European Bison

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European bison (wisent) have also been crossed with domestic cattle to produce the żubroń. These were first bred in Poland in 1847 as hardy, disease resistant alternatives to domestic cattle. Breeding was discontinued in the 1980s. The few remaining zubron can be found at Bialowieski National Park.


The Greenville Times – LOC
Greenville, Mississippi Oct 19 1901


The Last of the Wild Cattle of America and Europe – Bison protected by Law

Last year the rumor went around that there might be a herd of, say, 15 wild wood bison in the wooded wilderness of northwestern Canada, but this is generally believed now to be an unfounded rumor, and America is without its wild bison. There are some of these huge ungulates in captivity, but these are mostly crosses of domestic cattle and the children of the former “lord of the plains.” At present genuine buffalo heads, horns and hides are very valuable, and the specimen which has been prepared for the Philadelphia Zoological society for David McCadden is worth several hundreds of dollars. When we look back and see that less than 30 years ago, in 1872-73 and ’74, from 6,000,000 to 10,000,000, buffalo were slain on our western plains for their hides, it seems not incredible that this tribe should be so effectually wipes out.

Few Americans are aware of the fact that at one time Europe was roamed over by an animal very like our buffalo, says the Philadelphia Record. Pliny and other early writers termed it the “bonassus” and to naturalists it is known y as “bison bonassus,” while his American congener is called “bison bison.” But Europe still has its wild bison, while America has not. The European bison “bonassus now lives in the forest of Bialowicza in Lithuania, where It is protected by the czar of Russia and roams, wild in the Caucasus. It is a powerful, savage brute, which stands six feet in height and measure 11 feet in length. The angry bonassus. puts out his dark-red tongue, rolls his red eyes and dashes with fury at the object of his wrath. An old bull ruled for a long time over the road running through the forest of Bialowicza and did much damage. He stopped carriages or sleighs, especially those laden with hay. If the peasants threatened him he charged and threw their sleigh over. Horses were terrified at the sight of him and seemed to lose their senses.


The Paducah Sun-LOC
Paducah, Kentucky August 11, 1902


Immense Tracts of Country Kept for Imperial Pleasure 

Something that Illustrates strikingly how rich in game a crowded country like Germany is, owing to strict preservation and the great areas of forest and moor that are set aside for its protection, is shown in the list of his game killed in the Grunewald The Grunewald is the great imperial reservation near Berlin which has just been given as a free park to the citizens. It was decided to shoot on all the game in it and in the first days hunt, in which the Emperor participated, 700 deer were killed. When the shooting was ended it was found that 2000 head of deer had been bagged.

The Emperor has had an opportunity to shoot rare big game lately. The Prince of Pless invited him to visit his reservation in Silesia and try a shot at the mighty Wisent bulls. The Wisent is a near relative of the huge Auerochs, which was hunted by the old Teutons and the size of which so appalled the Romans. The Czar of Russia has been trying to preserve the Wisent and in 1803 the last remaining herd was penned in a mighty reservation in Western Russia There were 700 specimens then. Now only 400 are left. They are dying out like the American bison. The Prince of Pless got a few pairs from the Czar and has done so well in breeding them in Silesia that he was able to offer the Emperor the luxury of shooting two great bulls of a species that is all but extinct The Wisent is larger and more imposing in appearance than the bison and far more dangerous to the hunter.


Western Kansas World –LOC
WaKeeney, Kansas November 07, 1903


American Buffalo’s Tail Indicates Happier Life as to Insects.

Prof. Lucas, curator of paleontology and zoology, recently remarked that in “addition to possessing the finest group of American bison or buffalo in the world, the National Museum was to be congratulate upon the ownership of an unusually fine stuffed and mounted specimen of the European bison, the “aurochs” of the Germans, the wlsent (bison) of the Poles, or the “urus” of Julius Caesar. Tacitus and other ancient Roman writers. This specimen was obtained from the czar of Russia’s game preserve in Lithuania, one of the two places in Europe where the European bison still exists, and is a large male. Visitors to the museum, especially those who take an interest in mammals, are thus afforded an opportunity of comparing the American with the European bison and judging of the differences.

