Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/710

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be called, in which the visitor to the great Western plains can engage. Unless shot through the heart or some other vital part, this animal is not easily brought down. When the animal is only wounded it becomes very furious, and, if its pursuer be on foot, it at once attacks him, and the hunter has all he can do to save himself from destruction. Nor is he always safe even if he be mounted, unless he can manage to keep out of the way of the infuriated animal, for he ferociously attacks both horse and rider.

Buffaloes wander much from one region to another in search of the best pasturage, and of water, salt, or saline springs. In the winter they move southward, and in spring return again to the north. Their deep and well-trodden paths traverse the plains for hundreds of miles. Vast numbers are destroyed during their spring and autumnal migrations. Many perish from starvation; those that get weak and are left behind, are harassed and at length devoured by wolves. Sometimes the vast herds attempt to cross the rivers upon the ice, and, when they are crowded together, the ice gives way and they perish in the cold waters.

The male buffaloes have terrible combats. The young are born in April and May, and there is generally only one at a birth. The young are in constant danger from the wolves.

The buffalo is easily domesticated, and should be added to our stock of domestic cattle. The flesh of the wild ones is extensively used for food, and is regarded with much favor; and we already know enough to convince us that the flavor of their flesh would be improved when they are fully under the dominion of man. Experiments show that the males make excellent oxen, and that they are stronger and swifter of foot than the ordinary oxen; and, when we consider that it takes the milk of two domestic cows to properly nourish one buffalo-calf, we may safely conclude that the females will make excellent domestic cows.

The buffalo was once common over most of North America west of the Hudson River. In the Carolinas they were found even on the seaboard. But, like the red man, they have fled westward, before the advance of civilization, and are still fleeing. Their natural feeding-grounds become cultivated fields. Enemies are constantly on their track. Man hunts them for their valuable skin and for their flesh. Vast numbers are killed yearly that civilized man may feed upon their tongues. Wolves and bears lurk in ambush to snatch away the young, and more openly to wage a constant warfare against the sick and disabled members of the herd. So that, notwithstanding their vast numbers, the day is not far distant when the buffalo will be as rare a sight on the Plains as the wapiti and the moose are now in our Northern forests.