison. W.H.K.


The Wainwright Star
Wainwright, Alberta    JULY 9th, 1909.

Canada’s Great Buffalo Herd at Wainwright
Second Shipment Received at Buffalo Park Direct From Montana

Made Journey in Seventy-Two Hours -Visit to the Park – History of the Pablo Herd

On Saturday last, fifteen cars of buffalo arrived here from the Pablo herd in Montana, and were immediately unloaded in the Buffalo Park. Howard Douglas, Commissioner of Dominion Parks, A. Ayotte immigration agent in Montana, and H. C. McMullan, C. P. R. livestock agent, Calgary, accompanied the shipment.

The bunch consisted of one hundred and ninety head and at times what seemed almost insurmountable obstacles have been overcome in rounding up this bunch. There are still at least 150 head on the Flathead Reserve, which will be shipped in September. Before these arrive, however, 75 buffalo will be sent to the Park here from the Banff herd.

The animals comprising this shipment were immediately unloaded and despite expectations did not take unkindly to the fence around the corral at the unloading place. They had been in the cars for periods varying from four to fifteen days and were consequently quite weary. The railway journey from Ravalli was made in the fine time of seventy-two hours and the bison stood the journey fairly well. No time was lost in releasing the buffalo and before dark the entire trainload were quietly grazing in the park.

On Sunday, the writer, accompanied by R. C. W. Lett, travelling passenger and colonization agent of the G. T. P., and H. W. Foster, manager of the Canada Railway News Co., and C. W. Holmes, a fellow newspaper man, from Milestone, Sask., made a trip through the immense corral of 2,000 acres in the north end of the park, in which these animals will be confined for the present.

Superintendent Ellis and his assistant, Louie Bioletti, gave every assistance to the party and we were enabled to see the buffalo at ease in their new home. They were scattered here and there in small herds, while an occasional one would be found enjoying a dust bath in one of the innumerable buffalo wallows, which were made by the wild herds many years ago. They seemed to take well to their new home and the majority paid scant attention to the visitors. Occasionally, we ran across a small herd which viewed us with suspicion and started pawing the ground. When their tails began to raise with an ugly looking crook, we considered discretion to be the better part of valor and immediately left for other sections of the park. The 508 buffalo now in the park have an ideal home.

Following is a short history of the buffalo, several parts of which we have extracted from a recent article in the London Times:

Passing of the Buffalo

The destruction of the immense northern herd of bison, which is stated to have numbered 4,000,000 head at the beginning has never been told with any degree of accuracy. It is certain that very few were left in the Canadian west when the Canadian Pacific Railway had been completed. The construction gangs of this road disposed of the stragglers of this once mighty herd, as was the case in the building of the Union Pacific railroad in the U. S.To this day, however, the whole of the vast west is scarred and pitted with their groove-like trails and basin-like wallows, which are permanent records of the migratory marches and daily dust-baths of these heavy beasts.

Old-Time Hunts

Old-time Hudson’s Bay factors who still survive, tell of the great hunting expeditions of the fifties and sixties, when the employees of the pioneer fur company with their creaking Red River carts took part in these hunts in order to secure the yearly supply of pemmican for their northern hunting and trading posts. At one time the prairie around the present capital of Saskatchewan was covered by piles of whitened bones, but which have nearly all been gathered up and shipped to be used as fertilizers. “Pile of Bones,“ or Regina, was the head of this peculiar industry which flourished shortly after the Riel rebellion.

The Last Buffalo

The last buffalo to be killed in Western Canada met his death in 1886. He had been wounded twice during that year but escaped, to meet his fate on the range of a couple of ranchers near the south branch of the Saskatchewan, who had a herd of several hundred Highland cattle and it happened that about the time when the sandhill crane flies south, two of the ranch men were sent out in search of them. They caught sight of the band at noon on the second day out and were amazed to see it massed together for all the world like a bunch of horses about a smudge or smoke-fire, when the flies and mosquitoes are at their worst on a still, cloudy summer evening. With much difficulty they broke up the throng and there where the center of the swirling crest of blood-maniacs had been, they found the torn and trampled carcass of the mighty wanderer. What an end!

For a considerable time it was believed that with the exception of the herd at Banff and the few animals at Winnipeg, the most magnificent of the North American fauna was extinct. The Banff herd had increased considerably, but it was thought that the evils of in-breeding would eventually cause the cessation of its growth.

Yet all the time there existed on the Flathead reservation in the State of Montana a herd of several hundred thoroughbred bison, the natural increase of which was being maintained year after year. It was a fortunate accident which led to the formation of this fine collection.

In 1873 one of the Pend d’Oreille Indians captured four little bison calves—two bulls and two heifers—by cutting them out of a stampeded herd numbering many thousands. In accordance with the peculiar characteristics, often noticed by old plainsmen, these young creatures obediently followed the horses of the hunters who had slain or driven off their mothers.

The Indians in question gave them to the Mission of St. Ignatius, where they were kept as pets and became as domesticated as ordinary cattle. When the heifers were four years old, each had a calf. From that time on they gradually increased in number, until, in 1884, there were thirteen head, and the Indian owner, finding the care of them too great a tax on his scant resources, decided to sell them.

Start of Pablo Herd

Ten head were purchased for $250 apiece, by C. A. Allard and Michel Pablo, who were ranching on the reservation, and were shrewd enough to see that specimens of what was even then supposed to be practically and extinct animal would eventually become very valuable. The herd rapidly increased under their careful supervision, and in a few years it became possible to sell specimens at very high prices.

Many head were sold to private individual collectors in the United States, and it from this source that those in the Yellowstone Park were secured.

In 1893 Messrs. Allard and Pablo bought a collection belonging to one “Buffalo” Jones, of Omaba, and in that year they had 36 thoroughbred animals in excellent condition, the nucleus of the great herd which has been bought by the Dominion Government. The hybrid, or “cattloes” were never allowed to mingle with the thoroughbreds on the ranges, but were collected and kept on island in the Flathead Lake. These hybrids are large, fine-looking animals, and it has often been suggested that they would be worth breeding for commercial purposes. But the sterility point is reached in the second generation.

Great Increase

The record of the herd of living antiques originating in the four calves captured by an Indian hunter shows what can done by private enterprise to perpetuate an almost extinct type of animal life. In twenty-three years a herd of thirty-six increased to thirty times its original number. Some idea of the average rate of increase may be deduced from the observed fact that half the cows give birth to calves every year, while twin calves are not uncommon, inasmuch as in a party of a 100 head corralled one autumn, there were two cows having two calves at foot. The percentage of loss among the calves is slightly lower than is the case with ordinary range cattle. As a rule the bison calf is a very hardy creature. There are instances of the Pablo-Allard calves finding their feet in less than a minute after birth and showing sight within half-an-hour.

New Canadian Herd

In 1906 Hon. Frank Oliver, Minister of the Interior, obtained for the Dominion Government an option on the 600 unsold head belonging to Messrs. Pablo and Allard, and eventually they were all bought for $200,000. Today five or six times as much could be realized by selling the herd piecemeal to American private collectors and the Governments of Western States which are now lamenting a lost opportunity. But Canada has no intention whatever of selling a single head.

The round-up of the first shipment lasted two months, and was successfully carried out by 75 cowboys, horsemen picked for their ability from every part of the great Montana ranges, who were paid at the rate of $5 a day. For some weeks the round-up was a failure; only three times in more than a month of daily drives did the cowboys succeed in getting a few head into the rail-side corrals. The bison, finding themselves being driven from their familiar pasturage, and not knowing that the hay of the Saskatchewan Valley is better than that of the Montana ridges, would charge the encircling line of horsemen with the wildest fury and break and scatter it to the four winds. Eventually, in order to save time and horse-flesh, Mr. Pablo—himself a cowboy famous throughout the West—decided that it was necessary to build a bison-proof fence, 26 miles in length, from the pastures to the corrals, so as to cut off retreat in one direction. Down this fence, in spite of their many successful efforts to break away, the bison were eventually driven into the corrals and, not without much difficulty, loaded aboard the enclosed cattle-trucks of the Northern Pacific freight train at the little station of Ravalli. The long railway journey 1,200 miles over five railway systems to Lamont in Alberta was accomplished with a loss of less than one per cent.

The herd wintered fairly well and were the ones received here on June 13 and which were turned loose in the park on that day.

Buffalo Park

The park, which has an area of 160 square miles and contains many clean-bottomed lakes, endless chains of hay-sloughs and sheltered river valleys, has been securely enclosed with a high fence of wire and tamarack posts. A number of deer were enclosed in the building of the fence, so that the bison will have companions in the spacious reservation. In twenty years there should be 10,000 head at Wainwright.

The artificial revival of this magnificent animal is an object lesson to those who deplore the threatened extinction of the most imposing of the South African fauna. Game preservation laws will generally enable the smaller animals to survive, even if they have the ill-fortune to wear the furs coveted by the ladies.

The return of the beaver to many of its deserted haunts in Eastern and Western Canada is a case in point. Ten years ago the living symbol of Canadian enterprise and industry seemed in danger of extinction. Now it is once more busy building the water-breaks which helped to store up the rainfall of the country instead of allowing it to be dissipated in disastrous floods. But, if the heavy beasts which can be eaten by the most shameless of the carnivora—man, to wit—are to be preserved, something more is needed than the translation of the sportsman’s First Commandment—“Thou shalt not kill needlessly”—into laws and by-laws.


Harrisburg Telegraph Pa.
Dec 7 1911
Offered Only $15 a Head For Animals Worth $200
Paid $120,000 For a Herd of Six Hundred of Them

Recently the Canadian Government, by a striking coup d’eta, secured the greatest herd of bison in captivity, and by returning them to an immense preserved tract in their native haunts on the plains of the great West have arrested natural extinction with such complete success that within a few years they anticipate possessing a huge herd of these animals. The story of how this deal was consummated, says a writer in the December Wide World Magazine, and how the United States lost a great opportunity of becoming possessed of one of the finest animal attractions the world, constitute an interesting romance.

When the slaughter was at its height, some thirty years ago, a Flathead Indian known as “Walking Coyote, “made a raid into the plains of Alberta, and as a result of his buffalo-hunt secured about twenty prime beast, which he sold to another half-breed Indian of his tribe for $2000. Michel Pablo, the new owner of the animals is a shrewd business man, even for an Indian. Realizing that the bison in its natural state would soon become a thing of the past, he turned them loose upon the Indian reservation in Montana, leaving them to wander and roam of their own free will over an area of some fifty square miles. By freeing them in this manner, and protecting them against destruction, he concluded that they would propagate freely, since the conditions were highly conducive to such a result.

When the United States Government took the bison under its protective wing it could not acquire Pablo’s herd, as it was the private property of an individual, and the Flathead was at liberty to deal with his animals just as he felt disposed. He himself was under the protection of the Government, but that did not apply to his stock, and so he felt perfectly secure.