Despite the close similarity between the two varieties, the European aurochs or wisent was, the professor said, quite a different animal from its American relative. As a matter of fact, he said, the European bison is a much larger and heavier animal than the American buffalo, although to see one of each variety standing side by side would give one the impression that the American buffalo is the larger of the two on account of the dense masses of hair about the head, shoulders and fore feet of the latter. Yet while this is true, the European bison has a longer and heavier beard than his Occidental cousin. The strangest feature of it all is that while the American buffalo has a short tail, never longer than two feet at the utmost, and with a wisp of hair on the end, the bison of Europe has a long, horse-like switch, profusely haired and touching the ground. In this respect the European bison resembles the yak of Central Asia, which naturalists regard as a form of mountain bison.

How the European bison came to have a long, hairy tale and the American a short, stubby appendage, is a puzzle difficult for the evolutionists to solve. It must be remembered, however, that the bison of Europe dwelt in the forests and swamps, where there were many insect pests, including mosquitoes, while the American buffalo lived on the open prairies, where the winds were too strong for insects. Consequently, the European bison, having; the more need for a long tail, developed one in the course of time. – Washington Post


The Virginia Enterprise
Virginia Minnesota May 11, 1906


Revolutions in Russia Cause Decrease in Number of These Animals.

An interesting side effect of the rebellion and perhaps revolution of which we. read in Russia is the possible speedy extinction of a species of animal which for many years has been jealously protected by the czar. In times of national peace and contentment the European bison lives in the imperial forests of Lithuania, presumably unmolested; but whenever there is a rising in Poland and the rebels take to the woods they use this herd of bison as a part of their commissary and kill them for beef.

For many years, says Forest and Stream, there has been a gradual lessening in numbers of this herd, which by many zoologists is thought to be due to inbreeding; yet there are others who believe that the decrease in this protected herd, which 50 years ago numbered nearly 2,000 and which lives wild in its native habitat, is too rapid to be accounted for solely by inbreeding, and must be due to destruction by man, notwithstanding the efforts made by the authorities to protect them. Statistics of the Bielowitza herd in Grodno show that between 1833 and 1857 these bison increased from 768 to 1,898, but from this time on the decrease has been constant until in 1892 the herd numbered less than 500.

The butchery of human beings in Russia, which is reported to be taking place on a scale quite unparalleled in times of peace for the last hundred years, stirs the emotions of the world; yet zoologists will view with keen regret the diminution of the European bison, which for hundreds of years has been preserved from extinction only by the very hand that brought its numbers so low.

Of the herd of these bison which inhabits the mountains of the Caucasus, in the province of Kuban, we know little or nothing, but the same causes which seem likely to bring about the absolute extermination of the herd in Grodno will be operative in the Caucasus, and the race seems likely now to receive a blow from which it can never recover.

On one or two estates in Europe and in a few zoological gardens there are living specimens of these bison, but their number are very few, Perhaps the little herd belonging to the prince of Pless is, the most numerous.



The New York Herald
New York, New York Feb 1, 1918

Game Bags of Great Toutons


The United States Forestry Service makes the interesting announcement that, “according to a German forestry Journal,” the Kaiser in 1908 killed 1,005 pieces of game, making a total record in all of his then forty-nine years of 61,730 four footed and winged animals slaughtered.

Of the list contained…… Aurochs (European bison)……2

He shot the two aurochs by grace of the Czar of Russia; not Willy’s Nicky, but Nicky’s father, Alexander III. The European bison lives only in Russia, and. as a correspondent notes else-where on this page, is coupled in history with Polish chivalry, but we doubt that Wilhelm killed his two in the arena. His sporting methods, beyond the ethical question of huge slaughter, have not been of a kind that renders of our Rod and Gun column would applaud. The Kaiser, according to the German papers, which praised his skill, had six men loading guns for him when he shot hares, and these little creatures, all hand fed, were driven toward him by beaters


The Hancock Democrat
Greenfield Indiana Nov 13, 1919

Russian Bison -Exterminated.

