Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park is home to 1,040 acres. (1895)


San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco California Feb 2, 1891

On His Way to Golden Gate Park
Born and Raised on a Farm in Kansas
He is a Splendid Specimen of His Kind – Labeling the Rare Trees

A big bull bison is on his way to Golden Gate Park. He comes all the way from Garden City Kansas where he was born and raised on a buffalo farm run by one Jones. He that is the – bison is four years old and or the genuine simon pure breed, his immediate predecessors having roamed the wild prairies and the mountains and vales of Montana. Wells Fargo & Co have charge of him at present and are bringing him here via Salt Lake.Golden Gate Park The Big Bison

As intimated in the Chronicle a few weeks ago the Park Commissioners have been trying to get some specimens of the now nearly extinct American bison for their collection in the park. It was their wish to secure a pair of them but after several months of seeking, they have come to the conclusion that a single buffalo was all they could afford. A pair of these shaggy monsters cannot be procured for less than $1200. The one just purchased by the Commissioners cost $350 exclusive of the neat little sum that Wells Fargo Co will want for his transportation. He is a splendid specimen of his kind though and well worth the money. He will soon be roaring and kicking up his heels along with the antelopes and deer in the big corral at Golden Gate Park.

At the next meeting of the Park Commissioners (goes on about the trees)




The San Francisco Examiner 
San Francisco, California 14 Feb 1891

The Buffalo Bull’s Arrival at Golden Gate Park Yesterday
The Magnificent Beast Scares the Superintendent end Commissioners He Is Christened by the “Examiner.”

Ben Harrison, the Park buffalo, bade good-bye to his friends at Garden City, Kan., on the 9th instant and arrived very early yesterday morning. He was lodged in the basement of Wells, Fargo & Co.’s building until a vehicle came to take him to the scene of his future greatness as a public character.

No elaborate ceremonies attended Ben’s entry to the park. The stout wooden cage which confined him was hoisted into an ordinary express wagon and he was driven through the streets as if he were a mere common cow of foreign blood. At the Park’s gate, however, he was met by Police Captain Sam Thompson and Officer T. H. Kennedy, both mounted on prancing steeds, finely caparisoned. Commissioner W. W. Stow, Superintendent McLaren and two distinguished looking citizens representing the literary and artistic departments of the Examiner, Joined the procession. The line of march terminated at the Park stables,

Golden Gate Park Ben Harrison Bison Bull 1891
From Garden City, Kansas. He was $350 plus shipping, weighed a thousand pounds. His name was Ben Harrison.

down by the railway track, where the nurseries are that you see on your way to the ocean beach. It was not an easy job to get Ben out of the wagon, especially as he kicked and gored with resentful vigor. But he had no chance to do serious damage. His box was just an inch or two higher than his back, a little wider and longer than his body, and ropes across his head at the base of his horns prevented him from either rushing through the bars or sliding out behind. A four-year-old buffalo bull, weighing over 1,000 pounds and enthusiastically willing to fight was never in a harder fix.

HARRISON’S CLOSURE. When the box had been lowered to the ground it was pushed on rollers to a closed stall in the stable, and the men were about to cut the ropes, knock the bars off the front of the cage and let Ben charge into the den when Commissioner Stow after a hasty glance in search of stairways and fire escapes said to hold on. On the whole, he thought that if the buffalo should take it into his head to knock the stall to splinters he could do it easily. So the Commissioner and the deferential and agitated Superintendent went in search of a safer temporary home for the bull. Finally, it was determined to turn Ben loose in a half-acre sand lot which is a sort of hospital for sick horses, antelopes, ducks, jackasses and other Park attractions.

Then Commissioner Stow received a telegram from Sacramento and went off to a telephone station.

The cage was pushed down to the gate of the corral, and everybody supposed the supreme moment had arrived when Superintendent McLaren slapped his large forehead with his hand and called out:
‘ I say, how are buffaloes on the jump?”
Captain Thompson said he thought the five-foot fence was high enough to discourage any American bison.
”Well, there’s no use taking chances,” observed Mr. McLaren, and he at once ordered a great engineering feat to be performed.

This was nothing less than the construction of a four-foot wire fence on top of the five-foot wooden one. The thing was done by a large force of men in the astonishing time of one hour and a half. Superintendent McLaren himself overseeing and directing the delicate operation of unwinding the coils of telegraph wire. Ben’s cage was pushed into the inclosure and scantlings were nailed across the gate, making it at least ten times as strong as any other portion of the fence.