But one day Pablo received disquieting news. He was informed that the United States Government had decided at an opportune moment to throw the Indian reservation open to settlement. When that happened, what was he to do with his herd? He decided to offer the whole stock, just as it was, to the authorities, hurried to Washington and expressed his readiness to sell. The Government offered to relieve him of his stock at $15 per head. Pablo refused hotly and laugh out the parsimonious offer.

At this juncture things took a sudden turn in his favor. Mr. Howard Douglas, the Commissioner of the Canadian Parks, had heard about Pablo’s wonderful herd and was cognizant of the American negotiations. He forth with hastened to Ravalli to open negotiations with the Indian for their acquisition. It was a delicate task, as Pablo, who could not speak a word of English, viewed the English-speaking race with extreme suspicion, heightened by the treatment he had received from the American authorities. The pourparlers were very tedious, as the Indians was still in treaty with the United States Government, but the deal was clinched in three months, when Mr. Douglas offered to take the whole herd of 600 head at at least, at $200 a piece making $120,000 for the whole consignment. The bargain was struck and Pablo signed a contract undertaking to hand the animals safe and sound to Mr. Howard at the point of shipment. Pablo chuckled with the light, for he had accumulated wealth suddenly, and his foresight in buying up “Walking Coyote’s” twenty buffalo, nearly thirty years before, had paid him handsomely. Today Pablo is reckoned a veritable Croesus among Indians.


The Saturday News
Watertown South Dakota May 21, 1914

Criminal Massacre of American Buffalo

In Canada, all the buffalo are east of the Rockies in the province of Alberta. Most of these are confined in the three government parks, Rocky Mountain, Buffalo and Elk Island. During the year 1913, eight head were shipped from Montana by M. Pablo and placed in Buffalo Park. These, with the possible increase of 250 for 1913, brings the total number of buffalo in Buffalo Park up to 1,300. At Banff, there are approximately 25 and at Elk Island 75. Scattered at different points throughout the Dominion there will be probably 50 more, make a total for the whole dominion of buffalo in enclosures of 1,400. This is a very excellent showing for Canada, considering that ten years ago there were less than 100 buffalo in captivity in the whole dominion. The government is doing all in its power to purchase every available animal, and it is hoped that the few remaining of the Pablo herd now in Montana will be rounded up and shipped to Buffalo Park this year. Mr. Pablo asked for an extension of time that he might be able to track the outlaws after a snowfall this winter.


Star Tribune,
Minneapolis, Minnesota June 10, 1917

Northwest Canada Asks Big Game Aid

Ottawa, Canada, Juno 10. More rigorous protection is asked for “wood” bison, or buffalo, and the caribou in the Northwest. It is urged that the killing of female and yearling caribou be prohibited absolutely, the prohibition to extend to the Eskimos and Indians.


The Winnipeg Tribune
Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada Jan 3, 1918


Member of U.S. Society Says Canada Plans To Use Animals For Food

PITTSBURGH, Pa, “The bison, or buffalo, is the most valuable animal in the world,” declared Ernest Harold Baynes, the founder and one of the three, honorary members of the Bison society, at the Schenley hotel. “Its flesh is almost indistinguishable from beef of cattle; its wool can be woven into stockings, gloves, and other fabrics easily, and the garments will wear like iron, while a robe made from its hide brings a price equal to that of the whole carcass of a good sized steer. The wool from a bison is far stronger and just as soft as that from sheep, and the only drawback to it as a commodity is that it must be made into colored fabrics, for the wool is of a brown color that cannot be bleached without damaging It.

“The Canadian government,” continued Mr. Baynes, “appreciates the value of the bison, both as a source of food and for its wool and hide. The government has a buffalo reservation of 122,000 acres in the vicinity of Wainwright, Alberta, on which are 2,600 buffalo, the entire acreage being fenced.’ The vast herd is rapidly increasing in number in about the same ratio as ordinary, well kept domestic cattle. The Canadian government sees in its vast herd of buffalo a great future source of food and fabric supply. “


Pittsburgh Daily Post
Pittsburgh, Pa. Feb. 3, 1918


The herd increased under his supervision, and in a few years, it became possible to sell specimens at high prices. Some idea of the average rate of increase may be deduced from the observed fact that half the cows give birth to calves every year, while twin calves are not uncommon. As a rule, the bison calf is a very hardy creature.

In 1906, Hon. Frank Olive, then Canadian minister of the interior, obtained for the dominion government an option on the 600 head, and they were I bought for $200,000. The “round-up” lasted two months, and was carried out by 75 cowboys, and was accomplished with a loss of less than 1 per cent. To-day the herd numbers 2,077.

Buffalo National Park, 1909-1939

Near Wainwright, Alberta started as as a wildlife saving effort , experiments with bison and other species never proved fruitful and were never funded properly to operate the park effectively or to remedy the crises the animals faced.

The “cattalo”, by breeding together domesticated cattle with bison. These animals were bred back with full-blooded bison to remove their cattle-like physical characteristics, which  evident in the photographs below of animals that are 5/8 bison. These photographs  date from the 1910s and 1920s and most were taken in Wainwright.

Canada History

Quintoporto 5/8 Buffalo Bull, Wainright Park.” PC005148. Courtesy of Peel’s Prairie Provinces.

5_8 Buffalo Bull PC010948 Courtesy of Peels Prairie

5/8ths   Buffalo Bull PC010948 Courtesy of Peel’s Prairie Provinces.


The Winnipeg Tribune
Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada Jan 3, 1918


Member of U.S. Society Says Canada Plans To Use Animals For Food

PITTSBURGH, Pa, “The bison, or buffalo, is the most valuable animal in the world,” declared Ernest Harold Baynes, the founder and one of the three, honorary members of the Bison society, at the Schenley hotel. “Its flesh is almost indistinguishable from beef of cattle; its wool can be woven into stockings, gloves, and other fabrics easily, and the garments will wear like iron, while a robe made from its hide brings a price equal to that of the whole carcass of a good sized steer. The wool from a bison is far stronger and just as soft as that from sheep, and the only drawback to it as a commodity is that it must be made into colored fabrics, for the wool is of a brown color that cannot be bleached without damaging It.

“The Canadian government,” continued Mr. Baynes, “appreciates the value of the bison, both as a source of food and for its wool and hide. The government has a buffalo reservation of 122,000 acres in the vicinity of Wainwright, Alberta, on which are 2,600 buffalo, the entire acreage being fenced.’ The vast herd is rapidly increasing in number in about the same ratio as ordinary, well kept domestic cattle. The Canadian government sees in its vast herd of buffalo a great future source of food and fabric supply. “


The Central News
Perkasie, Pennsylvania Oct 8, 1919


Wainwright and Buffalo Park

The town of Wainwright was first formed in 1906, and its commencement was a shack on the virgin prairie. The coming of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad, however, awakened the settlers to the value of agriculture al settlement in this part of Alberta and on the 1st of July, 1908, just over eleven years a.upo, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway first placed the present town site of Wainwright on the market.1918 Wainwright buffalo Park, Canada

Here a Chautauqua was in session and many of the party attended Wainwright Buffalo Park is a great asset and attraction to visitors. Whenever mention is made of the town of Wainwright, the thought that usually comes to the mind of most outsiders is, “Oh, that is where the buffalo is kept.” Wainwright has been called the buffalo town. Located at its nearest point, about three miles from the station is the largest fenced park in the world and contains the biggest herd of buffalo in existence. The herd in 1909 was composed of only 685 animals and has increased until at the present time there are approximately 3,700 of these monarchs of the plain. The sight of a herd of buffalo, with their shaggy heads and great size, as they leisurely move away from the intruding tourist, is one that is not soon forgotten. Visions arise in the minds of the onlookers of the days in the long ago when pioneers followed the immense herds and killed them for the supply of meat and making of the famous Indian pemmican. The plains and rolling country of the park is an ideal place for them and they thrive and multiply rapidly. The history of the buffalo in the West is interesting. In 1897 the dominion government received the gift of a few bison from T. G. Blackstock, Toronto, which were placed in the Banff Park. The next year the number was increased by the presentation of thirteen by Lord Strathcona from his herd at Winnipeg.

Some U. S. History

The first real step in the acquiring of the herd now in the park here, was made in 1906. Michael Pablo, of Montana, had for years a considerable herd, enclosed in a natural depression in the valley in the mountains of that State. As civilization was pushed further west he was compelled to get rid of his animals as the government was going to throw open the land for homesteading. Mr. Pablo then entered into negotiations with the U. S government with the view of making them a national asset to be taken care of by the State. Col. Roosevelt and the American Bison Society were trying to get the U. S. to purchase the herd.

While Congress was debating over the matter, Mr. Ale Ayotte, Canadian immigration agent at Missoula, got in touch with his chief and before congress awoke to the fact the Canadian government had contracted for the bunch at $300.00 per head. At .the time of sale it was estimated there were 300 bison in the enclosure, but at the round up it was found that there was a total of 706. The lot was then taken at $250 per head, f. o. b. Edmonton.

The story of a round up is one of the most exciting. It took nine days to load 200 on the train with the loss of eight who were killed in their struggles against being placed in cars.

The park here was not completed at the time of their arrival, so they were unloaded at Lament, and were later transferred to Wainwright.

The park itself is laid out in a territory that is the natural grounds for the buffalo. It is rolling land, contains some lakes and is covered in many spots with light brush and small trees. The area is 160 square miles or approximately 100,000 acres. It is fenced with woven wire seven feet in height and crossed fenced, and fire guards are plowed around the whole fence. A telephone line runs from the superintendent’s office to the farm and to the Hardisty gat.

Much interest is being taken by cattle men in the experiments being conducted at the Buffalo Park, Wainwright, in trying to produce a new breed of cattle from crossing with the buffalo.

The experiments having been going on for some time. The cattalo was first produced by a man in Ontario who had several buffalo on an island farm, where he was successful in raising his first cattalo. He endeavored to get the government interested, but at the time nothing was done. His death caused operations to cease, and his sons again took up the question of disposing of the cattalo to the government. The deal was finally consummated, and the cattalo were first removed to the demonstration farm at Scott, Saskatchewan, and later transferred to the park here.

The cattalo was not the product of a cross between a buffalo and domestic cow. In originating the species a domestic cow was bred to a buffalo bull, and a buffalo cow bred to a domestic bull. The progeny from these two matings were then mated and the cattalo was the result.

Not only is this the home of the buffalo, but several hundred deer, elk, and moose are also found running in this park.

The editors were taken by auto in to this park and were able to get quite close to some of the buffalo. It was not safe to get close when a number were herded together, some resented our intrusion in a most emphatic manner. The drivers knew when it was time to move. The elk deer and moose were more shy and would run, possibly 150 herded in a bunch, it was a beautiful sight to see.