 What has happened, during the war, to the bison herds of Central Europe? Protected by a ukase of the Czar Alexander, bisons still existed in some private parks of Poland and Lithuania, the last of their kind in Europe. Count Potocki’s herd was kept in an immense park, and for some time was protected by the Cossacks of the Don. But according to a French writer, M. Grandidier, there is no doubt as to their ultimate fate. In 1917 the bolsheviki thought fitting to include the herd in their policy of extermination. Bisons could not be owned by everybody, therefore they must be owned by nobody, and so, in the general cataclysm, the famous herd disappeared.


The Scranton Republican
Scranton Pennsylvania Oct. 6, 1920


 The European bison, though it was not wholly exterminated, was. so reduced in numbers that for 100 years or more the only known specimens have been those that the czars and a few members of the Russian and Polish nobility have preserved in their great forested hunting grounds.

When the great war broke out the czar of Russia had about 180 in his “state at Spain and Count Potocki had forty or more in his preserves. Walter Winans, the noted American rifle shot and sportsman, who has long lived abroad, now reports what lovers of wild life everywhere will regard as almost a calamity namely, that the Bolshevists have destroyed the last bison in both – herds and therefore have probably written the end of another sad chapter of zoological history. Reports from other and later sources attribute the deed not to the Bolshevists for wantonness, but to the German troops for food. But either report leaves the fact of the slaughter doubt.

In the caves of Altamira, in Spain, an unknown race set down the first records of the bison in the form of wonderfully, realistic carvings and pictures. In the forests – of Russian Poland another race has written finis to those records with high – power, rifles. Youths Companion


by Theodor G. Ahrens- Published 1921

Originally there existed two types or species of wild oxen in Europe : The ur (urus ) , auerochs, Slavonic tur = Bos primigenius ; and the wisent, Polish zubr, Roumanian zimbr = Bos bonasus L. or Bison europaeus.

The ur had no mane, resembled our domestic cattle, but had larger horns. The wisent has a mane, long hair on neck and shoulders, a hump, short horns and is a counterpart of our American bison.  The ur became extinct in Europe, with the exception of Russia and Poland, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

Aristotle mentions the wisent in his history of animals with the title of “bonasos”; Pliny, Calpurnius Siculus, and Seneca describe it, referencing to the Paeonian species. Pausanias and Dio Cassius (150—235 A.D.) speak of the wisents as “Paeonian bulls.”  Wisents and urs lived in Switzerland in the middle ages, but became extinct in France before 1400. The wisent is mentioned in Sweden in the eleventh century and wisent hunts are described in the Vilkina-saga, written in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.  The wisent may have existed in England in the twelfth century, if certain references in the literature of the time may be believed, but the so-called “Wildwith cattle” in Chillingham Park and other herds of half-wild cattle in private estates are presumably descendants of the ur.

A classic mention of both species of wild cattle is to be found in the Nibelungenlied, the celebrated middle high German epic. Here the exploits of Siegfried, the principal hero of the poem, during a hunt in the Odenwald are described:

Dar nach sluoc er seiere einen wisent und einen elch,
Stacker ure viere…..(After which  he s1ew  quickly  a wisent and an eIk, four powerful urs ..)

It should be mentioned that the words “auerochs” and “ur” have caused much confusion. These expressions were generally used for the wisent after the extinction of the ur in Germany.  The word “wisent” was forgotten and did not come again into use until 1850, but has been generally used again since 1880. As “auerochs” was the official  name  for wisent—bison—zubr (Polish for wisent) from 1450 to 1850,  we may be  pretty  sure  that  when  “auerochs”   is  used  in  the  literature  of this period,  “wisent” is meant; but  Baron Herberstein , who was German ambassador in Russia from 1516 to 1518 , has correctly distinguished the two animals and illustrated them in his book ” Moscoviter wunderbare Historien ” (Wonderful Moscovite tales ) , calling the auerochs ” auerox ” and wisent “ bisont.”

The province of East Prussia, which belonged since 1511 to the Hohenzollerns, harbored a very considerable number of wisents. Many wisent hunts are mentioned in literature, and the animals enjoyed considerable protection.  In 1726, 117 wisents were still counted, but in 1755 the last animal in East Prussia was killed by a poacher. In Brandenburg the wisent existed till the eighteenth century. It was carefully protected and in 1743 eleven were still accounted for.  In 1768 the last Brandenburg wisent perished.

