History of the American Bison (Buffalo)
The American Bison, commonly referred to as buffalo but not related to the buffalo of Asia or Africa, is an important piece of American history. The buffalo once roamed the Great Plains in numbers approaching 70 million. They were the lifeblood of the native Americans, providing food and raw materials for tools, clothing and shelter. The buffalo then became the victims of the westward expansion.
As early as 1800, white explorers began killing the buffalo for hides and tongues to sell for great profits back east and as a means to control or eliminate the native Americans. By the 1880's, the buffalo were near extinction, numbering less than 300. In 1894 it became a Federal crime to kill bison. Since then, the species has endured and prospered. It has been off the endangered species list for decades. With more ranchers in the U.S. turning to raising buffalo, they now number more than 500,000.