The Age
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia Nov. 20, 1920

 For some years past it had been thought that the herds of wild bison in Canada, once so numerous, had been exterminated, though a few small groups might exist unknown in the great timber belt, fortunately private enterprise had collected a fair herd of over 100 head before the wild bison had disappeared, and since then several small herds had been formed by drafting from this and by exchanges with herds existing in the United States.

In the United States, there is the Government herd maintained in the National Yellowstone Park. This herd is of considerable size, but much inferior in quality to the great Canadian private herd formed by Mr. Jones just in time to save the bison from extermination. There are several small herds known to exist in the wilder parts of Wyoming.

During last summer Mr. F. H. Kitto, the exploring engineer of the natural resource branch of the Canadian Department of the Interior, was engaged on a five months exploring trip in “the Lower Mackenzie River basin, and there he saw a herd of wild bison over 1000 strong, later, further to the north, he met with a still larger herd. These finds are of the utmost importance from an economic point of view, and the Canadian Government is certain to take prompt action to preserve them.

The. bison’s beef is of very high quality, while the tongue and hump were recognized dainties. The skin, which furnished the famous buffalo robes of the past generation, is unrivaled for keeping out the cold; indeed it formed the only effective protection so far known. This is owing to the double growth of hair, the longer outer hair, as it may be described, and the fine and close under hair, which is preserved in the curling; and thanks to the close grain of the skin and the thickness and fineness of the under hair of the pelt is impenetrable by the keenest wind.


Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque NM Jul 5, 1922

Catalo a New Meat Bearing Animal for Man’s Consumption

While talking in his discursive, dogmatic way about Art, Ruskin once said that no man by taking thought could ever make a new animal which should serve as food for man. It seems that the Canadian Government in its conservation of the disappearing bison has produced as a by product the Cattalo, which is as good to eat as butcher’s meat.

GREAT herds of buffalo once more roaming the vast plains of northwestern Canada and thriving on land otherwise useless, though offering the best of grazing to these sturdy animals! Great herds that may again offer buffalo hunting to sportsmen on the North American continent at a time when the majority of people have come to believe that the buffalo as a big game animal has passed forever! .No wild dream this, but the truth: a possibility for the immediate future.Bison Bull

For now there Is not only great promise that large herds may in the near future roam the. otherwise useless grazing ground of northwestern Canada in Alberta and Mackenzie territory, but that there will also be roaming several new types of animal which never before have trod the face of the earth, animals produced by crossing the buffalo with domestic cattle; buffalo and the yak of central Asia and the yak and domestic cattle of such breeds as the Hereford, Angus and shorthorn,, which already have proved the best for crossing; with the buffalo.

All these possibilities are directly due to the greatest experiment in wild life conservation in the history of the world which has been conducted since the year 1907 by the Dominion Government of Canada at the cost of a couple of million dollars. This the bringing back of the buffalo from almost extinction to large numbers once more on the North American continent has been accomplished through the work of Dominion Government officials. So great has been the success of this undertaking that the people of Canada have now a wonderful promise of a tremendous meat supply for the future that will repay the Government many times the two million odd dollars invested to date in the buffalo.

The story to date of this great experiment is laid upon the plains of the province of Alberta, where in an enormous fenced inclosure, the largest of a its kind in the world, roams in natural state the Government’s herd of buffalo, or rather bison, for this animal, so long miscalled buffalo, is a bison, a species peculiar to the land. The bison park comprises 15,875 square miles, situated near the town of Wainwrlght, close to the main line of the Canadian National Railway. The park is inclosed by a galvanized steel wire fence 75 miles long, 9 feet high and requiring to construct 25,000 posts and 1,700 miles of wire. As a protection against prairie fire a strip of ground twenty feet wide is plowed on either side of the fence. The land is well wooded and watered by many small lakes, providing the exact country which the buffalo lived in before the white man came.

According to a census of the herd just taken there are now 0,000 head of buffalo In the Inclosure. In 1910 the herd numbered 750. From this it will be seen that in twelve years the animals have increased eight times their number. Thus by the year 1934 Canada will own 48,000 head of buffalo, not to count the new species of beef-producing animals raised from crossing buffalo and domestic cattle, buffalo and the yak, and yak and the domestic cattle. Before turning to what has been accomplished in the way of breeding new types of beef producers of a hardy constitution and the story of what further types are being planned by Government officials to range the semi-Arctic plains of Canada unassisted in any way by man, a brief history of the near extinction of the bison and how it was saved is here given.Catalo

From this story, a better realization may be gained how great has been the work accomplished by the Canadian-Government, a work, the far-reaching beneficial results of which are now beginning to show and which the officials in charge are seeking to extend in every way.

When the nineteenth century opened there were no buffalo east of the Mississippi, for already a huge demand for robes had arisen in Europe. By 1850 the wedge of settlement had divided the buffalo into two principal herds the southern and northern. The gold rush to California, the building of the Southern Pacific and other railroads quickly brought about the extinction of the southern herd. By 1878 the last of the northern herd went south from Saskatchewan in a last endeavor to avoid being wiped out. In 1880 the Northern Pacific opened up Montana, giving access to the northern herd. For the next three years, the annual shipment of hides was 200,000 from this territory. By 1885 this had dwindled to zero. Only one small band escaped, just when and from where drifting it is not known. To-day the descendants of this herd roam the far northern reaches between Lake Athabasca and Great Slave Lake.

By 1890 the total of bison remaining numbered, at a rough estimate, one thousand. Of this number, a small herd, probably not more than two hundred, had penetrated to the far north of Canada, in the vicinity of Fort Smith, between Lake Athabasca and Great Slave Lake. This survived in spite of the Indians and the wolves. Of recent years it has been protected by the Government and is now believed to number between 400 and 600. Another herd was in Montana, the property of an illiterate but shrewd Mexican half-breed, Michael Pablo by name. From this latter herd has arisen the great one in the Canadian park today. More wonderful still the herd of Pablo, which were eventually found to number 716, were directly due to four buffalo calves, two males, and two females, being saved by a Pend d’Orelllo Indian from destruction in 1875. These he gave to his father-in-law. The herd of a dozen head were purchased by Pablo for a few hundred dollars half a dozen years later. He left the animals to run wild on the Pend d’Orelllo reserve.

In 1907 the United States Government decided to throw open the reserve for settlement, and so Pablo was forced to consider the future of his herd. He offered to sell Ii to the United States Government, but in spite of the sale being strongly supported by Theodore Roosevelt and others interested in the preservation of natural wildlife Congress refused to sanction the purchase.

Pablo then offered the herd to the Canadian Government, and the purchase was completed, Pablo had never given the herd any particular attention. The animals had roamed the hills and woods along the Pend d’Orellle River in absolutely natural conditions and were wild as any herd before the white man came. He did not even know how many he had.

Rounded Up in 1907 And Shipped to CanadaCatalo

Early In the summer of 1907 Pablo got a collection of the best riders and horses and started to round up his buffalo, The buffalo outran the swiftest horses, and, when cornered, many of the old bulls turned and charged, forcing the pursuers to scatter to save their lives. In spite of this, the men succeeded in loading on trains four hundred and eleven, mostly cows and calves. Next year in the autumn the last of the band, mostly bulls, were rounded up in a corral. But in the night the animals broke out, and by climbing an almost sheer precipice broke away to the mountains. The next year they were again captured this time each animal was shipped in a great cage from the point of capture to the railway station at Ravalli, Mont. It took nine days to load the two hundred the wildest and strongest of the herd. Eight of them killed themselves in their struggles while they were being dragged aboard the cars with block and tackle. The special train carrying them made better time than an express, and the animals, once loaded, arrived at the park with a loss of less than one percent. This herd was added to by thirty more from a private herd at Kalispell and other sources, bringing the total up to 750 in 1910, which Increased to 6,000 by 1922.

The possibilities of a new type of animal to be obtained from mating buffalo and domestic cattle, a type with the good qualities of both combined were thought about by various men as far back as 1885. But not until the late Mr. Mossom Boyd of Bobcaygeon, Ont., began experimenting in 1894 was any great progress made. By mating a pure buffalo bull with various domestic cows he succeeded in building up a herd of different types of a new race of animals. Upon his death, in 1915, the Department of Agriculture purchased from his estate twenty head of hybrids and cattaloes. These were brought to Wainwright Park and placed in an inclosure adjoining the buffalo range.Catalo

A hybrid is a half buffalo, half domestic cow. A cattalo is the offspring of two hybrids. Both of this new race have a great many points which make them valuable animals to foster. The hides are of fine texture, mingling beauty with serviceability, valuable for coats and robes, commanding from $50 to $100, according to size and condition. It is hoped in the near future to place them upon the market.

Mr. Maxwell Graham, director of park animals, who has given many years study to the breeding- experiments, states that in the matter of ruggedness both these types are equal to the buffalo. They do not drift before a storm as range cattle do, and .are not susceptible to disease.  The herd owned by the Government has never had any infectious disease In the matter of rustling they are equal to the buffalo and thrive on comparatively poor pasture. They live without shelter on the Alberta plains and only a few times, have been fed hay during one winter when the snow was very deep.

A careful examination of the herd in the autumn of 1919 a particularly good test year-showed these animals to be in much higher flesh than domestic cattle foraging on the same range; their condition was outstandingly good, considering the very dry season and poor pasture.

The main purpose of this breed (which has been produced by the Experimental Farms Branch, Depart, meat of Agriculture, and the Park Branch, Department of the Interior) is not to replace, or even use where domestic cattle thrive profitably; but to be a race of animals of good beef type capable of living in the northern part of the prairie provinces and northwest territories, where there is such an enormous range of excellent quality supporting nothing but where cattle breeding does not and never will exist, owing to the need of winter shelters and large quantities of stored winter feed which domestic  cattle require.


Salisbury Evening Post
Salisbury NC Aug 26 1922 

Only Animals to Be Found on Continent Roaming Free in Northwest Territory; In Two Herds

New York, Aug. 26 It’s hardly 50 years ago that an Eastern sportsman wanting something in the way of big game would go West for a buffalo hunt. In those days a New England country farmer out in his sleigh for a cold ride might wrap himself well in a buffalo robe. Those shabby robes, tough, with the hair worn off, persisted for many years.

Now not only they are gone, but The Journal of the American Museum of Natural History is responsible for the statement that there is now not a single wild herd of buffalo or bison in existence in the United States. The beautiful reproduction of the animal on the nickel is all that remains, except a few animals on protected lands. One of the most superb animals of the North American fauna, the bison was a characteristic feature of the plains of this country with the Indian and the prairie wolf.

Nucleus Herds Established.

Too late to do more than save a remnant, organizations like the American Bison Society have established nucleus herds in such sanctuaries as the Yellowstone National Park, the Montana National Bison Range, and the Wichita National Game Reserve. Canada is more fortunate.

