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Heads, Hides and Horns

The Complete Buffalo Book

Larry Barsness

Publication Year: 2013

This thoroughly researched and superbly written book combines history, myth, folklore, and fiction to tell the story not only of the buffalo but of the relationship between buffalo and man on the North American continent. Synthesizing larger and longer histories of this unique animal, this book traces the history of the buffalo from the time it led man to North America, fed him, clothed him, and housed him. As buffalo increased in numbers, they became central to the culture of the Great Plains Indians who lived surrounded by them. Much of the Indian way of life was related to knowledge of and reverence for the buffalo.

When the European white man arrived, he lived off the buffalo as he explored the continent. Later, he slaughtered the great herds of animals when they trampled his crops, stopped his railway trains, and fed the Indians who fought him for the land.

But when extinction threatened the buffalo, the white man was challenged by the idea of saving the animal, an idea that captures the imagination of Americans yet today.

Heads, Hides & Horns traces this major history in a thousand small stories, with directions for tanning, recipes for cooking, stories of tenderfeet and hide hunters, Metis from Canada who searched for bones, ciboleros from Mexico who hunted buffalo in Texas, and hundreds of anecdotes and first-person accounts.

Over one hundred illustrations accompany the lively text. The pictorial research behind this book is as thorough as the textual study, and the illustrations include works by major artists of the period - Karl Bodmer and Frederic Remington, for example - along with actual period photographs.

Combining the best of art and history told in an anecdotal and readable manner, Heads, Hides & Horns  offers fascinating reading for anyone interested in the American West, its culture, traditions, and ecology.

Published by: TCU Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 4-9


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

In 1965, long before I came to the Amon Carter Museum as Curator of History, Mitchell A. Wilder, who himself had arrived on the scene only shortly before, conceived of an exhibition devoted to the bison in art. As director of the newly-opened Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, he was searching for good exhibitions on the American West ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Anybook reaches completion because so many people helped the author—so many people that no author can thank each of them. Yet the wonderful thing to any author is people's interest in his project and desire to help. ...

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pp. xv-xvi

Originally I meant this book to present only the story of the men who saved the buffalo, but as my research grew, so did the scope of the book. Its direction changed. I began writing about the relationship between buffalo and man on the North American continent, ...

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The Effect of Buffalo on Land and Man

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pp. 1-13

One morning in July 1966, a lone buffalo bull grazed near the highway on the mountain between Virginia City and Ennis, Montana, unmindful of the click of camera shutters or the rustle of hesitant tourists getting in and out of automobiles. ...

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Nature and Numbers of the Buffalo

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pp. 14-26

Today most of us liken all buffalo to the bull stamped on the back of the old buffalo nickel—see one buffalo you've seen 'em all; in the zoo, cow or bull, we can't tell which, we see only that some are bigger than others and that they all have humps and horns. ...

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Origins of the Buffalo

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pp. 27-30

Man and buffalo have shared much of the North American continent since man first crossed the Bering Isthmus during one of the last intra-glaciations of the Wisconsin age, about 25,000, perhaps 40,000, years ago. This paleo man—Llano man, archeologists call him—found a tundra-covered land bridge where water now stands. ...

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The Buffalo Year

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pp. 31-36

Let us stand behind an aspen growth on a bluff overlooking a grassy bottom and watch an imaginary buffalo herd. It's late April. Snow on the far sandstone bluffs seems to hang in earflaps down the dividing sandy washes. At this distance bunch grass clumps seem green sod grass. ...

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Hunting the Buffalo on Foot

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pp. 37-48

The supreme pre-historic bison hunter, Folsom man, followed his prey about 9000 years ago. Archeological finds of his kills indicate that man had grown more adept at bison hunting after the passing of the larger mammals. ...

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Hunting the Buffalo on Horseback

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pp. 49-57

When we think of buffalo we picture horsed Indians riding carefree amidst loping buffalo, drawing taut the bowstring, releasing the arrow into the buffalo's flank, galloping on to another buffalo—the Indian we've seen so often in movies, the horsed Indian. ...

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The Addiction of the Horseback Chase

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pp. 58-64

As the coming of the horse improved many of the old ways of living for the buffalo hunters, so it gave special importance to the man with the best horses. Also, the horseback chase of buffalo gave these buffalo hunters a way of hunting lethargic buffalo that brought excitement to it, excitement so fulfilling it became addictive. ...

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Buffalo: The Indian's Manna

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pp. 65-74

When General Alfred Sully and his troops destroyed 400 lodges in a Sioux village in 1863, they discovered among the charred lodgepoles about 500,000 pounds of dried meats.1 This would make, at the usual one and a half pounds of dried meat per day per person, a seventy day food supply for these 4800 people, an equivalent to one and a half million pounds of fresh meat; ...

