The Extermination of the American Bison, William Hornaday, 1889
The following is an excerpt from a book written by William Hornaday about the history of the American bison and its impending extinction.
1. The range of the American bison extended over about one-third of the entire continent
2. of North America. Starting almost at tide-water on the Atlantic coast, it extended
3. westward through a vast tract of dense forest, across the Alleghany Mountain system to
4. the prairies along the Mississippi, and southward to the Delta of that great stream.
5. Although the great plains country of the West was the natural home of the species,
6. where it flourished most abundantly, it also wandered south across Texas to the burning
7. plains of northeastern Mexico, westward across the Rocky Mountains into New Mexico,
8. Utah, and Idaho, and northward across a vast treeless waste to the bleak and inhospitable
9. shores of the Great Slave Lake itself. It is more than probable that had the bison remained
10. unmolested by man and uninfluenced by him, he would eventually have crossed the
11. Sierra Nevadas and the Coast Range and taken up his abode in the fertile valleys of the
12. Pacific slope.
13. Had the bison remained for a few more centuries in undisturbed possession of his range,
14. and with liberty to roam at will over the North American continent, it is almost certain
15. that several distinctly recognizable varieties would have been produced. The buffalo of
16. the hot regions in the extreme south would have become a short-haired animal like the
17. gaur of India and the African buffalo. The individuals inhabiting the extreme north, in the
18. vicinity of Great Slave Lake, for example, would have developed still longer hair, and
19. taken on more of the dense hairyness of the musk ox. In the “wood” or “mountain buffalo”
20. we already have a distinct foreshadowing of the changes which would have taken place in
21. the individuals which made their permanent residence upon rugged mountains.
22. It would be an easy matter to fill a volume with facts relating to the geographical
23. distribution of Bison americanus and the dates of its occurrence and disappearance in
24. the multitude of different localities embraced within the immense area it once inhabited. The
25. capricious shiftings of certain sections of the great herds, whereby large areas which for many
26. years had been utterly unvisited by buffaloes suddenly became overrun by them, could be
27. followed up indefinitely, but to little purpose. In order to avoid wearying the reader with a mass
28. of dates and references, the map accompanying this paper has been prepared to show at a
29. glance the approximate dates at which the bison finally disappeared from the various sections
30. of its habitat. In some cases the date given is coincident with the death of the last buffalo
31. known to have been killed in a given State or Territory; in others, where records are meager,
32. the date given is the nearest approximation, based on existing records. In the preparation
33. of this map I have drawn liberally from Mr. J. A. Allen’s admirable monograph of “The American
34. Bison,” in which the author has brought together, with great labor and invariable accuracy, a
35. vast amount of historical data bearing upon this subject. In this connection I take great pleasure
36. in acknowledging my indebtedness to Professor Allen’s work.
37. While it is inexpedient to include here all the facts that might be recorded with reference to
38. the discovery, existence, and ultimate extinction of the bison in the various portions of its
39. former habitat, it is yet worth while to sketch briefly the extreme limits of its range. In doing
40. this, our starting point will be the Atlantic slope east of the Alleghanies, and the reader will
41. do well to refer to the large map.
Hornaday, William Temple. The Extermination of the American Bison. Washington: G.P.O., 1889. WorldCat [OCLC]. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.
What is the purpose of paragraph 2?