Bison is the GNU variant of Yacc, which
stands for Yet Another Compiler Compiler. It translates formal
LR/BNF grammars into C code.
It is normally used with Flex, GNUs
variant of the lexical analyzer/Tokenize/Lexer Lex.

If you're a C programmer, you should really learn at least Lex and probably also Yacc. Saves a lot of work, and is
not only useful for compiler authors

Bison are the largest land mammal native to North America. Before the arrival of Europeans to North America, they roamed most of North American with an estimated population of 30-70 million. Native American Indian tribes lived in harmony with the bison, using the meat for food and the hide for clothing and shelter. With a proper balance with the herds, the Indians had little impact on population. Once our wonderful ancestors made their way to this great land, they began to slaughter the Bison in great numbers (of course they slaughtered the Indians as well, but that's another node). Fur was a big commodity at the time, and many animals were slaughtered just for their hide, with the meat left to rot on the plains.

By the turn of the century, it's estimated that there were as few as 1500 Bison left in the wild. In 1905, Theodore Roosevelt introduced legislation to protect the Bison, and the American Bison Society was formed to help preserve the species. Parks and ranges were set up for Bison to live protected from hunting. In 1929, a survey approximated the number of Bison at 3,385, increasing in numbers but not quite there yet. The American Bison Society was essentially gone by 1930, however ranchers got together and formed the National Bison Association which continued efforts and still does to this day. It is estimated that today there are approximately 350,000 Bison in the US and Canada. Unfortunately, most of these are privately owned stock, with an estimated wild population of only about 13,000 head. Many Native American tribes are also helping out with the effort, an estimated 7,000 head roam Indian owned lands.

Due to increased population, Bison has becocome a popular food source once again. The meat is sweeter than beef but still has a similar taste. It's lower in fat and cholesterol, and higher in protein than beef. If you ever drive through South Dakota, it's all over the place, I recommend giving it a shot.

What is the difference between a Bison and a Buffalo?

You can't wash your hands in a Buffalo !

Seriously though, there are also Bison native to Europe. The last remaining herds live in Poland. There they eat a paticular herb. The Polish then put this herb in vodka and call the vodka Bison vodka. It gives the vodka a slightly greenish tint and a very distinctive flavour. It's best drunk neat followed by a sup of apple juice.

When drinking copius amounts of this a few years ago in Germany my friends would toast "Tatanka !", aparently taken from Dances with wolves.

While it is true that the fur/hides of the bison and the animal as source of food (the railroad, for example, found it a convenient means for feeding workers) was a factor, the decimation of the North American bison also had a darker motive. It was part of the attempt to deal with the "Indian problem."

Many of the plains Indians were inextricably linked to the bison as their chief source of subsistance (also using the hides as well as for food). The army and the government were well aware of this, so encouraging the slaughter of the animals went in line with attempts to remove the Indian from the picture. How and its consequences of were of less importance than the result. So it didn't matter whether it was through actually fighting (or the murder of innocents: see Sand Creek Massacre, where nearly 200 people were killed and in many cases mutilated, of which the majority were women, children, the infirm, and the elderly, all under a white and American flag), sickness and starvation, or all of the above forcing them into moving to reservation land and away from land desired by the government and settlers.

"The civilization of the Indian is impossible while the buffalo remains upon the plains. I would not seriously regret the total disappearance of the buffalo from our western prairies, in its effect upon the Indians, regarding it as a means of hastening their sense of dependence upon the products of the soil and their own labors."
Interior Secretary Columbus Delano, 1873

General Philip Sheridan, who was in charge of the army that was "dealing" with the Indians of the plains, strongly supported the killing of the bison (as well as unconditional warfare against the indigenous peoples). Once he was asked by some "concerned Texans" about what could be done in order to end the hunters' slaughter of the bison. He replied "let them kill, skin, and sell until the buffalo is exterminated, as it is the only way to bring lasting peace and allow civilization to advance." When legislation was introduced into Congress (eventually vetoed) in an attempt to save the populations of the animal by letting no one but Indians kill "cow buffalo," Sheridan opposed it, suggesting they should "strike a medal, with a dead buffalo pictured on one side and a discouraged Indian on the other" to present to the "buffalo hunters."

