May 30, 2012 at 5:16 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Originally posted on D'Artagnan:
What’s in a Name?
Buffalo versus bison. Is there a difference? While the names are used interchangeably in casual conversation, the American Bison (Bison bison) is a distinct mammal native to North America. The bison is only distantly related to the other true buffalo in the world: the Asian water buffalo and the African buffalo. However, the term “buffalo” was used by French trappers as early as 1635, probably from bœuf, meaning ox or beef, and it is this name that is most commonly used, though bison is the correct scientific term. So the name “buffalo” is something of a misnomer, but it has entered the vocabulary of American English, and we will use it, as well as “bison” throughout.
The Age of the Bison
In 1521, when explorer Hernán Cortés first saw a bison in Montezuma’s private zoo, he called them “humpbacked cows.” Though the buffalo did range into the northern parts of Mexico, their population was mostly concentrated in the prairies, where Native American tribes such as the Lakota Sioux depended on them for survival. Their skins, wool, sinew, bones, fat and meat provided for every aspect of their life, and tribes moved their villages in accordance with the great herds. Back then, bison roamed the Great Plains in such large numbers that they blanketed the landscape, and a herd would sound like thunder as it galloped over the prairie. It is estimated that before Europeans arrived in North American there were more than 125 million of the massive, shaggy beasts.