Two things led to the near extinction
of the American buffalo
. The first threat to them came when the Indians
began hunting on horseback, instead of following the migratory hordes and killing them on foot. But this was still of small account compared to the wholesale slaughter
that went on when American colonists
set out to exterminate
the buffalo in order to deprive the hostile Indians of their primary source of food.
This began in the 1870s and became known as the Great Buffalo Massacre
. Sadly, this was so successful that by 1889, a population of some 75 million buffaloes was reduced to a mere 540, a horrendous situation that led to the prairies
being littered with the bones of the slaughtered buffalo. By the turn of the century, these few pitiful survivors were reduced to a mere few dozen.
Almost before it was too late, Congress
realised the enormity of the crime
that had been committed in the name of progress. In 1902, 50,000 dollars were set aside for the protection of the country's last herd in the Yellowstone National Park
. Since then the buffalo have thrived.