Wisents lived in Austria and Hungary throughout the middle ages, but became extinct there in the sixteenth century.

Finally the forest of Bieloviesh (Russian), Bialowies (German) or Bialowicza (Polish), in Lithuania near Grodno, and a district in the Caucasus Mountains are or were the only remaining regions in which any considerable numbers of indigenous wisents lived. To be sure, upon the estates of the Prince of Pless in southeasternUpper Silesia, and in Ascania Nova in Southern Tauria (north of Crimea), belonging to the recently deceased F. von Falz-Fein, a small number were maintained, but these animals had been imported and were not indigenous.

The great forest of Bieloviesh had been a royal hunting preserve since the eleventh century and wisents could only be hunted there by   special   permission   from   the ruling dynasty.    The Polish-Saxon ‘ kings protected the wisents and ceased to allow any economic use of the forest.  After the dismemberment of Poland, the Russian czars continued this policy of protection so that up to our own times the forest remained a carefully protected sanctuary.

To give some idea of the hunts which took place in Bieloviesh under Polish rule, we learn that at one hunt, in 1744, 30 wisents were killed; 42 in 1752 and at the latter 1000 peasants were forced to act as beaten to drive the game together.

Since 1820 the czars prohibited the cutting down of trees and serious efforts were made to protect game in general and wisents in particular. In 1860 the first imperial hunt took place.  Two  thousand  peasants acted as beaters; many foreign princes and  a  great  number  of  persona of all ranks  were  present.  Twenty-eight wisents and much other game were killed. In 1897, 37 wisents were killed at an imperial hunt; in 1900, 45.

In 1828 Brincken remarks that: “â la fin de la derniére guerre  le nombre des Bisons s’ était diminué jusqu’ â se réduire â 300.”

            Nevertheless in 1826 from 700 to 800 were counted; in 1829, 711; in 1830, 772; but in 1831, probably in consequence of revolutionary movements, 657 only.  For  the  next  fifty  years  this  average  must  have been maintained; for in 1884-1885, 500, and in 1891, 479, were quoted. Thereupon a ukase of the 3/15 February, 1892, gave absolute protection to the wisents for all time, so that at the beginning of the present century more than 1200 are mentioned.  In the following years severe epidemics broke out, so that only 727 remained in 1914. The war was naturally disastrous, so that when the German administration of the forest started, scarcely 160 remained.  Since this event the wisents were counted every month as far as possible, and in March, 1917, the count showed 121, consisting of 18 old and 18 young bulls, 30 old and 36 young cows, and 19 calves. In 1918, after 30 square kilometers of the forest had been reserved as a natural sanctuary, the herd seems to have increased to 170 or 180 head.

            The German efforts to protect the wisent began in March,  1915, when Professor Conwentz, head of the “Staatliche Stelle fur Naturdenkmalpflege in Preussen” (Prussian Bureau for the Protection of Nature) called the attention of several army commanders in the East to the endangering of the wisent. The ninth army therefore caused a strict prohibition of wisent shooting to be issued, and on October 1, 1915, Captain (later Major) Escherich, a Bavarian Forstrat (forest commissioner), was appointed commander and head of the German forest administration of the occupied district.

            Owing to the energetic efforts of this active and experienced forest official complete protection of the remainder of the wisent herd in this extensive forest, the inaccessible recesses of which rendered any control extremely difficult, was finally carried through.

