Tuesday, March 3, 2009

American Buffalo, In Progress 2

Before I began this painting, I really did not know much about the American buffalo other than the animal as a forgotten icon of the west. As the painting progresses, I have been studying the history of the buffalo and am finding a new respect for their struggle and resilience. One author [Rinella] sums up the complexity of the buffalo as icon: “At once it is a symbol of the tenacity of the wilderness and the destruction of the wilderness; it’s a symbol of North American culture and the death of North American culture; it’s a symbol of the strength and vitality of America and the pettiness and greed of America; it represents frontier both
forgotten and remembered: it stand for freedom and captivity, extinction and salvation.”
Did you know?
1. There are 18 states with a town or city named Buffalo, though the largest, in New York State, never had a population of wild buffalo living in its vicinity.
2. Animals from singer/songwriter Neil Young’s private herd populated Kevin Costner’s 1990 film, “Dances with Wolves.”
3. Estimated numbers in 1830 = 70 - 150 million
4. 1870-1875 estimated 2,500,000 were taken annually for use by the American fur companies, sport hunting, and to deprive the Native Americans of their livelihood.
5. Less than 300 wild animals remained in the U.S. and Canada by the turn of the century out of the millions that once lived there.
6. The word “buffalo” is connected to a garment worn by the early English settlers known as the “Buff Coat.”“When Englishmen arrived in the New World, they would often describe any animal that yielded such leather as a ‘buff’….” But the name “buffalo” had already been given to the water buffalo in Asia and the Cape buffalo of Africa. Since there was nothing genetically similar about these animals, later taxonomists labeled the North American beast “bison bison.” (“Bison” means “oxlike animal.”)
7. Many of today's highways follow roadways trampled out by migrating buffalo herd.


Anonymous said...

Very Interesting. I made buffalo for dinner the other night and it was very tasty. What is their population like today? I was thinking about never eating beef again.
Love the photo by the way.

ariel freeman said...

There are many people who farm buffalo, many here in VA. There is one wild herd of buffolo protected in Yellowstone, population about 2000. So far, that is all I have been able to find.