In Alberta and the Northwest territories bounded on the north by Great Slave Lake, on the west by the Buffalo river and the Caribou Mountains, on the southeast by the Peace river and on the east by the Slave river, still wild, are what remains of the animals which once occupied great tracts of this country.  It is an interesting remnant of the buffalo of the past for through its isolation and the conditions of environment the animals have become a species by itself known as the Bison Athabascae Rhodes. This subspecies of the animal, once the most magnificent creature of the plains, ranges through forests broken only occasionally by open places, and is known as the wood bison.

Herds Do Not Mingle.

These wood bison of Canada occupy a forested area of about 4,000 square miles and are divided into two herds, which of recent years do not mingle.

During the early part of the summer, the southern band of the animals browses in the northern part of its range, near the Little Buffalo river. Usually, they are divided into small groups of ten or a dozen animals, but in July and August the mating season, they assemble in groups of 20 or 30, and as many as a hundred may be seen together. In August they start southward and spend the winter not far north of the Peace river and Point Providence. Year after year they follow the same trails through the woods, similar to the trails of the bison of the plains. Buffalo wallows are of frequent occurrence along the line of march, and a salt lick shows the presence of animals of all ages, including the calves.

Little Known of Northern Herd.

Less is known of the bison if the northern range, as much of its habitat is country never visited by the white man. It is supposed that there, a herd of about 1,000 buffalo, and that nature of the country they occupy is much the same as the southern range. The wood bison are said to be differentiated from their fellows by their size, which is greater; they are darker in color and the hair is denser and more silky. Dr. William T. Hornaday says that originally the wild bison of this continent formed an immense herd so great that it would be easier to count the leaves of the trees, of a forest than the bison living at any given time in the history of the species previous to 1870. The animals once filled the country from Great Slave Lake, in Northern Canada, to Northern Mexico, and in the southeastern extension to the State of Georgia.


The Winnipeg Tribune
Winnipeg Manitoba Canada Nov 6, 1922

The buffalo, which within the memory of men still active in the business world, roamed the prairies of the Canadian West, literally in millions, and which narrowly escaped total extinction, to coming back. A dozen years ago, only a few hundred of the species existed. Today there are estimated to be possibly12,000 buffalo on the North American continent. And of these, between seven and eight thousand are calculated to be in Canada. The domestic cattle strain apparent in many of the animals, but for the most part; they look like real bison.
Buffalo Bones C.P.R. Freight
About forty years ago the last remnant of the wild buffalo disappeared from the Canadian plains. Only big plies of blenched bones remained to attest the slaughter and to give the infant C.P.R. it’s first freight eastward. The bones were carried to Montreal, for use in sugar refineries. Save for a small herd on Peace River which exists today under the protection of the Mounted Police, and for a few animals on Lord Strathcona’s Manitoba estate, the buffalo, once estimated to number between 20 and 40 millions on this continent had almost vanished. A few small private herds were owned in the United States.
Canada’s Buffalo Park
About 26 years ago the Dominion government purchased Lord Strathcona’s herd and took them to the national park at Banff. Thirteen years ago Canada decided to create a game reserve in the Northwest. Accordingly, 162 square miles of sandy, rolling prairie, dotted with clumps of poplar and little lakes, and unsuitable for agriculture, was set aside and girt with a woven wire fence ten feet high. Into this enclosure were turned antelope, moose elk, deer, and with them some 109 buffalo. The buffalo consisted of the small herd from Banff and of those bought from Michael Pablo, a Montana rancher.
Animals Have Increased
Turned loose under the best natural conditions in this park situated at Wainwright, Alberta, about 100 miles due east of Edmonton, Alberta, the buffalo thrived from the start. Last spring the caretakers counted 6,146 animals, and though the 1922 calf crop cannot be counted until the buffalo are herded into winter quarters, it Is estimated that there will be an addition of from 1,000 to 1,500 woolly little hump-backed calves following their fierce, shaggy mothers. Besides the herd at Wainwright, Canada also has 300 head at Elk Island park, Alberta, 12 head at Banff, and a few buffalo in the zoos at London, Ont., Vancouver, Winnipeg parks and at a few other points, to say nothing of the wild herd at Peace River, whir roaming over a vast area of prairie and bush, makes composition of its numbers hopeless. The Mounted Police at Fort Smith, estimate the Peace River herd at anywhere from 600 to 2,000 head. So it is possible that Canada has between eight and nine thousand buffalo today.
Hunting Bison in a Ford
“Buffalo have been known to attack automobiles. Visitors venturing into the park this way, do so at their own risk,” warned a notice at the gates of Wainwright reserve, as the writer entered it. But his guide, a lad in a Ford laughed at the decrepit injunction, ran his car off the trail over the rough prairie, up hill, and down dale, through sand and long grass, among the poplar bluffs to discover the herd. It is rather a fearsome feeling to find oneself in the midst of big buffalo bulls, one bunt from whose enormous bodies would demolish an auto and which could move far faster in the sand than any car. But though they looked ugly they seemed peaceable, and would not molest one unless the horn were blown when trouble might occur.
Rustling Food
Some of the big bulls are death on, horsemen and the government range riders have had to use their spurs on more than one occasion to escape the furious charge of an angry bison. No one dares to venture near them on foot, though a greenhorn once walked right across the park one moonlight night without molestation, though he was right among the herd. Hardy in the extreme, the buffalo mostly rustle their own feed in winter, pawing through the light snow to the cured prairie grasses. About 800 tons of hay is put up to feed the calves
May Kill 1,000 Buffalo
Naturally, there is now an undue preponderance of bulls in the herd and fights are frequent, many being to the death. So a thinning out is in prospect and sometime this fall the caretaker proposes to kill off possibly 1,000 head of the older bulls. The animals will then be in prime condition. .The meat is to be disposed of through local dealers all over Canada, and the robes, then which old timers in the west say there is nothing warmer, will be sold by public auction. Buffalo meat is delicious and when this novelty appears on the market, as it once did in dried form, at times in days long past, there are likely to be many purchasers.



The Winnipeg Tribune
Dec. 25 1922

The buffalo wandered over the prairies in their thousands. But the killing of them went on with such rapidity after the middle years of the last century that this species came close to extinction. If it were not for the Flathead herd, the buffalo might now be pretty nearly as extinct as the Great Auk. The beginning of the Flathead herd was in the spring of 1874, when Walking Coyote, a Pend d’Oreille Indian on a Montana reservation, was with a hunting party in the Milk River country close to the international boundary, which killed some of the last of the buffalo. Pathetically, four little buffalo calves, whose mothers had been killed, followed the horses of the hunters. Walking Coyote took and cared for the four little creatures- two bulls and two heifers- and left them at the St. Ignatius mission, the centre of the Flathead reserve in Montana.
They became pets and objects of interest around the mission. By 1884 their progeny numbered 14. And that year Donald McDonald, the last man to represent the Hudson’s Bay company on United States territory, entered into negotiations to purchase that little herd of last plains buffalo remaining alive. But C. A. Allard and Michel Pablo, two Montana ranchers, made a deal with Walking Coyote, at $250 ahead for the animals. Walking Coyote insisted on having actual money; he refused to accept a cheque. Allard and Pablo were busy counting out the greenbacks into piles of $100, each of which was placed under a stone when they saw a mink. Instantly Walking Coyote and both the ranchers went after the mink, and for some minutes forgot the piles of money, to which they hurried back, to find it safe, with the lone Indian looking at it with covetous eyes.
In 1893 Allard and Pablo bought the remnant of “Buffalo’s” Jones herd at Omaha, which had been purchased from Col. Benson, at Stony Mountain, who had got them from Hon. James McKay, at Deer Lodge, who was in one of the early Manitoba governments and had started his little buffalo herd shortly before Walking Coyote came into possession of the four little buffalo calves. The Buffalo now in Winnipeg are descendants of Hon. James McKay’s buffalo; the animals of that herd which Col. Benson did not get were bought by Sir Donald A. Smith, afterward Lord Strathcona, and given by him to the Dominion government, Winnipeg, with a great deal of trouble, managed to get four of that lot. It is thus plain that all the buffalo in existence are closely allied.

Their Last Drink The Winnipeg Tirb Dec 25 1929 pic

In 1906 the Dominion government bought the Flathead herd, which by that time had increased to some 700 animals, from Michael Pablo whose partner C. A. Allard, had died in 1896. About $200,000 was paid for the herd. Seventy-five cowboys made the last round-up, which was a work of tremendous difficulties, and took two months. Only three times in six weeks of daily drives did the cowboys succeed in getting any of the buffalo into the corrals. The buffalo, when they found themselves being driven from their native pastures, turned on the cowboys. Many horses were killed, and many cowboys injured. Finally, fences 26 miles long, converging to the corrals at Ravalli, Montana, were built, and the buffalo were gradually brought together. From Ravalli, they traveled by railway to the reserve provided for them near Wainwright, where they have increased and multiplied, until now numbering some 7,000. It was announced from Ottawa last week that the department of the interior has in contemplation killing of about 1,000 of them, to keep the reserve at Wainwright from being overcrowded.
The accompanying illustration is reproduced from a photograph made during the roundup in Montana in 1906. On the back of the photograph is written: “Their last drink on their native range half-mile from the shipping corrals at Ravalli Montana.”

Old Timer

La Grande Observer
La Grande, Oregon Jan 8 1923

Wild Buffalo Still Exist

The Canadian government has taken a census of a herd of wild bison which pastures in the far Northwest of the Dominion in the Peace River region and it is found that there are 5,000 to 6,000of the animals. These are the only survivors of the great herds which once roamed from the Alleghenies westward, except those which have been placed in parks or on protected ranges. It is surprising to learn that there are any survivors in the free state. For a time it looked like the buffalo might become extinct, but that result is no longer feared. In fact some herds have become so numerous that it has been necessary to slay a portion each year.

The wanton .slaughter of the buffalo has been lamented often, yet their presence as incompatible with the immigrants who sought out their grazing grounds in which to found homes. The animals served as food only in emergency. The remnant which is found in Canada exists, doubtless because it is far removed from the settlements of man. If the day arrives when man wants for his own then, pastures they too will be sacrificed

Altoona Tribune
Altoona, Pennsylvania Jan 16, 1923


 A pair of American bison, a gift from the Canadian government, arrived at the Zoological hardens one morning recently. This addition is specially welcome, as although the American bison is represented by several specimens in the society’s collection, these are all derived from a stock bred in this country either in Regent’s park or in the Duke of Bedford’s menagerie at Woburn Abbey and the introduction of new blood should help to maintain the breed. The European bison, a fine specimen of which is exhibited in an enclosure in the cattle house, alongside the new arrivals, may be said to be practically extinct in the wild state, being dependent on its existence for a small herd kept at Woburn. Prior to 1914 the animal was fairly abundant in the Caucasus and the forests of Lithuania, where it received, the protection of the Russian government. In Poland it was completely wiped out during the war, when all the bison were slaughtered for food. There is fortunately, no danger of the American species being exterminated, as a very large herd is being maintained by the Canadian government. London Telegraph.