ROOM FOR THE BISON. Then the Superintendent wiped his anxious brow again and remarked that somebody would have to climb the sky-scraping fence and free the buffalo. As Ben was kicking viciously and nearly tearing out his horns in his savage attacks on the walls of his prison, the proposed task was not an agreeable one.

Golden Gate Park

Mr. McLaren suggested that the ropes, where they were tied to the bars, should be cut, and that later the buffalo should be lassoed and relieved of them.

” No,” said Commissioner Stow, who had returned from the telephone, ” the dangling ropes would make him furious.”
“That’s so,” agreed the Superintendent, with an uneasy plane at his high fence, and a swift backward look at the open stable door.
” Leave it to me and it’ll be all right,” said Captain Thompson, who climbed over the fence, knife in hand, followed by the lithe and intrepid Officer Kennedy.

It was really a ticklish job. At the slightest touch, or even the near approach of a man, the beast plunged wildly, and it seemed quite impossible to get at the restraining ropes with a knife. Every reach toward his horns was at the risk of a mangled hand or a broken arm.

Captain Thompson was cool and patient. Very patient for at every moment Superintendent McLaren or Mr. Stow would say
“No, don’t do that: get in front of him, Bam.” or Try the other side. Captain.”,

And Commissioners Hammond and Austin having driven up there were two more Generals to command the troops. A crowd had gathered, and it chipped in with advice, but Thompson and Kennedy kept their tempers, retained their nerve all of which they needed, and by covering the bull’s head with a tarpaulin, thus hiding his large and wildly rolling. Bloodshot eyes, they drew his head well down, and with a quick slash, Thompson severed the rope at a point which set everything free.

Then you should have seen the two daring fellows shin over that fence.


The crowd moved backward to the road near where the tree trunks were plentiful, and Superintendent McLaren, clutching the stable door, stood breathless, waiting to see the high-jumping buffalo of the plains sail through the air like a bird.

What Ben did do was look surprised when he found that he could raise his head as high as he liked. This pleasant discovery made him shake it. Then he slowly backed out of the hated cage.Golden Gate Park What Ben Did

Did he paw the sand and roar and breathe fire, and cavort?

No, he just sauntered off quietly to a neighboring water-trough and calmly took a drink, like a good American. Then with a broad and comfortable smile upon his satisfied countenance, he approached a bundle of hay and tackled it with good appetite.

He’ll be eating peanuts from babies’ hands within a week.

The EXAMINER, through its representative, was accorded by the Park Commissioners the honor of christening the buffalo, and the name of Ben Harrison was conferred.

The bull comes from the buffalo ranch of C. J. Jones, at Garden City, Kansas, and cost $350. The freight charge was $220, but Wells, Fargo & Co. generously reduced this to $100. He is an exceedingly handsome young animal, standing about five feet high. His head is magnificent, black as ink at the muzzle, and shading off into a deep brown toward the shoulders, where his shaggy coat is light hued. The prevailing tone of his body is a seal brown. Ben has loose knickerbockers reaching to the knee on his forelegs and is plainly proud of his personal appearance. A few weeks hence two cows will be imported from Jones’ other ranch near Salt Lake City to keep him company.

It is chiefly owing to Mr. Jones that the American bison is not extinct. For many years Mr. Jones followed the business of hunting the animal for its hide, but seeing it disappearing, he went in 1881 to the Texas Panhandle and caught a few young ones alive. From these, he has bred hundreds. Prior to the building of the overland railroads the buffalo ranged from the British Columbian line to the Mexican boundary in inconceivable numbers. When the railroads made it easy to reach their feeding grounds, a slaughter unexampled in history began. Henry Inman, an old frontiersman, in writing on the subject to Harpers’ Weekly, says that some idea of how many buffalo there must at one time have been may be formed of those killed from 1868 to 1881 a period of only thirteen years, during which time they were shot down indiscriminately for their hides. In Kansas alone there was paid out between the dates specified, 12,600,000 for their bones gathered on the prairies, to be used by the carbon works of the country. It required about 100 skeletons to make one ton, the price averaging $8 a ton, equaling over 31,000,000 buffaloes in only thirteen years! In 1868 Mr. Inman rode for three days through one herd that must have contained 4,000,000. In the spring of 1869, a train on the Kansas Pacific railroad was delayed, at a point between Fort Harker and Fort Hays, from 9 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon before it could proceed, in consequence of a herd crossing the track in front of it. On each side of the train, as far as the eye could see, the whole vast prairie was black with the surging mass of frightened buffaloes as they rushed onward. How long the ocean of beasts had been moving across the track before the train arrived, nobody knew. “On either side of the Union Pacific, at one time,” says Mr. Inman, “one could walk in places all day on the dead bodies of the buffaloes, killed by the hide-hunters, without stepping on the ground.”