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Buffalo Myth and Medicine

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pp. 75-85

A buffalo indian often arose before dawn to watch the greatness of the coming light, the first graying, the pale blue followed by the pink clouds; these pulled behind them the sun, forced it once more into the sky; pale morning light each day brought forth—created—the sun. The Indian prayed his morning prayer to the sun, the giver of life, the giver of buffalo to man. ...

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The Indian, the Fur Trader, and the Buffalo

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pp. 86-98

The fur traders of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Canada sought to exploit the riches of a remote wilderness, a wilderness crisscrossed with navigable streams that teemed with fur-bearing animals (especially beaver) and populated with natives who saw no "value" in the animal skins they wore, but who could be taught to value them; ...

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Plinking at Buffalo: The Thing To Do

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pp. 99-110

The cry of "Buffalo! Buffalo!" waked Lieutenant George Brewerton from his afternoon nap. Out he came from under a wagon along the Sante Fe trail "to take a first look at the mighty beasts of which I had heard so much." As the lone old bull humped himself out of sight, Brewerton grabbed his gun and took after him on foot. ...

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The Hide Hunter

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pp. 111-125

In the sixteenth century, Spaniards entered the buffalo hide business, killing the buffalo to skin him for leather. In the seventeenth century, the French explorer La Salle was granted the franchise on the buffalo leather business in Ouisconsin; he complained of other hide hunters who made inroads on "his" herds. ...

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Shooting the Last of Them

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pp. 126-132

Generals Phil Sheridan and William Tecumseh Sherman, in charge of the Indian-fightin' Army, commanded soldiers who rode herd on the redskin to keep him on the reservation, to track him down when he wandered from it and punish him. One way of keeping these people home, the generals knew, was to destroy the buffalo. ...

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Relics: Buffalo Bones and Starving Indians

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pp. 133-141

In 1884, editors wrote scathingly of the men who had all but exterminated the buffalo, the hide hunters. The editors seemed surprised that the Missouri River Valley held no buffalo where only a couple of years ago a million or two had roamed. ...

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Collecting for Posterity

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pp. 142-151

Buffalo had been a staple of the expanding, young United States democracy for its first hundred years—more than a staple, one of its few luxuries. They had afforded penniless settlers choice cuts of meat: steaks, roasts, liver and kidney. They had provided tongue by the barrelfull to eastern cities. ...

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pp. 152-157

The southern herd and northern herd disappeared, but a few hundred buffalo wandered unmolested through the sulphur smell of geysers surrounding Yellowstone Lake. This high mountain prairie was too scary for the Indian hunter who saw the steaming mud pots and the spouting waters as signs of evil spirits; ...

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Fenced Buffalo Herds

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pp. 158-172

By 1906, buffalo owners and buyers were shipping buffalo so frequently some of them scampered up and down loading chutes more often than their domestic cousins, the Herefords, who usually rode a train only once, a final ride to the Chicago stockyards. ...

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The Catalo

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pp. 173-179

On Frida, July 31, 1964, the Lethbridge Herald bore a headline "CATTALO EXPERIMENT ENDING HERD TO BE SLAUGHTERED SHORTLY." The butchering of this herd in the next month ended a fifty-year Canadian experiment that had tried to cross buffalo and cattle to produce a meat animal with the hardiness to live in northern Canada. ...

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White Man's Folklore

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pp. 180-185

Charles Goodnight knew as much about buffalo as anybody, but he was sentimental about them, saw them always as superbeast. Buffalo tallow, Goodnight claimed, was medicinal. In 1916, he sent batches of it to the Bison Society's President Seymour in New York (so much that Seymour complained, "What in 'thunder' will I do with this buffalo fat?"). ...

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Buffalo as Surplus

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pp. 186-191

In 1923, letters began filling the IN basket on the desk of Horace Albright, Superintendent of Yellowstone Park. Now that 600 buffalo lived in the Park—600 that had to be fed in the winter or starve—Albright announced that the Park had buffalo to give away. ...

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The Buffalo Today

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pp. 192-197

Today not many people force buffalo to stampede. Private owners hold them quiet to retain poundage. Government protectors hold them free from pursuit (except for the annual roundup), in the mistaken belief that a life unharassed by man comprises the true, natural buffalo state. ...


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pp. 198-209

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 210-224


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pp. 225-234

E-ISBN-13: 9780875655154
E-ISBN-10: 0875655157
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875650173

Page Count: 234
Illustrations: 36 b&w photos., 60 drawings., Notes.
Publication Year: 2013