San Francisco Chronicle Nov 18, 1923

Canadian Hunters Will Slay Two Thousand Big Bulls at Their Round-Up in December


Because an Indian had a quarrel with his father-in-law, the dominion of Canada became the owner of the greatest herd of buffalo in the world, and American citizens will have an opportunity of ordering Buffalo steaks in the best restaurants and hotels this winter.

The herd living under conditions almost identical with those which prevailed in the early days on the plains have multiplied so rapidly, especially the bulls, that the dominion has been forced to dispose of some 2000 or 2500 of them. The Wainwright Buffalo Park at Wainwright, Alberta, contains 160 square miles, all fenced in and here resides 1500 Buffalo. These figures well convey an idea of the vast number that made black the territory between the Mississippi and the Rocky mountains less than 100 years ago.

Within the memory of man now living buffalo were slaughtered for hides alone. Many are that picturesque figures of the early days on the plains that have had for backgrounds vast herds of the shaggy-coated creatures. Buffalo Bill won his name because of his skill in shooting them, and members of European ruling houses have been entertained by buffalo hunts. But man and the elements played and havoc with the herds. The white man was not the only offender, for the Indian looked upon the buffalo as a sort of inexhaustible perambulating larder, and killed, with no thought of the day when his chief source of food would be gone. The fates play strange tricks in the destinies of men and nations, and though it may seem paradoxical, the red man, who played as inglorious a role as the white man in the virtual extinction of the buffalo, was unwittingly the original cause of its preservation.


For more than a half a century red man and white carried on such wanton warfare against the Buffalo that Dr. W. T. Hornaday, the distinguished American zoologist, is authority for the statement that in 1889 the total number of buffalo running wild and I’m protected in the United States and Canada was less than 1000. This contrast vividly with the writings of David Thomson, who, in 1901, said “the prairies are actually covered with buffalo,” and again in 1914, when he tells us, “the ground was covered with buffalo at every point of the compass, so far as the eye could see.”

Their very numbers invited destruction, commencing with the slaughter by the Indians for food and for the display of their powers as hunters- the successful Buffalo Hunter ranked high as the consistent slayer.

The fate of the majestic animals was sealed with the building of the first Canadian Transcontinental Railway in 1865. The construction of this line divided the herd into two bodies. The one spread north into Alberta, the other South into Saskatchewan and Alberta, there to be slaughtered by the plains Crees. Persecuted by the Crees, the southern herd fled further south over the boundary into the United States, where similar fate befell them at the hands of the white man. Settlers, wolves, Indians and winter storms took dreadful toll of the northern herd and by 1889 it to had disappeared. That, very briefly, is the sad story of the buffalo.

But fate, which had dealt so cruelly with these great animals had decided to preserve them to prosperity. Into the settling in 1873, there came Walking Coyote, a Pend d’ Oreille Indian, who was wintering with a squaw and son-in-law among the Piegans Indians on Milk river, where the town of Buffalo, Mont. Now stands.


Over a horse deal, Walking Coyote and his son-in-law quarreled and parted. The sun fled north to Saskatchewan and they are pined for the company of his tribe. One day, taking part in a buffalo hunt, he separated two calves-a bull and a cow-from their mothers, and with them in tow, as hostage of peace, he returned, a red prodigal son, bringing his “fatted calf” with him to the fold. Old Walking Coyote accepted them and the son-in-law, and the first link in the regeneration of the buffalo herds had been forged. Walking Coyote took the calves to St. Ignatius Mission on the Flathead Reservation, and there they thrived.

The increase was slow, but in 1884 Walking Coyote had a herd of thirteen animals. These becoming too great a tax on his resources and _______, he sold them to A. C. Allard, who, with Michael Pablo, owned a ranch nearby. Pablo was shrewd Mexican halfbreed, and with greater wisdom than most men possess, he had foreseen the day when the buffalo would be worth much money.


It was at his suggestion that Allard completed the bargain and became the owner of the nucleus of the great herd of 3500 buffalo to be found in Wainwright Buffalo Park, Alberta, Canada today.
The animals were let loose on the ranch and they realm the herd as in the primitive days of their existence. In 1903 they were augmented by the purchase of the remnants of the herd owned by Buffalo Jones of Omaha. This purchase totaled forty-four animals of which twenty-six were thoroughbreds and eighteen hybrids. The latter were segregated and not allowed to meet goal with the purebred herds, and both herds showed an encouraging annual increase.

Allard died (1896) and most of the herd past into the possession of Pablo. In 1907, this shrewd man foresaw another change. The invasion of settlers, of sheep ranches, the springing up of villages and towns, warned him that not for much longer could the ranches be maintained unfenced and un-protested.


He decided to sell his buffalo. He looked about for a buyer. He tried that government of the United States, but his price did not meet with approval. He tried Canada, and Canada contracted for 1000 animals at $250 per head. Altogether, Pablo was able to deliver 114.

The rounding up of these animals is a story in itself. Pablo had never given his herd particular attention and they roamed wild in the Hills. It was known, therefore, that the task of rounding them up would be difficult, but how difficult few really understood.

In the early summer of 1907 Pablo collected a posse of the fastest horses and the best riders in Montana. The dangers were many, for a buffalo can out run a swift horse, and when cornered he will turn and fight to the death. Time after time a hand was on the verge of being impounded, on the threshold of the corral, when a wild revolt of the leaders would plunge the whole herd into a panic, permitting their escape to the four corners of the range.


During the first year, 411 were captured and shipped. One shipment of 111 was made in the spring and the remainder in the fall. These animals were, for the most part, driven into the corrals by means of a specially constructed guiding fence, which was twenty-six miles long. The following autumn another attempt was made to secure more Buffalo. After six weeks arduous riding, the herders succeeded in rounding up about 200 of the animals and held them in readiness for driving to the loading corrals. In the night the whole herd escaped by climbing and almost perpendicular cliff and breaking away to the mountains.

The following summer the riders were more successful and another shipment was made. By constructing cages were in animals were transported to the railway, the buffalo were finally dispatched to their home in Canada. Eight of the animals in the shipment destroyed themselves in their frantic efforts to escape.


The Park at Wainwright becoming annually increasingly popular as a stopover point for tourist contains 140 square miles of fenced-in prairie lands. It is estimated about 125 miles east of Edmonton, the capital city of the Province of Alberta. Here the Buffalo have found an agreeable environment and have propagated rapidly. At approximately half the herd of 3500 are bulls, and it seems to be the rule of the herd to allow one bull to have two mates, there is a surplus of bulls. The rapidity with which the herd has grown has created a problem in forage, and to solve it the Canadian government has decided to kill off 2000 bulls. The slaughter will take place in December, and will be under government supervision.


In the marketing of the meat, which is said to be even finer than the best beef, the government will have the controlling hand. Already orders have been placed by hotels and restaurants in San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Chicago and other large American cities. Altogether 1,000,000 pounds of fresh Buffalo meat will be placed on the market.

The hides, to, will be sold. Before that advent of the automobile, they were in great demand for robes, and added trial sale at the Montréal for market two years ago these hide sold for $320 each. If the price offered is not satisfactory, they will be disposed of to woolen manufacturers, for the wool of the buffalo can be woven into yarn of extraordinary strength’


The demand by souvenir hunters for the heads of the animals is already very large. A substantial source of income will be thus created, for the last year the lowest price offered for Buffalo heads was $300. This was for a small head. A medium-sized had brought $610, and a large head $1035. The money realized will be devoted to the upkeep and expansion of the park and it is confidently expected that within a few years the great buffalo herd of Canada will be steady paying borders.

SFChron 1923 Art Pictures

Notes* The Canadian government established the park in 1922 to protect a remnant herd of wood bison (a sub-species of the American plains bison), setting aside a large area of boreal forest plain that straddles the border between the province of Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Preserving the bison did not necessarily mean “hands-off” management, however, as government officials soon hatched a scheme to transport thousands of plains bison from the fenced and overstocked Buffalo National Park (a former park in southern Alberta) to the supposedly understocked range of Wood Buffalo National Park. Zoologists in Canada, the United States, and Britain vigorously and almost unanimously opposed the plan, fearing the loss of the wood bison sub-species to hybridization and the transmission of tuberculosis from the infected herds in southern Alberta. But government officials stubbornly persisted, transporting 6,673 plains bison to Wood Buffalo National Park between 1925 and 1928. (

Galena Evening Times
Galena Kansas Dec 15 1923

The movies record history in the making. . . . When the Canadian government staged a round-up of 8,000 buffalos in the Alberta National Park, Tom Ince was there to put the whole scene on celluloid. . . . This will be, probably, the largest herd of the almost-extinct bison that the eye of man shall ever see. . . . The stampede round-up was held to slaughter 2,000 excess bulls. . , . The motion pictures will be part of a new feature, “The Last Frontier” . . . which will not be complete until Spring. . . .

The Winnipeg Tribune, Feb 14, 1925
The Return Of The Buffalo


Editors Note: The buffalo is coming back again. Those who feared that the splendid animals were becoming extinct are now reassured by the great increase in their numbers during the past few years. To this fact, responsibility may be placed on the great buffalo parks such as the one at Wainwright, Alberta. It is even believed by many that the buffalo hunts like those of the Indians in bygone days will someday be revived.

“Of all the quadrupeds that have lived upon the earth, probably no other species ever marshalled such in innumerable host as those of the American bison.”

This statement, written some years ago by Professor  W. T. Hornaday, a famous American scientist, is brought to mind by the despatches from Ottawa as to the Wainwright National Park, Alberta. Until these reports appeared few people in Canada knew that there were over 3,000 head of buffalo there. Fewer still outside of this country had such knowledge.1925 Winnipeg Buffalo Hunt Drawing

It is now suggested that the total of buffalo is far beyond that which could be supported at the Park in a year or more of the drouth and that a thousand or more of the young animals may be shipped to the Wood Buffalo Park Preserve in Northern Alberta. What a possibility that opens! It may result in the buffalo, practically restored to natural conditions, thriving to such an extent as to permit of hunting them, under license and strict regulations, in a fixed season of the year. Some old hunters fear that will never happen. Those who have seen the Wainwright herd grow from a few hundred to the thousands of today think that it will.

The Wainwright herd seems large to a generation that has no firsthand knowledge of the buffalo herds that once roamed the prairies of the North America continent. Their estimated numbers stagger the imagination, thirty million being the minimum and sixty the maximum. As late as 1870 the figures were as high as six million. The buffalo could have been saved then as a game animal and a source of revenue from licenses and robes, by allocating areas in which their protection would have been comparatively easy matter. But with the thoughtlessness and callousness that hardly has a parallel anywhere in the world, the war of extermination was continued until the prophecies of a few who had the hitherto raised their voices in vain, were found to be actualities – the buffalo had disappeared.