Buffalo robes which once sold at fifty cents now bring from $125 to $200. The last herd discovered was in 1889, in Wyoming. It contained thirteen, eight of which were captured. The animal is found now only on a few farms, where they are raised for menageries, and for crossing purposes. Our Ben Harrison, with his wives, will in due time be given a nice iron-fenced paddock for a home.

He Has Not Yet Been Christened, but Lives On Without a Name.
Superintendent McLaren May Supply the Demand of Coming Hunters.  May 1895

The little baby buffalo born a few days ago in Golden Gate Park is as yet un-named and Superintendent McLaren and the Commissioners are undecided whether to burthen it with the name of someone of national fame or with that of some local celebrity. The youngster is the color of untanned leather and about the size of a Great Dane dog. Yesterday while the sun shone bright and warm the new arrival was as frisky as a lamb, but not quite as graceful.

 When the hail shower fell in the afternoon “Ben Harrison,” the boss of the THE BABY BUFFALO IN THE PARK. [Sketched by a “Call” artist.] paddock, shook himself, bellowed and ran off on a buffalo double-quick to seek the shelter of trees within the inclosure, followed by the rest of the herd numbering six, including the newcomer.

 After the hail and rain clouds had passed to the south and the sun came cut again to warm the grounds the animals of the plains came from under their shelter to feed at the hayrack.

During the afternoon there were many people in the park and all went to look at it! the little stranger. A lady stylishly dressed who drove up in a carriage remarked to her companion, “What a little beauty, how I should like to have him for a pet.”

“Yes,” said the one addressed, “but what would you do with it when it gets to be the size of ‘Big Ben?’ ”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” answered the first speaker, as she touched her horse with the whip and drove on.

Superintendent McLaren is quite elated over the success of buffalo raising in the park and thinks that in time he may supply the demand of those who visit the plains to hunt the bison. This latest arrival is the fourth of the species born in the park, and his? mother like himself is a Golden Gate Park production three years old. All the buffaloes, bulls and cows, have thrived in captivity, and roam about as unconcerned as if on the plains. Their companions are a couple of deer, who mingle as freely with them as if they were of their own class. Occasionally a Chinese pheasant strolls within the inclosure and perches on the roof of the rustic shed watching the big animals while they are feeding.

At this time the bison are shedding their coats of shaggy hair, and are not so presentable as they will be when the new crop grows out.


Chico Weekly Enterprise 12 Jul 1895

Old Ben Butler the king of the sea lions is dead But Ben Harrison the buffalo is alive and kicking and Mayor Sutro is still on exhibition so that the Cliff House and Golden Gate Park are not left without attractions

Ben- Bison Bull (grown bull on the right)

Golden Gate Park 1895 Golden Gate Park
Bison Herd 1895 OpenSFHistory / wnp27.3681


The San Francisco Call
San Francisco California Jan 3, 1905

Three Sturdy Bison From Eaton Ranch Added to the Local Herd


The Golden Gate Park herd of buffaloes has been increased by three new arrivals from Montana, a bull and two Jan 3 1905 3 bison arrive from Eaton Ranch in Montanacows. The strangers came to town yesterday in a cattle car and were taken to the park in a specially constructed cage built on a truck. The three Montana bisons were turned loose in a paddock near where the spotted deer and the kangaroos reside. For a while they trotted here and there through the inclosure, sniffing the wind suspiciously. But one taste of California grass made them feel at home. The Park Commissioners, who take every precaution for the welfare of the buffaloes, found that the park herd was in danger of deteriorating because of in-breeding. New stock was needed, so the three new buffaloes were purchased from the Eaton ranch in Montana. The importations are fine, healthy specimens of the bison, and all of them are 2-year-olds. The new arrivals will be kept to HILDA for a while. The males of the original herd would fiercely resent the intrusion of the bull from Montana and the cows in the big paddock might not receive the females cordially at first introduction. The Montana animals look little the worse for the rough experiences they have been through. They were roped by dexterous cowboys on the Eaton ranch; then they were loaded Into a cattle car and for several days whirled along behind a noisy, shrieking engine. They seemed more than glad to feel the soft turf under their feet. Their present quarters are a little cramped, for in Montana they had many acres to roam over. The sight of a truckload of buffaloes naturally created considerable excitement along the streets. The animals eyed the curious spectators indifferently, though they had never been in close quarters with mankind until they started on the trip to California, One of the cows has a slight defect. A horn was torn from her head in a fight back in Montana.


