Why is buffalo hunting so dangerous?

The term buffalo is the most widespread in German and is also used predominantly on this website. In fact, it is wrong. This type of cattle is correctly referred to as bison. The plain bison was one of the species most common in the plains and prairies. Before the white man invaded Indian land, there were around sixty million animals that mainly fed on grass. In addition to bears, deer, antelopes and various smaller animals, the bison was one of the preferred hunting targets of the Indians. He not only provided the main food with his meat, he also provided them with all the essentials of life.

Clothes, tent covers and canoes were made from his fur, arrowheads and sewing needles from his bones, plates and bowls from his skull, bowstrings and cords from his intestines, cutting tools from his teeth, shovels, hoes and scrapers from his shoulder blades, and his brain tanning agent was produced for leather production, as well as packaging material and tobacco pouches from his bladder, and much more. The bison was vital for the Indians, so it was at the center of their religion. All tribes held a special ceremony before each hunt. The bison were to be attracted with buffalo dances, which often lasted several days and nights. There were also tribes who tried to attract the flock with a special stone, the insikim. Chants and ritual acts, the meaning of which mostly only the medicine men knew, should increase the luck of the hunt.

When the horse was still unknown to the Indians, they hunted the bison on foot by sneaking up on the animals camouflaged in wolf skins and suddenly panicking them. Then they drove the herd before them, finally luring them over the edge of a cliff. At the foot of the cliff, the animals were then already awaited by other hunters, who finally gave them the fatal blow with a lance.

Towards the end of the 17th century, the method of hunting changed thanks to the horse. On the horses specially trained for the hunt, two columns of riders rode up to the herd and isolated a small part of it. Then the hunters approached a single bison at full gallop and shot it in the heart with an arrow. Both hunting methods were not without danger, however. In the event of a missed shot, for example, an attacked and sometimes injured bison could become very dangerous, so that the hunter became the hunted and sometimes the victim. There was a summer and a winter hunt. While the entire tribe took part in the summer hunt, the winter hunt was open to individual small groups. In both cases there was a hunting leader whom everyone had to submit, even the chiefs.

After the hunt, the work of women was in demand. Their job was to skin and cut the bison, which was no easy task because of the many mosquitoes and flies. The hunter who killed the animal received the hide and some other valuable parts. The rest was then divided among the tribe.

At first the Indians only killed as many animals as they needed. But when they came into possession of firearms, their prey increased from year to year. Nevertheless, the abundant populations remained on the prairie until the white man hunted the animals. It is true that the whites still used the meat and the skins in the 20th years of the 19th century. But he didn't know what to do with the rest.

Later only the tasty tongue was used, and when the buffalo murder was organized in the 1960s to take away the livelihood of the Indians, thousands of bison rotted uselessly on the prairie. There were even special buffalo cannons to intensify the extinction. Hunters like Buffalo Bill made a name for themselves by slaughtering thousands of bison. About 30 million bison are said to have been shot between 1868 and 1881.