Southwestern Historical Quarterly
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DESTRUCTION OF THE
BUFFALO IN THE SOUTHWEST
C. C. RISTER
When our Anglo-Saxon forefathers first came to the plains area
of the trans-Mississippi West, they found countless numbers of
great shaggy animals which were popularly called "buffaloes," but
which are designated by the zoologists of our nation as bison Ameri-
canus. Up until 1878, these animals roamed over the Southwestern
plains in herds of thousands and tens of thousands, moving about
from place to place as the seasonal changes of climate and grazing
conditions of the plains demanded.
The habitat of the bison formerly extended from the Great
Slave Lake on the north, in latitude about 62 degrees, to the north-
eastern provinces of Mexico, as far south as latitude 25 degrees.'
Its range in British North America extended from the Rocky
Mountains on the west to the wooded highlands about six hundred
miles west of the Hudson Bay, or about to a line running south-
eastward from the Great Slave Lake to the Lake of the Woods.2
Its range in the United States formerly embraced a considerable
area west of the Rocky Mountains, as skeleton remains were found
as far west as the Blue Mountains in Oregon, and farther south
it occupied the Great Salt Lake Basin. East of the Rocky Moun-
tains, its range extended southward far beyond the Rio Grande and
eastward through the region drained by the Ohio River and its
tributaries. Its northern limit east of the Mississippi was the
Wbh' the Great Plains area west of the Mississippi River was
occupied by the pioneers, however, the region inhabited by these
animals was considerably less than that of the earlier period re-
1J. A. Allen, "History of the American Bison" in the Ninth Annual Re-
port of the United States Geological and Geographical Survey, 1875, pp.
519 and 545.
'Ibid., 474. W. B. Parker, in his Notes Taken During the Expedition
Commanded by Captain R. B. Marcy, U. S. A., Through Unexplored Texas
in the Summer and Fall of 18511, says that the buffalo "were found in
countless herds over almost the whole continent of North America." See
3Ibid., 474 and following.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 33, July 1929 - April, 1930. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101090/. Accessed March 16, 2014.