The Baltimore Sun
Baltimore Maryland June 6, 1907

Pure-bloods in the United States

The Golden State Park San Francisco- 14 head




The South Bend Tribune
South Bend Indiana Aug 23, 1913


This film presents a very excellent series of views which were taken under the supervision of S. S. Hutchinson, president of the American Film Manufacturing company. The series comprises some of the most beautiful and picturesque spots about San Francisco and the Golden Gate.



Arizona Republic
Phoenix Arizona Feb 21, 1918

NEW YORK. Feb 20. A. telegram protesting against a reported plan to kill the bison in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, to feed the park’s bears as a war economy measure was sent today by Edmund Seymour of this city, president of the American Bison society, to the park commissioners of San Francisco.

The amount of saving that could be accomplished would be small Mr. Seymour said, “and the harm done would be out of all proportion to the amount of saving effected. There are only 2.000 or 3000 bison left in this country.”

Bison in National Park SAN FRANCISCO. Feb. 20. Request that the commissioners of Golden Gate Park. San Francisco rescind decision to slaughter nine bull bison to be fed to the park animals was made today to Mayor James Rolph. Jr. Killing of the bison had been recommended as a war economy measure. Mayor Rolph has written Secretary of the Interior Lane suggesting that the bison be taken to some national park.



The Californian 
Salinas, California 25 Feb 1918


The board of park commissioners has offered to give nine bison to any person who will take the cute little beasts from Golden Gate Park and give them a roomy home, care and lots of food.

King Macomber, the multimillionaire sportsman, has a 20,000-acre ranch near Hollister. Part of it has been made into a golf course and part is devoted to corrals and pastures for thoroughbred horses, but a part big enough for nine buffalo to move about in comfort remains in the primeval state dear to the hearts of bison of the old school.

Friends of Macomber have suggested that the nine bison would lend to his ranch an air of the old-time west. The only wild animals now on 30,000 acres that once were the habitat of many branches of the kingdom of beast are birds. Macomber’s friends are urging him to add buffalo.

According to members of the park commission, the bison at Golden State Park have become quite civilized; they would have sense enough not to wander over the golf course or pick quarrels with Macomber’s horses.


The San Francisco Examiner
San Francisco California March 1, 1918

Movie Companies Ask for Golden Gate Park Bison

The lives of the nine aged bull buffaloes recently condemned to death by the Park Commissioners will be spared, the Park Commissioners yesterday confirming their agreement that if homes can be found for the bisons they will be reprieved. Pending word from Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior, who was appealed to by Mayor Rolph in behalf of the condemned buffaloes, disposition of the bulls was deferred by the Commissioners for a fortnight. Mayor Rolph asked Lane to send the bison to either Yosemite or Yellowstone National Parks. A number of moving picture concerns have also asked for one or more of the condemned bulls.


The San Francisco Examiner 
San Francisco, California 17 May 1922


 Three arrivals In Golden. Gate Park last week gave promise that American nobility is not to’ become extinct, for if there is any noble birthright in the animal kingdom on this continent it must be acceded to the bison.Golden Gate Park Three babies born

Three baby buffaloes in a single week, in reality, means a big jump in the birthrate. Grave fears have been entertained that the bison might at no distant date be classed with eohippus and pterodactyl as an extinct species that failed to survive the encroachments of the human race.

M. Miller, in charge of the buffalo paddocks. says the babies are a ” record-breakers as specimens born in captivity. He would have liked to weigh and photograph them, but . their mothers have objected.

The baby buffalo Is as precocious as a young calf. It takes but a day or two for him to steady his “sea-legs” and then he is full of gambols and friskiness.

