Haunting Photos From The Era That Almost Wiped Out The American Bison

Published May 19, 2011
Updated October 21, 2021
American Bison Pile Skulls
Standing In Grass
Bison Train
Hunter Charge
Haunting Photos From The Era That Almost Wiped Out The American Bison
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On a winter day in December 1867, a train took off from Fort Hays, Kansas. Rumbling across the prairie, it slowed as it neared a herd of bison. Then a hail of bullets exploded from the train windows, shattering the peace of the Great Plains, and felling the beasts where they stood. That was just the beginning of the American bison extermination.

By the 1860s, bison had roamed the Great Plains for 10,000 years. They numbered in the tens of millions, charging across the flat landscape in such a cacophony that people called it the "Thunder of the Plains." For generations, they'd provided Native Americans with food, clothing, and shelter.

But everything began to change after the Civil War. The railroad was snaking west, bringing with it new towns, trains, telegram lines, and eager settlers. Determined to allow western expansion to continue, the U.S. government decided to clear the way of Native Americans.

To do this, they went after the bison.

Next, read about how experts fear that giraffes are being driven to extinction. Or learn how an extinct cave lion species might be brought back to life.

All That's Interesting
All That's Interesting is a Brooklyn-based digital publisher that seeks out the stories to illuminate the past, present, and future.