It took a few years to convince the buffalo slayers that they had done their work too well. In the buffalo areas of Canada and the republic, there was a firm conviction that it was a case of a new migration and that somewhere in Canada the buffalo had found new grounds whence in a season or two they would return to their haunts of other years.

Meantime some of the Indian tribes almost entirely dependent upon buffalo meat suffered in an acute physical manner for their share of the slaughter of the plains. Buffalo skins which in thousands of cases had not even been cut from the carcasses, and which had been so, and as to be almost despised, began to assume new values.

In the years that followed, the remnants of once mighty herds were encountered on occasion in the outpost of civilization. An officer of the Hudson Bay Company, writing from Fort Edmonton in 1887, said:” in our district of Athabasca, along the Salt River, there are still a few wood buffalo killed each year, but they are fast diminishing in numbers and are also becoming very shy.”

Of an earlier period, Professor John Macoun said in one of his publications: “in the winter of 1870 the last buffalo were killed North of the Peace River, but in 1875 about 1,000 head were still in existence between the Athabasca and Peace Rivers, north of Little Slave Lake. These are called wood  buffalo by the hunters, they differ only in size from those of the plains.”

When the Buffalo Disappeared

The early eighties saw the practical disappearance of the wild buffalo from both the United States and Canada. Here and there on private ranches or public reserves, a few survivors of the plains buffalo as distinguished from the somewhat lighter wood buffalo, lingered, mutely pathetic object lessons of what had once been vast herds, knowing no law or restraints except those which nature imposed.

In all the years between the myth of a great herd of buffalo somewhere in Canada, persisted. It had its origin with the hunters bygone days; nothing could kill it. It was revived by the aged and hailed with delight by a new race of hunters a few years ago when it became fairly well-established that wild buffalo had been seen in the Mackenzie River area. F. H. Kitto, a Government official, confirmed the news and came back from the district with some pictures of Wildwood buffalo taken under trying conditions, for the animals were shy, and it was a matter of difficulty to get within camera shot distance of them. A pitifully few hundreds of these would buffalo seem to have defied the onslaught of the civilization that wiped out their kindred of the plains. They are now under government enemies. But they and the buffalo, of course, guard them against every danger – hunters for whom the law has no meaning, wolves, and other enemies. But they had the buffalo from Wainwright Park it is proposed to turn loose in their territory, may do well in the next few years.

If there is a happy result of the attempt to bring back the buffalo, it will not be without its material benefits to the country. The last real hunt for buffalo in the United States took place on Buffalo Island, Great Salt Lake, where a privately owned herd of 250 animals were thinned out by the slaying of some of the older and wilder animals. Hundreds of big-game hunters from all over the country flocked to the scene and gladly paid $200 ahead for each bison they killed.

Not as a game animal alone would the propagation of the buffalo be of benefit to the country. For its fur and it’s meat the buffalo is also of value beyond that of which most people have any idea. The pioneer settlers of the West could tell many a tale of what buffalo meant to them for food and clothing too. It has truly been said that the buffalo can weather storms and outlive cold that would kill any domestic animal. That makes it more difficult to understand why the ruthless slaughtering was kept up as if the buffalo was a species of deadly Berman that must be wiped off the earth in the shortest possible time.

The records show that there are some qualifications to the fact that buffalo can defy the weather. In 1871 some explorers found buffalo in considerable numbers in a restricted territory in the southern shore of Great Slave Lake. But in a journey along one of the rivers in the district, they went for miles along old buffalo trails on which were many skulls and bones. In answer to inquiries, trappers and hunters told them that 40 or 50 years before there had been a terrific storm, during which snow fell to a depth of 14 feet on the level, and of course, piled to great heights in open ground. Thousands of buffaloes perished in that storm.

Tarre was a day when buffalo roamed around what is now the city of Winnipeg, but as far back as 1840, it is said that the species was practically unknown from the Red River to the Cheyenne.

Professor Hornaday and others say that in 1857 the Plains Crees, in the country around the headquarters of the Qu’Appelle River, 250 miles West from Winnipeg, seem to have some premonition of what was happening. They assembled in Council and determined that in consequence of the promises “often made and broken by the white men and half-breeds, and the rapid destruction by them of buffalo they fed on,” they would not allow them to hunt and their country, or to travel through it except for the purpose of trading there for dried buffalo meat, pemmican, skins and robes. Nothing was said at the Council, or if so it was not recorded, as to the part that Crees themselves were plain in depleting the herds.

Pemmican, the special preparation of buffalo meat, once sold as low as two pence (four cents) a pound in Winnipeg. But in 1883 the very small quantity which reached the city brought 16 cents a pound. It is claimed by some that this was the last pemmican made from wild plains buffalo, this is from animals not confined to private ranges. It has been made from beast slaughtered at the Wainwright reserve to keep the numbers there within reasonable bounds. It was once a greatly prized food or hunters, explorers and pioneers. To these not accustomed to it pemmican is as palatable as a piece of hardwood, but it filled no mean role in sustaining life for those who opened up the western and northern areas of Canada. The buffalo steaks served in recent years and a number of restaurants throughout the country also came from the annual depletion process at Wainwright, are good eating.

The head at Wainwright is the outcome of the purchase by the Dominion government about 1908, of a few hundred buffalo from Michael Pablo, a half-breed rancher in the valley of the Pend O’Reille River, on the Flathead Reservation across the line. They, in turn, were the descendants of a score or two of the original plains herds deliberately saved because it was thought they might be the only survivors of once mighty host. Pablo tried to sell them to the United States government and to private American interest, but without success. On his ranch, they roamed at large with his cattle, and the job of rounding them up after purchase by the Canadian government was as full of incident as any buffalo hunt of the past. A few escaped and some were accidentally killed, but most of the herd became Canadians. Their thousands are the best testimony to their present environment.


The Winnipeg Tribune
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada July 14, 1925

Is Wood buffalo In Danger?

WHEN experts disagree, said a French cynic, is the time for the common man to learn something.

Until the Dominion government decided to move a large number of the surplus buffalo from Wainwright to the wood bison reserve between the Peace River and Great Slave Lake, the average Canadian probably did not know that there are two quite distinct species of buffalo in this country, the plains buffalo, and the wood bison.

The government! decision has been attacked by a number of zoologists on the ground that such a policy will lead to the extermination of the wood bison, The dissimilarities of the two animals, authorities say, are very pronounced and for many reasons they should be kept apart.

The great herds of buffalo referred to by early travelers were confined to the prairies and treeless plains. This is the buffalo now in the Wainwrlght preserve, the species with which the public is more or less familiar. The forest-clad northern areas supported a different species the wood bison, in very small numbers. The difference between the two animals is described by a Canadian Zoologist” in the current issue of the Canadian Forum. The wood bison, says this writer. Is very much larger and heavier than his relative of the plains. The robe is of such silky texture that it can be readily distinguished from that of the plains buffalo. It is also darker in color. In temperament and habits, due to their different environment, they are in strong contrast

Owing to the surplus of plains buffalo at Wainwright it has become necessary, for the Dominion government to dispose of 2,000 every year. Plans have already been made to ship this number to the northern reserve to mix with the few wood bison who are already In possession. This policy has been sharply criticized by Mr. Francis Harper, a distinguished American zoologist. In the February issue of the Canadian Field Naturalist. Mr. Harper wrote:

“If the surplus stock of the Wainwright herd cannot be turned out in some of the thinly  settled districts of central Alberta, to be hunted under suitable restrictions, would it not be wiser to send them to the slaughter-house at once, rather than to undertake the enormously expensive and difficult job of transporting them to northern Alberta and leaving them there to work slow but sure havoc through Interbreeding with the superb wood buffalo? If a single importation of plains buffalo is made, could the effect ever be undone? Could it mean anything less than an unnatural change in the characteristics of practically the only representatives of the genus bison that are left in a perfectly wild and free state?”

Another zoologist writes even more strongly. By what principles of conservation,” he asks, “is the government prepared to defend the swamping of a magnificent nucleus of large, healthy animals by an overwhelming majority of inferior beasts of diseased ancestry? Never before in the annals of conservation have the last survivors of a unique race of animals been knowingly obliterated by a department of conservation.”

The Dominion government’s experts defend their policy by asserting that the northern reserve is very large and that the new arrivals would be shipped in at a point some distance from the present occupants. But their critics quote Ernest Thompson Seton’s estimate that the northern Alberta country is only capable of supporting five buffalo to the square mile. With an influx of 2.000 plains buffalo every year added to the natural increase of both species, it would not be long before they would be brought together in their search for food.

Up to the present, only a small part of the government’s program has been carried out, and critics of the scheme are urging that the balance should be deferred until the zoologists on either side have come to some agreement as to the right course to pursue.




The Move for More Musk Oxen.
That the recent official action of the Dominion of Canada to conserve her last existing herd of musk oxen will not be too late is the ardent hope of zoologists, naturalists and conservationists generally. It is yet debatable as to whether the American bison, usually styled “buffalo,” can be really “brought back,” notwithstanding the fact that of recent years the number of animals, both tame and wild, has notably increased. With the buffalo it is largely a question of available range, but with the musk ox this factor does not seem so important, as the animal Inhabits regions generally in hospitable to man. It is, as is so often the case, the hunters who are to blame.
East of the Great Slave Lake, Canada has established the Thelon game sanctuary, within whose confines this remnant of a once rather common animal now can exist and persist. No person, either Indian or white, will be permitted even to enter this 15,000-square-mile preserve unless by special arrangement. The musk ox, a ruminant intermediate in structure between the ox and the sheep, as its scientific name of “ovibos” indicates, was in comparatively recent times circumpolar in distribution. In the Pleistocene period it inhabited very considerable portions of Europe and America. For centuries it has been constantly hunted by the Eskimos for its skins and for food; although redolent of musk, its flesh is good. However, as in the case of the Indian versus the buffalo, it is not the copper-colored peoples w ho have done the damage, but those Caucasian fur traders, whalemen and explorers who have never known when to stop hunting. Twenty years ago its number was reported by observers as “much j diminished.” The habits of this shaggy creature, wary though it be, appear conducive to slaughter, for Instead of gathering in large herds, many of which; might escape, it groups itself into smaller units of twenty or thirty, which, once surrounded, can be slaughtered at will. Its present range is rarely south
of the “barren grounds,” although extending laterally from Great Slave Lake to Hudson Bay and over various arctic islands into Greenland.

