The Extermination of the American Bison

The Extermination of the American Bison

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When William Temple Hornaday wrote this text for the Smithsonian Institution in 1889, the thirty million buffalo that had once roamed North America had been reduced to a few hundred. Alarmed by this decimation, Hornaday-a hunter, zoologist, writer, and the Smithsonian's chief taxidermist-set out for Montana to collect specimens for preservation at the Smithsonian. One of the main results of his trip was The Extermination of the American Bison, a timely recounting of the history and destruction of the buffalo, and a landmark work in early conservation advocacy. Hornaday paints a vivid portrait of the buffalo's natural history, describing its distribution, habits, character, and "mental capacity," as well as the history of recorded encounters with buffalo since the sixteenth century. He then provides a haunting account of the animals' slaughter, lamenting the horrific destruction of almost the entire species. His final section describes the planning, construction, and reception of the Buffalo Group, his innovative museum display of six taxidermied buffalo that was intended to serve as both a scientific record of and a national monument to a nearly lost species.
Hanna Rose Shell's insightful introduction emphasizes how Hornaday's appeal for wildlife conservation continues to resonate today. It also provides a unique window into a forgotten network of taxidermists, hunters, and animal preservationists that shaped contemporary conservation movements.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 240 pages
  • 161 x 236.7 x 22.9mm | 494.42g
  • Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press
  • Washington, United States
  • English
  • 1588340538
  • 9781588340535
  • 1,981,863

About William Temple Hornaday

William Temple Hornaday (1854-1937) was one of the founders of what would become the Smithsonian's National Zoo and the Bronx Zoo. Hanna Rose Shell has published articles in The Boston Globe and Smithsonian magazine. She is a doctoral candidate in the History of Science at Harvard University.
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Table of contents

Chapter 1 Foreword Chapter 2 Introduction: Finding the Soul in the Skin Part 3 I. The Life History of the Bison Chapter 4 1. Discovery of the species Chapter 5 2. Geographical distribution Chapter 6 3. Abundance Chapter 7 4. Character of the species Chapter 8 5. Habits of the buffalo Chapter 9 6. The food of the buffalo Chapter 10 7. Mental capacity and disposition of the buffalo Chapter 11 8. Value to mankind Chapter 12 9. Economic value of the bison to Western cattle-growers Part 13 II. The Extermination Chapter 14 10. Causes of the extermination Chapter 15 11. Methods of slaughter Chapter 16 12. Progress of the extermination Chapter 17 13. Legislation to prevent useless slaughter Chapter 18 14. Completeness of the wild buffalo's extirpation Chapter 19 15. Effects of the disappearance of the bison Chapter 20 16. Preservation of the species from absolute extinction Part 21 III. The Smithsonian Expedition for Specimens Chapter 22 17. The exploration for specimens Chapter 23 18. The hunt Chapter 24 19. The mounted group in the National Museum
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