            As early as September 25, 1915, a ruling Regarding hunting was issued by Lieutenant-General von Seckendorff, which declared: “We desire to preserve the Wisent herds as far as possible, although this is enemy territory, so as to convey to posterity a Natural Monument of peculiar value.” Thus the best hopes for the future were entertained, but then came the collapse of the German power and the revolution of November, 1918. On December 16, 1918, shortly after the revolution, Major Escherich wrote to the “Staatliche Stelle”: “In consequence of the events of the past weeks the military forest administration can no longer exercise any control over the protection of game in the forest of  Bialowies and consequently the Wisent herd of 170-180 head is seriously reduced. The imminent retreat of the German troops increased considerably the danger of extermination of the animals and thus extinction of the species is to be feared.” In fact it seems that all or nearly all the remaining wisents have been shot by the inhabitants and the retiring German soldiers, among whom discipline had been undermined by the revolution. Notwithstanding, Professor  Matschie of Berlin, who is well acquainted with the territory, told me that in his opinion it is very possible that wisents may still exist in impenetrable thickets of the forest. Unfortunately, there has been no corroboration of this view.

            About the end of the seventeenth century the first news of wisents in the Caucasus reached Europe. Since then little was known of the species till Professor Filatow made three trips to the district between 1909 and 1911 for the express purpose of studying the animals. The Caucasian wisent varies but slightly from the type in Bieloviesh; the shape of the skull and the horns, which resemble those of the American bison, being the chief peculiarities. It is known as Bos (Bison) bonasus caucasius Grevé.  At one time the Caucasian wisent lived in the district of Mount Elbrus, but its territory has been reduced to a comparatively small area in the Kuban region in northwestern Caucasia.  Cutting down of the forests was the chief cause for the diminution. The last known area, where Caucasian wisents lived is as follows: Its northern limit is south of the towns of Atschcha and  Atscheschbok,  then along  the bend of the Umschten and Schischa Rivers to the mouth of the Besymjanka, and somewhat  south  at  the  mouth  of  the  Maltschepa. The whole area is 50 versts between east and west and 20 versts between north and south. According to Filatow, the number of animals was “scarcely less than 100, but under no conditions as many as 1000.” Since the revolution the Kuban cossacks have demanded  the return to them of these hunting grounds, which  had  been  leased  by them to the Grand Duke Sergius Michaelowitsch who endeavored to protect the wisents there, and thus an extermination  of  the species is  also to be feared. Professor Matschie thinks that the remaining Caucasian wisents have abandoned their old range and emigrated to other regions, at present unknown.

            The herd of Pless above mentioned was founded in 1864 or 1855, when a bull and three or four cows were presented to Prince Pless by Czar Alexander II, and the former placed them in his extensive estates in southwestern Upper Silesia. The animals increased there considerably.  In 1893, 5   more   cows   were   introduced   from   Bieloviesh.   In 1918 there were about 60  animals  there,  but  according  to  Professor Pax of Breslau the animals in Pless have  been  severely  decimated since  the  German  revolution and total extermination is to be feared at the hands of poachers.

            The present war between Poland and the Bolsheviki has again passed over the Bieloviesh region, continuous disturbances are taking place in the Caucasus, and Upper Silesia is in perpetual unrest because of the differences and antipathies between Poles and Germans.  Bearded the wisents still extant in Pless, and possibly in Ascania Nova, there remain a few specimens in zoological gardens. But, if we sum up, we must nevertheless conclude that the extinction of the species is imminent.

            There exists a very extensive literature upon the wisent, of which a few works may be quoted:

  1. Baron de Brincken : Memoire descriptif sur la Forét Impériale de Bialowicza en Lithuanie. Varsovie, 1828.
  2. von Jarocki, Feliz Paul: Zubr oder der lithauische Auerochse. Hamburg,1830
  1. Eichwald, E. : Naturhistorische Skizzen von Lithauen, Volhynien und Podolien. Wilna, 1830.
  1. Buchner, Eugen : Daa allmahliche Aussterben des Wisents im Forste von Bjelowjeaka. St. Petersburg, 1895.
  2. Bialowies in deutacher Verwaltung. Herausgegeben von der Militarforstverwaltung Bialowies. 1 und 2 Heft, 1917. 3 und 4 Heft, 1918. 5 Heft, 1918. Berlin.

Besides countless articles and essays in hunting periodicals, in the literature appertaining to the protection of nature, etc. Londauerslrasse 4, Berlin Wilmersdorf, Germany.


