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January 13, 2009

Outside Magazine’s Steven Rinella’s American Buffalo. Video.

I love the Buffalo, more than anything except the Tiger and the Whale. Or Squirrels, I like Squirrels. And Deer. Yah, Elephants are amazing, but I’m more of a Buffalo man, myself. Their (circumscribed) comeback gives us some hope.

Excerpt of Review in Christian Science Monitor:

“American Buffalo” follows this animal from its arrival during the Pleistocene era, some 10,000 years ago, across the Bering Land Bridge. At their peak, the author says, they were “perhaps the most numerous large mammals to ever exist on the face of the earth.” An estimated 32 million may have lived on the Great Plains alone.

The shrinking of the herd
But by 1911, the year when sculptor James Earle Fraser was commissioned to create what would become known as the Indian head or Buffalo nickel, there were only perhaps 2,200 still in existence on the continent.

Rinella chronicles in grim detail the slaughter of the buffalo by both native Americans and Europeans that brought this population to such dire straits. The methods varied from the “buffalo jump” of the earlier peoples, in which the animals were driven off a cliff to their doom, to the European addition of the horse and rifle.

But Rinella does not neglect the issues that so troubled me at the outset.

“Killing a large animal inevitably gives me a sense of sorrow,” he writes as he aims his rifle at his prey. “There’s a year’s worth of food contained within that animal, but also a life.”

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