All over the globe exist pitiful remnants of animal species once fairly or very numerous. Skilled breeding and watchful and scientific care may preserve a few individuals almost in definitely. Witness the aurochs, the European bison, once widely distributed and offering a favored form of big game since the time of Nero. Today, here and there one roams the Caucasian
Mountains while a single herd of a few hundred is preserved in a former imperial forest in Lithuania. Perhaps ovis poli, today even glimpsed by but few white men, may one day meet the same fate. It appears an almost necessary, though regrettable, concomitant of civilization that these various remarkable and often splendid animals, once a necessity to man, shall become in effect mere museum pieces.



The Ithaca Journal 
Ithaca, New York 28 Mar 1930

Dominion Receives Clay Bison Group, Historical Replica
(by Science Service)

Ottawa. March -8 Canada, the Land of the Bison, has received a replica of the celebrated bison group which was modeled in clay by a first-rate artist of France some 30,000 years ago.

Dr. Henry M. Ami. who arranged for the clay bison to cross the Atlantic, points out that Canada’s real bison came from the Old World in prehistoric times. It is generally considered that the real bison reached America from the opposite direction, journeying eastward across Asia and entering Alaska.

Dr. Ami spent almost half of last year In France, excavating at important sites where, prehistoric men once lived. From this expedition, he has obtained collections of flint tools and weapons, and the bones of animals that supplied food to the primitive Europeans. Some of these collections have been placed in French museums. Other collections are now being distributed to museums of Canadian universities and to the Canadian National Museum, here.

Dr. Ami holds the view hat the Eskimos of northern Canada belong to the same family tree as some of these prehistoric Europeans whose art and industries are shown in the exhibits. According to this theory, one of the European races was driven eastward during the retreat of the northern ice sheet, when the animals wandered north. These people followed the reindeer, the great stag, the bison, musk-ox, lemming, marmot, and other animals until the chase led into northeastern Asia, and thence across into the New World.


On Ogden Standard Examiner, Dec 7 1930
Canadians Raise Cattalo,
Half Cow, Half Buffalo

            TORONTO- Cattalo, a hybrid animal resulting from the cross-breeding of buffalo and domestic cattle, promises to become a reliable source of meat in northern Canada where domestic cattle, because of severe climate conditions, have found it hard to exist.Ogden Standard 1930

Possessing some of the characteristics of both cow and buffalo, the new type of animal has the meat qualities of beef cattle, and, like its buffalo forbearers, is hardy enough to find its own food even in the coldest weather.

The latter quality is highly desirable and cattle for the far north. By hunting their own food, the cattalo save settlers the labor of feeding them hey all winter. They can be left out to graze without fear of their becoming lost in the heavy snows.

The cattalo is the work of years of experimenting by the Canadian government. Owing to increased population in northern parts of the country, cattle for meat became necessary. And, because ordinary beef animals couldn’t withstand the rigors of northern winter, cross-breeding was started with buffalo and cows.


at first, the direct breeding between buffalo sire and domestic cow involved a number of difficulties. The buffalos showed a dislike for mixing with cows, and often times when breeding was successful, the calves were born dead, or males born were found to be sterile.

This difficulty necessitated bringing into the picture an animal closely akin to both buffalo and domestic cattle. This is the yak, from the steppes of Siberia and Tibet. The yak acts as the intermediate stage in the process of developing cattalo.

The hide of the cattalo is somewhat similar to that of the buffalo. It is heavily-haired and durable, making a warm cover. It is believed that the hide of this new animal will be used to take the place of buffalo robes which have almost become extinct during passing years. A great percentage of meat is carried in the hump of the cattalo, like that of the buffalo, although the hump of the former is not so pronounced as that on the latter.


While the raising of cattalo is not yet an industry on the same scale as that of cattle raising, experiments are going ahead by the government, notably at Wainwright, Alberta, on the large buffalo park there. It takes a number of years for results.



Times Colonist
Victoria British Columbia Canada Aug 22 1931

1 Preservation of Nearly Extinct European Bison, Is Planned
Giant Forest Hog and Jungle- bred Lions May Cross the Ocean

New York, Aug 22. -Dr. W. Reid Blair, director of the New York Zoological Park, sailed on the steamer Minnetonka for a seven-weeks’ visit in Europe. While the immediate object of Dr, Blair’s trip abroad is to study at close hand present conditions affecting the European bison, or wisent, he will inspect some East Indian cattle at Alfeld, in Prussia, with the object of establishing a wild cattle division at the Bronx Park.

“This new division for wild cattle will probably be placed near the bison range at the southern end of the park,” Dr. Blair said. “At present we have only one wild Cape buffalo from Africa, a pair of gayals from East India and an anoa, a pigmy buffalo, from the Philippines.

“I plan to inspect a collection of gaur and banting from East India at Alfeld, and if specimens of these animals are acquired, I hope to have them here late this fall. They will be included in our wild cattle division.”

Regarding his special conservation mission in connection with the European bison, or wisent, Dr. Blair said at one time these animals roamed the Caucasus, Poland and Russia in large numbers, but according to the last census the total number of pure-blooded specimens is now reduced to fifty-nine, Including twenty-two breeding cows.

Before the war a large herd in northern Russia was protected by the Russian government, but during the war, he said, 700 of these animals were slaughtered, practically wiping out the European bison, with the exception of the few remaining animals now In Germany, Poland and at the estate of the Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey, near London, who Is deeply interested in their preservation.

Last spring the board of trustees of the New York Zoological Society decided to have Dr. Blair go to Europe this summer to inspect the various wisent collections and to confer with the officers of the European Bison Society regarding a plan to promote the preservation of the species on a permanent basis.

If a practical arrangement can be worked out to bring about the assured and more rapid rehabilitation of the wisent, the society is prepared. It was announced, on the strength of Dr. Blair’s report, to subscribe $3,000 annually for a period of five years to aid the promotion of the plan.

One proposal which Dr. Blair will submit to the Bison Society and the owners of the bison herds is that suitable areas shall be acquired where breeding animals may be sent to propagate according to the most approved methods of scientific breeding.

The efforts of the European Bison Society toward the rehabilitation of the small remnants of the wisent, although successful to some extent, have been rather discouraging, it was said, because of the economic depression in Europe following the war.

Dr. Blair will first visit the Duke of Bedford in England, then will consult with F. E. Blauuw, honorary president of the European Bison Society at Amsterdam. At Berlin he will be joined by Dr. Jurt Priemel, president of the society, and together they will visit the wisent collection owned by Coui Arnim-Boitzenburg, near Prenslau, and later visit Warsaw, Poxnan, Cracot Breslau, Dresden and Frankfort-on- the-Main.


The San Francisco Examiner
San Francisco California Oct 28 1931
Senator Clapper

Senator Capper also reminds you of Nature’s marvelous fertility, as follows. Twenty-four years ago, the Canadian government bought a few bisons from a Montana Indian. Canada’s bison herd now numbers 6,000, more than the allotted pasture land will take care of. Fifteen hundred young bisons must be slaughtered and eaten this year. No better meat than the hump of a young bison.


The Winnipeg Tribune
Winnipeg Manitoba Canada Nov 9 1931


Though the bison is gone forever and the beaver and the marten are slowly following, the fur trade of Canada is showing no signs of decline,” says the New York Times.

From a Times Square eyrie no doubt it does appear that the bison is gone forever, but in Canada the bison is very much alive, and is increasing so rapidly that his old enemy, man, is having trouble finding room for the increasing herds.

The pelt of the bison, as every Winnipegger knows, was divinely ordained to protect policemen from January blasts, and these garments are not heirlooms. If the bison were gone forever, our guardians will have different bunny-wraps, but the fact is that Canada, unlike her neighbor to the south, started in to conserve some of her wild-life resources before it was too late.

Bison are not the only animals to benefit by the enlightenment which substitutes adaptation for extermination, and it Is possible that before long a way will be found to save the beaver.

Out of Canada’s twelve-million-dollar raw fur output last year, pelts from fur farms accounted for 19 percent as against 12 1 him/2 percent in the previous fur season. A few years ago all the species of animals now being bred on our fur farms were “wild,” and they were on the road to extinction. Today the silver fox, which used to eat its young if kept in captivity, is almost a domestic animal.

Slowly, but, unmistakably, by selective breeding and physical adjustment, the “wild” strain is disappearing. Man is becoming a protector and friend, and the fox, while still a long way from the calm assurance of the household kitten, is losing his nervousness.

Canada pioneered in the art of fur tanning, and is leading the way, step by step. No man can predict to what proportions this new industry will grow, but it has plenty of room to grow in Canada.


Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque, New Mexico Mar 19, 1932


1) To what family does the bison belong?
The bison belongs to the species of European wild ox. The American bison, though belonging to the same family is, however, called the buffalo.

2) How does the American bison differ from the European?
The American bison is different in several respects. Hit hindquarters are weaker, and the withers proportionately higher; the horns are shorter, thicker and blunter, and the shape of the skull is different, the forehead being more convex. It is also distinguished by its great shaggy mass of brown or black hair covering the head, neck and fore part of the body.

3) For what purpose is the fur valuable?
The fur of the buffalo is valuable because of its unsurpassed warmth and utility in robes.

4) How much of North American territory was once inhabited by these animals?
The Buffalo once roamed in countless millions over one-third of North America. When the white men came to America, they found sections in the West where they were massed in herds covering thickly a twenty-five mile frontage and fifty miles deep.

5) What caused their almost complete extinction at one time?
The Indians killed off great numbers of them and the white men, too, in their expansion, of territory, killed them off in millions. The building of railroads through the West was also a large factor in destroying the animals. At one time from 1870 to 1875, in fact it was estimated that they were slaughtered to the number of 2,500,000 annually.

6) Where is there a great colony of these beasts at the present time?
In Wainwright National Park, Alberta, Canada.

7) How was the colony started?
In 1907 the Canadian government bought a herd of 716 animals from Michael Pablo, a half-breed Indian of Montana. They were put in Elk Island Park and as their number increased, the park’s facilities became inadequate. A national park was created especially for them near Wainwright, Alberta, and they were transferred. Today they number nearly 6.000, and in the intervening years, some have been transferred to other parks, so that their breed is increasing again and the fear of extinction has passed.

8) Is the flesh of the bison edible?
Yes, it is considered by connoisseurs to be a fine game meat.

9) On what does the buffalo feed?
They feed on coarse, armatic grass, on leaves, shoots, bark, and twigs of trees.

10) Have any been killed recently?
It was recently necessary to kill 1,500 of them. The Canadian government, under whose care all the great herds now exist, forbids the hunting of buffalo on national preserve but when the common interests of the herd demand, they kill off what is necessary.



Buffalo at National Park Wainwright Winnipeg Tribune Aug 21 1937

Buffalo at National Park Wainwright Winnipeg Tribune Aug 21 1937

Bison Conservation: The Canadian Story
by Peter Lorenz Neufeld
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Manitoba History, Number 24, Autumn 1992

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.
Please direct all inquiries to

……From time to time writers extoll North American’s unusually successful conservation project of saving the prairie bison from annihilation. Invariably the impression is left that virtually alone a tiny handful of Americans conducted this worthy undertaking, with Canadians playing a negligible secondary role—a 90% versus 10% at best. In fact, the percentages are in reverse. At least ten Canadians, mostly Manitobans, played pivotal parts in saving the plains bison from extinction. Even of the half dozen Americans usually so credited, writers of this era referred to one as “French Canadian,” and a second was an American Indian living in Canada.
……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 trying to stop the senseless slaughter of these fine animals.