Appeal To Reason
Girard, Kansas May 21, 1921
The Worst Atrocity

From The Nation. It has remained for the American Museum of National History in New York City to publish to the world the latest and most heinous Bolshevist atrocity. Beside the Museum’s stuffed specimen of the European bison a placard proclaims: “Described by Caesar, hunted by Charlemagne, and exterminated by the Bolsheviki.” The full story of cruelty and hate is further elaborated by an explanation that the European bison had gradually become, reduced in numbers, until at the beginning of the World War there remained only a herd in Lithuania, protected by imperial edict, and a few in the Caucasus mountains. “During the World War of 1914-1918,” says the museum’s historian, “the Lithuanian and Caucasian herds are reported to have been exterminated, partly for food and partly for the sake of killing animals that had been protected by royalty.” Curiously enough, the history of the American bison runs counter to this. Our “buffalo” hit it off well enough with our Reds, surviving readily until 100 per cent Americanism arrived on the prairies with gunpowder, a desire for furs, and the doctrine that to kill game for food was sordid while to destroy it for fun was sport. But this man, Lenin had better watch his step from now on. He was only annoyed when the chancelleries of Europe took after him, but if our societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals get going, they won’t stop until they have chased the chief Sovieteer down the Nevski Prospekt, thrown a net over his head, and packed him off to the Bide-a-Wee Home. Our humane societies, in defense of the European bison, will yet have those Bolsheviki buffaloed.


The Evening Sun
Baltimore, Maryland Jan 1 1923


World War Played Havoc With Herd, And Now New Republic Prevents Increase.

By Science Service

Stuttgart, (Germany), Dec. 6 . (By Mail) European bison, the shaggy-haired cousins of the American buffalo, are about to join the mammoth and the dinosaur in the lands of things-that-once-were-but-are-not. Caught in the tangled web of European politics, the little herd preserved by the Prince Pless in Silesia has been reduced to five animals with no hope of increase.

Since 1866 this herd has been maintained in a game preserve lying between Studzenitz and Meseritz. During the World War, poachers killed off these ox-like animals until by 1920 there were only 22 left. This would have been enough to keep up the herd and by addition of bull from the Caucasus, which with a herd of five animals in England are the only European bison still living, it was thought possible that the herd could be increased.

These hopes were destroyed by the Polish revolts and in March 1933, only five bison were left. These consisted of two bulls and three cows. The cows, however, were in such poor condition, owing to privation and ill-treatment that future reproduction seemed excluded.

It was proposed to bring the few remaining animals to Germany,  but the Poles threatened to kill the outright if this was attempted.


6 Great Nikitskaja Street
Moscow, Russia

Secretary American Bison Society,
8 Union Avenue,
Clifton, New Jersey

March 3, 1923

Dear Sir:—I am deeply grateful to you for your kind information pertaining to the American buffalo, and will try, to the best of my ability to communicate the necessary information you require in regard to the European bison.

The few buffalo remaining in a wild state, are now only found in Kaucasus (bison bonasus caucasicus satunin). In the territory near the sources of the rivers Laba and Belaja there is a primitive forest (where the killing of beasts was forbidden), in which by the last calculation 14 buffalo were counted. Besides this, buffalo are on the north of the Krasnaja Polana (South Coast of the Kaukasus).

The bison of the Belovejs (bison bonasus bonasus Linnaeus) are living in a half wild state, numbering about 90 animals, on the estates of the Prince of Pless, Oberschlesien, Germany. Besides this, a herd of five head is found in Minskaja Goubernia. In Belovejskaji Pouscha they are, probably, destroyed.

I have no information about the European bison in West Europe,
but hope to receive some soon, and will then communicate them to you.

I enclose the enumeration of the bison in Russia to January 1, 1923.

Very truly yours,
Costantine C. Flerow.