There is a movement on foot to have the three babies initiated into the Mystic Shrine, as their advent was so well timed for the celebration of next month. The attendants have already begun to call the eldest of them “Islam.” The fact that they are somewhat “hump-backed” may even qualify them to substitute for the traditional camels in certain tin important ceremonies. The Golden State Park herd was increased by ten from June to August of last year.



The Times-Tribune 
Scranton, Pennsylvania 26 Jul 1924

Bison Herd Escape From Paddock In Park and Race Into Residential Section.

San Francisco, July 26. A buffalo stampede and hunt in a residential district of San Francisco, ended Friday with the rounding up of 25 bulls and cows that broke from their paddock in Golden Gate Park. The bison, after breaking down the fence, stampeded to nearby lawns and forced citizens to seek places of safety.

One old bull engaged a street ear and was driven off by the motorman armed with his controller bar. Timid householders remained indoors while the maddened buffalo raced around their homes, wrecking gardens and fences. A part of the herd was rounded up last night, and soon after dawn this morning park guards and mounted police drove the others back to the zoo.


BISON BACK IN PEN AFTER S.F.ROUNDUP :- – Citizen, Again Breathe Easily as Policemen Corral Beasts in Wild Hunt Over Wide Area

Subdued, but unrepentant, seventeen buffalo mooched back to their compound In Golden Gate Park at 9 o’clock yesterday morning, after the most glorious rampage since their calf hood days, when for twelve hours they terrorized the Park-Presidio district and defied the efforts of 30 policemen to corral them.

It all began Thursday night when Portland, one of the heaviest bison in the paddock, butted down a fence post, trampled yards of spiked wire and trumpeting in, challenge, urged his fellows to explore the wide world. En masse, they thundered through the Fulton Street entrance. Sleeping citizens appeared at windows and touted in dismay at the spectacle of the buffalo cavorting and bellowing.

The herd split into pairs and trios and abandoned the road to prance on lawns. Twenty gardens were ruined. Besides an excursion, the buffaloes made a picnic of it. and feasted on clumps of geraniums, snowball bushes and honeysuckle, which proved more savory than the park herbage.

BEAST CLIMBS PORCH. One patriarch known as “Bill Cody” pranced solo along Nineteenth Avenue and climbed a porch. A householder phoned frantically to the Park police station that a herd of elephants had broken loose.

Simultaneously there was another call from Thirty-fifth avenue and Geary street, where one buffalo enlivened things by trampling flower pots, scratching his back along a parked automobile and charging a street car. thinking it a rival buck bison.

Acting Captain Arthur De Quire, Mounted Policemen Earl Moore, J. Connell, W. Stelling, C Ireland, A. Bond, Martin Handley, and Inspector George Merchant rode up and finally rounded seven of the more amiable buffalo and escorted them back to the fold. At the gate, the beasts changed their minds and crashed back to rejoin their more adventurous colleagues.

Inspector Merchant, who had swung a lariat on the San Joaquin ranges, roped one bull, but it was as obdurate as a runaway limousine. The neighborhood was now in a panic, but so were the scattered buffalo and by instinct, they drew again into a herd and stampeded along the avenue.

The police shouting in Hibernian, if not Apache accents, and swinging their ropes, drew out hundreds of affrighted householders who had never seen a buffalo outside of a nickel. It was a great night for the children.

The mounted police and others in automobiles, working in the glare of the headlights, shot hither and thither like polo players and jockeyed them back into the park. Force could do no more. Inspector Merchant uttered the dictum that the way to a buffalo’s heart is by his stomach. A truce was called and soon a police car rolled up laden with bags of oats and a score of shiny pails. Oats were showered like rice at a wedding party. The bisons pawed, sniffed, then banqueted, and expansive and surfeited, suffered themselves to be shooed back to their private prairie, That is, all but one bull that got out shortly before 9 a, m. and was recaptured after a chase from the Park Speedway to chain of lakes.

San Francisco’s first buffalo hunt in two centuries was over.

Golden Gate Park Bison Paddock

Golden Gate Park Bison Paddock



Males              Females           Young                Total

1916 San Francisco Golden Gate1113832


1918 San Francisco-Golden Gate Park1015530


1920 San Francisco-Golden Gate Park718530


1923 San Francisco-Golden Gate Park97723


1926 San Francisco-Golden Gate Park11121033


1929 San Francisco-Golden Gate Park919533