Caricature of Charles Alloway, 1909.Caricature of Charles Alloway 1909
Source: Manitobans As We See ‘Em, 1908 and 1909
Nan Shipley calls James McKay “Manitoba’s most outstanding citizen.” Val Werier depicts him as “a man of great girth and reputation, a buffalo hunter who weighed 350 pounds and was first speaker of the House” Edith Paterson refers to “a noted trader and hunter.”
In spring 1873 Alloway and McKay travelled west to capture buffalo calves. Taking along a domestic cow as foster mother they joined a Métis brigade and spent the whole summer capturing three young calves near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and bringing them safely to Winnipeg. Next spring they captured three more, but one died enroute home. Four years before his death in 1929, Charlie described these expeditions to a Winnipeg Tribune reporter.

James McKay, circa 1870s.James McKay cir 1870
Source: Archives of Manitoba
The bison calves were placed in an enclosure near McKay’s home, just north of today’s Assiniboine Park. By 1878 the herd had grown to 13. James died next year and Charlie sold the animals to Col. S. L. Bedson (see below) for $1,000 because he was joining his brother Bill in banking with the private bank of Alloway and Champion (W. F. Alloway founded The Winnipeg Foundation). Long after Charlie’s death his widow, Maude, told the Manitoba Historical Society of her husband leading
a third bison-capturing excursion. In late winter of 1883 the party set out. Aside from the “capture of a number of fine specimen made with the assistance of several Indian buffalo hunters” in the Battle River region about 100 miles from Edmonton, Alberta, their greatest problem occurred crossing the spring-flooding Little Saskatchewan River between Minnedosa and Rapid City, Manitoba.

Samuel Lawrence Bedson, circa 1890.Samuel Lawrence Bedson, circa 1890
Source: Archives of Manitoba
These calves too were corralled in the recently-vacated 30-acre pasture and “as with the other herds, these few multiplied to quite large proportions. A number of the buffalo in Assiniboine Park today are the progeny of this herd” At least three calves from that trip were acquired by Howard Eaton. Mrs. Alloway concluded: “It has been said that to Charlie Alloway should go the credit for the preservation of the buffalo in Manitoba for if it had not been for his foresight years ago, the American bison would be but a mist vision.” Samuel Lawrence Bedson also came West with Wolseley. A Montreal army officer’s son, he was placed in charge of Lower Fort Garry just down river from Winnipeg. When Ottawa established a penitentiary-mental hospital there in 1871 he became its first warden. Later he selected the Stony Mountain site a few miles westward for a new prison and upon its completion in 1877 continued in
charge there. A popular sportsman always surrounded by friends, Sam proved a kindly but just warden. A wildlife lover, he kept a menagerie of bears, badgers, wolves, deer, moose, geese and other game birds on his nearby farm.

The same morning the Alloway-McKay bison were moved to Stony Mountain, one cow had a calf. That night the herd escaped and tramped back to Winnipeg through deep snow. In the morning they were herded back to the prison, a total of 62 miles for the newborn calf. Under Bedson’s tender care the bison multiplied rapidly to over 100 by 1888. In 1928 the colonel’s son, K. C. Bedson, told a reported of how, as a youngster 40 years earlier, he had herded bison on the prairie near the prison. His popular mother, Jemima, was of great help to her husband in his various unusual endeavors.

By 1888 the settler influx and failing health forced Bedson to conclude it was no longer practical to keep his beloved bison. About six were donated to New York and London Zoos. At least 27 were given to Donald Smith (Lord Strathcona) to repay a loan. Most of the remaining herd, listed as high as 98 by some researchers and low as 56 by others, eventually went to C. J. “Buffalo” Jones, manager of Garden City (Kansas) Buffalo Company. No conservationist, he had hunted with Teddy Roosevelt in Africa and dreamed of creating a huge game preserve for hunters to hunt bison for a fat fee.

In November ‘89 when Jones was negotiating in Winnipeg, he had a standing offer of $60 per hide he could produce, $.50 per pound for meat to U.S. restaurants and $100-$500 a trophy head. Also he was besieged with telegrams from persons in Minnesota and the Dakotas anxious to buy bison at $500-$1,000 each. The sale was delayed briefly when some Winnipeggers tried to form a company to buy the bison to raise commercially. Bedson died in Ottawa at 49 in 1891.

Smith donated all but five of his bison to the Canadian government which installed them in Banff National Park where they flourished under Superintendent Douglas’ able care. Winnipeg’s street railway company bought the other five plus three from Eaton to donate to Assiniboine Park Zoo, where descendants are still popular with countless visitors each year.
During the mid-1870s one of the original nine Mountie commanding officers, Quebec-native Ephrem Brisebois, had fought a valiant but losing battle in what became southern Alberta to slow down the bison slaughter by developing strict hunting regulations. Unfortunately, this colourful, somewhat controversial sub-inspector who founded Fort Calgary (originally Fort Brisebois) was ignored by his own superiors, consequently made impotent to enforce the judicious restrictions, and resigned.

Much has been written of the role played in saving the plains bison by the Montana Pend d’Oreille, Sam Walking Coyote. Some hail him as a devoted conservationist, others laud his actions as a “ray of light in all the ruthless killing” of these noble beasts. Most have him capturing bison calves in Montana. However, we can thank the Montana Historical Society for separating fact from fiction. George Coder of Ohio State University has conducted detailed buffalo history research. As to who caught Sam’s bison, where and why, Coder points to the story in the November 1923 Rocky Mountain Husbandman as most accurate.

It began in 1873 at a Piegan camp on Montana’s Milk River where lived Sam “who had a sharp tongue, a swift temper and (a) son-in-law” who “cheated his wife’s irascible father in a horse swap,” arousing his ire. Life quickly became too hot around camp that winter for the young horse-trader because “every time the old man thought about him, he reached for something to throw; and his aim was good” Dixon Craig of the Edmonton Journal, who also did good bison research, called Sam a renegade. The young man left his parents-in-law and bride, and headed north into Saskatchewan where he became an honest hunter of what remained of the southern half of the once-great bison herd. One day he was lucky enough to capture some calves. A Canadian Press story datelined Wainwright, Alberta gave the number as two bulls and two heifers. Because he missed his young wife considerably, he decided perhaps her cantankerous dad might forgive him if he brought the calves as gift. He herded his peace offering into the U.S. where his father-in-law eagerly accepted it. Sam trailed his calves to this little farm on the Flathead Reserve where by 1884 the four had increased to 13. Old age and difficulty financing his wards caused him to sell.

Charles Allard, his father Caucasian and his mother Oregon Indian, is often called a “French Canadian.” Allard and his Mexican-Blackfoot ranching partner Michel Pablo, decided to buy most of Sam’s herd. Gene Telpner described the transaction. Sam refused “a white man’s cheque” so the ranchers had to dig up $2,500 cash. As the trio counted out the money, into 25 piles, a mink ran by. “With the instinct of the hunter strong in their spirits, they immediately gave chase, forgetting temporarily all about the buffalo herd and the large sum of money left lying on the ground” A 1948 Canadian Cattleman issue indicates that after the sale Sam “immediately hit for town and after a few weeks of city life was found dead under Missoula Bridge.”

By 1893 the Allard-Pablo herd on Pend d’Oreille reserve near St. Ignatius Mission had grown to 100. Meanwhile, Jones’ grandiose scheme faded when intense Texas heat and ticks killed most of his bison. He sold the remnant of 35 (one source says 26) to Allard and Pablo. After the former died in 1896, his half of the 300-head herd was divided among his heirs and many sold by them to U.S. zoos and game farms. Despite this, the herd, now owned by Charles Allard Jr. and brother Joseph, Pablo, and Andrew Stringer, totalled 250 in 1899. By 1906 it numbered almost 800 and was the main plains bison herd in North America, the only other of note being the herd in Banff National Park.
Four Canadians, two being Manitobans, played key roles in returning the Montana bison to Canada. Norman Luxton, son of noted journalist W. F. Luxton, (Toronto Globe, Winnipeg Free Press, Nor’Wester) was the progressive publisher of Banff’s Crag and Canyon Weekly. Alex Ayotte, a huge man weighing 240 pounds, had served with Canada’s immigration department in Montana for years and later moved to St. Jean, Manitoba. Hon. Frank Oliver, ex-journalist of Toronto Globe and Mail, Winnipeg Free Press and founder of Alberta’s first newspaper, Edmonton Bulletin, was federal interior minister. Howard Douglas was still superintendent of Banff National Park.

To Luxton, a close friend of Oliver’s, goes credit for convincing his politician friend the Allard-Pablo herd should be bought by Canada and re-established here. To Oliver goes credit for quick action in 1906 persuading Ottawa the idea had merit and then setting necessary wheels turning to advance what’s often been heralded as “the greatest animal comeback in the history of the world.”
Ayotte, with a bit of help from Eaton, negotiated the purchase of about 716 animals at $245 each, and then led three hazardous roundups and drives to Canada which took several years. He continued to supervise five annual roundups in Alberta.

To Douglas fell the massive task of making the whole project work. Also, he helped disperse bison to Canadian zoos and other parks, like Manitoba’s Riding Mountain National Park where one of the largest plains bison herds in existence still attracts thousands of visitors annually.

An interesting sequel to the bison conservation project was research conducted from 1894 to 1914 by Mossom Boyd of Bobcaygeon, Ontario in crossing plains bison with domestic cattle. In 1915 his bison and cattalo were bought by Ottawa and taken to Wainwright, Alberta. The cattalo project was later transferred south to Manyberries where it continued until 1964.

Today, buffalo ranching is becoming increasingly common across North America, a popular Manitoba one being Marvin McGregor’s just across the Little Saskatchewan River from the Ski Valley resort north of Minnedosa. Cattle-bison crossing programs are carried on by individual ranchers, the Beefalo breed being one result. In recent years buffalo have multiplied to the extent that even limited hunting seasons have become necessary to contain the rapidly-expanding herds. In fact, a most serious current problem facing Canadian officials is how to combat rampant disease and forage shortage plaguing the herd in Wood Buffalo National Park consisting of 3,500 plains and wood bison, without having to destroy the animals.

Charlie Alloway, James McKay, Sam Bedson, Ephrem Brisebois, Howard Eaton, Donald Smith, Norman Luxton, Frank Oliver, Howard Douglas and Alex Ayotte left Canadians a most enviable conservation legacy. Let’s treasure it deeply and enhance it.