Bison bonasus bonasus Linnaeus MalesFemalesTotal
Askanija Nowa (South Russia) 123
Peterboorgh Zoological Gardens 213
Moscow Zoological Gardens 1 1
Minskaja Goubetnija   5
 Total  12
Bison bonasus caucasicus Satunin    
Laba   14
Kabarda   2
South Coast   66
 Total in Kaukasus . 82
 Total in Russia 94



The Guardian 
London, Greater London, England July 9 1929

Big Bill, the American bison, who weighs a ton and a half, the murderer of a European bison valued at £1,000, is now the father of a month-old bull call. Until two days after the birth of the calf the keepers dared not enter the cow’s den, but after a short time the calf learns to follow its mother, and then if the keepers completely ignore the baby it is safe for them to go into the enclosure. They can also go into the den of Punch, the Canadian bison, for he comes from a ranch and is used to horsemen who ride among the herds, but Big Bill, from Wobern, has a long casualty list to his credit and is not to be trusted. If you stand behind him with your hand stuck through the bars to pat him, on account of his eyes being placed so far apart he can see you without turning round, then watching his opportunity he will quickly swing his head round and probably break your arm.

A hare running, or a kangaroo, because of the placing of its eyes, will crash into an object directly in its path, and a bison will do the same. It is said that hunters have taken advantage of this propensity to drive a herd of bison over a precipice.

Many American visitors, including an official from the Chicago Zoo, have remarked that Big Bill was the finest bull they had ever seen, with the result that he is now described as the biggest bison in the world. His epic fight with the European bull took place in the night, and although bison when roused roar more terribly than lions, the Zoo night-watchmen heard nothing, or perhaps thought it wiser to ignore the bellowing. Bill bashed the door down, and his wife and child and the European bull’s wife and child looked on unhurt at the affray. In the morning keepers found a corpse stretched out and the doors covered with shreds and patches of the fighters coats. Another bull, Silly Bill was killed by an American bison, but now concrete partitions have been erected, and such battles are no more.

The natural history books assert that the European bison smells of musk and violets. It is impossible, however, to persuade the keepers to uphold this statement. When they ore in the den with a bull, if his tail should go up and he begins to scrape with his feet, then they know that he is getting ready to trample, and they get hastily out of his way.


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn NY Aug 10 1931

Saving the European Bison.

The Bos Bonasus (Bison) played around with the aurochs in central Europe in the time of Julius Caesar and came in for some of his commentaries. Known as the European bison and in Russia as the Zubr, a cousin of our plains buffalo, this species is close to extinction.

It is pleasant to know that with cash and counsel the American Bison Society and the New York Zoological Society are aiding English and Continental animal lovers to save the European bison.

Up to the time of the World War, menageries were supplied from the herd of the Prince of Pless, in Silesia, to whom the Czar Alexander had in 1855 given one bull and three cows. The Duke of Bedford still has a small herd at Woburn Abbey. The vast numbers of Lithuanian bison have vanished. Nobody knows how many specimens of the Zubr there are in Russia.

The plan is to establish a central locality for breeding herd where the coarse aromatic grass the bison like can be found – probably in Poland and so far as possible remove all private collections to this center.

The gravest tragedy in the history of big game bunting was the virtual extinction of the American bison or buffalo in our West. There these great animals ranged in vast wild herds, grown specimens being ten feet long and six feet to the top of the hump. Hunters who went out for the heads and skins did their worst, and that was bad enough. But it was the pot-hunter period that really wiped out the buffalo.

In eighteen months, it is said, W. F. Cody, who had taken a contract to supply meat for construction workers on the Kansas Pacific Railroad, killed 4,280 of the buffaloes. It was not for nothing that he had the name of “Buffalo Bill.”



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 Billings Gazette
Billings Montana Sep 6, 1931


The American bison is at least safe from extinction, though it is a sad fate for a beast which was once the dominant animal of half a continent to be reduced to a few show herds; but the European bison is almost as far gone as the heath hen, the sole survivor of which species struts in solitary splendor on the island of Martha’s Vineyard.

Before the war one herd of bison survived in Eastern Poland, another in the Caucasus; but the war wiped out the Polish herd and perhaps also the Caucasian. A few individuals survive in captivity, but some of these are of dubious ancestry, having been kept in the same herd with American bison or with common cattle, with both of which the species interbreeds. Now it is proposed to isolate the purest of the survivors and breed them for the zoos of posterity.

Comment on this excellent proposal often confuses the bison with the prehistoric aurochs. The European bison is a somewhat less humpy and shaggy edition of the American bison; it has similar short horns and a retiring disposition. It is not the same creature as the long-horned wild oxen which European men fought and roasted in days before history began, a species which it is pleasant to believe may have survived into the Middle Ages.

Caesar wrote of an animal which he called “urus.” In size, he said, it was “a little less than elephants; in appearance and color and form they are bulls. Great is their strength and great their swiftness; they spare neither man nor beast whom they have perceived. These (the Germans) take pains to catch in pits and kill.” Caesar, the scientists assume, probably was writing of the great ox whose skull and other bones are found in so many drained marshes, clay pits, and caves across the length and breadth of Europe. And if the animal still lived in Caesar’s day, how much longer did it continue? Various “proofs” of its persistence have been forthcoming; none is wholly satisfactory. Perhaps the most likely is the report of Baron Herbenstein, who, returning from Muscovy in 1550, wrote of a race of animals obviously greater than the bison which then lived in the Polish forests; but some scientists suspect that he merely saw a race of cattle gone wild.

At any rate, the aurochs, properly, so called, is gone forever today. The bison survives, and it is good to know that arrangements are being made which should keep the race on earth for generations to come. New York Herald-Tribune.


The Windsor Star
Windsor, Ontario, Canada Oct 9 1931

To Rear Bison
Guarded Herd For Forest Park Poland

An Attempt to save the European bison from extinction will be made by placing a herd of 59 in the Vialowsiska Forest Park, Poland, at one time the hunting preserve of the Russian Czars.

Dr. W. Reid Blair, director of the New York Zoological Park, has just returned from Europe with this interesting information. He visited the Duke of Bedford, at Woburn Abbey, England, where he found a herd of 27 bison roaming over a 4.500-acre estate. The Duke promised to assist in establishing the park in Poland. The New York Zoological Society has promised $3,000 a year for five years.

Dr. Blair says that at one time the hunting preserve of the Czars had a herd of 709 wisent, or European bison, but that the animals had been killed off for food, by Soviet soldiers. Shelters are now being erected to protect the small herd from snow and ice, and provisions of hay and grain will be fed to the animals until they have forgotten their life in European zoos and can shift for themselves.

This step to protect the bison of Europe is much like that of this continent, which now has several thriving herds in protected parks. The North American bison is often called “buffalo.” although the only buffalos of the world are in India and Africa.


The Winnipeg Tribune
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada  July 22, 1936
Buffalo in Europe

Poland furnishes official figures respecting Buffalo on the continent, says a Warsaw writer. He asserts: possesses the largest stock of the animals of pure European race, and also the only locality – namely, Bialowieza forest – in which the European bison maintained itself in a wild state down to the present day. The preserve of crossbred animals – there are about 10 of them in Poland at present – is quite independent, and is situated in another part of the country. There it is used for purposes of scientific experiments and research; it is not intended that it should contribute to the work of saving the species Bison bonasus from extinction.

The Prince of Pless has 10 of pure European breed.

Germany is in the second place with 18 bison, some in the state preserves of Springe and Schorfheide and some in zoological gardens. These bison are not, however, of the pure Bialowieza strain, but are a cross of Bialowieza and Caucasian bison.

In the third-place comes England with 11 specimens, which, though pure-bred European bison, also represent a mixture of the Bialowieza and Caucasian strain

Sweden, Holland, hungry, Switzerland, Austria and Italy also have some bison. The number of pure-bred European bison belonging to either the Bialowieza or the Caucasian strain or to a cross of the two strains is at present about 70.

The largest number of crossbred animals – that is to say, of animals partaking of both the European and the American races – are to be found in Soviet Russia, where there are 28 specimens.

Next come Germany with 20 and England with 15 specimens. The total number of such crossbred animals in existence at present is about 100.

The guiding lines for their breeding of European bison, established by the international Society for the Protection of the Bison, which owes its existence to the initiative of the Polish traveler and zoologist, Mr. Jan Sztolcman, are the maintenance and interbreeding of animals of pure European blood only.

On the other hand, in Germany during the last few years efforts have been made on a considerable scale to produce crosses between the European and the American races, and subsequently to eliminate the outstanding characteristics of the American race by means of selection.