Though the bill passed both houses of Congress, it was also greatly opposed and for the reasons one might suspect:

"There is no law that Congress can pass that will prevent the buffalo from disappearing before the march of civilization. They eat the grass. They trample upon the plains upon which our settlers desire to herd their cattle. They destroy the pasture. They are as uncivilized as the Indian."

"The solution of the Indian problem is to confine these Indians upon as small a tract of land as possible, and make it a necessity for them to learn to labor and to get a sustenance from the soil as the white man does."

"It would he a great step forward in the civilization of the Indians if there was not a buffalo in existence."

(the three above quotes from an article from the November-December 2000 Earth First! found online)

The two prong attack (on the Indians, themselves, and on their means of subsistance) worked extraordinarily well. By 1889, only 835 bison remained. By the end of the century, few non-reservation Indians remained.

(Sources: Ward Churchill's excellent 1997 A Little Matter of Genocide,, and the pages on the documentary "The West" at; Sheridan quote from Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee 1970)

Contrary to popular belief, the Native American reliance on the bison was not very old. Before the arrival of Europeans, most tribes typically thought of as Plains nomads lived in agricultural societies on the edges of the Plains. The bison was an important part of their culture, yes, but they had, as Andrew Isenberg, author of The Destruction of the American Bison terms it "ecological safety nets". Bison populations flunctuated widely according to the volatile prairie environment. However, in a bad bison year, Native Americans fell back on their crops.

This all changed when the Pueblo Indians revolted against the Spaniards in the 1580s. The tribes took the Spanish horses and an intertribal trade sprang up almost immediately. The horses spread over the Great Plains, reaching the Northeastern corner in the early 1700s and the hands of tribes, such as the Sioux, that lived there. They quickly became the wealth of the Native American world.

Horses were a revelation for the Plains tribes. Instead of time consuming, inaccurate dangerous pedestrian hunts that involved the relocation and cooperation of numerous villages to drive herds off precipices or into corrals, small bands of hunters could choose the individual animals and number of animals with great ease and accuracy. The complex, organized governments began to fracture, as they were no longer needed for the organization of great hunts. Nomadic tribes relied less and less on their crops, instead trading for them with agricultural villages along rivers. Bison skins, meat, and other products became valuable with great rapidity after the genesis of the nomads and lively trade routes were rising. The bison acquired a special emphasis in Native American religions. Plains societies were transformed.

Nomadic reliance on the bison and trade was reinforced by the arrival of smallpox and other European diseases in the late 1700s. The densely populated agricultural villages made it easy for disease to spread, whereas nomadic bands were isolated, far apart because of their bison hunting and experienced far fewer deaths. The agricultural tribes, such as the Mandan, often lost upwards of 80% of their population in this time period, but the nomadic ones only about 40%.

Thus, the bison spared nomads from the ravages of smallpox and infectious disease. However, they had abandoned the ecological safety nets entirely and depended on the bison for everything. This left them vulnerable to European attacks. The Southern Herd Hide Rush of 1873, the railroads, the Red River Hunting expedition, and campaigns by the US government to kill Native Americans caused the bison population to plummet from perhaps 30,000,000 to less than 1500. The bison brought the downfall of Plains culture in the end.

Bi"son (?), n. [L. bison, Gr. , a wild ox; akin to OHG. wisunt, wisant, G. wisent, AS. wesend, Icel. visundr: cf. F. bison.] Zool. (a)

The aurochs or European bison.


The American bison buffalo (Bison Americanus), a large, gregarious bovine quadruped with shaggy mane and short black horns, which formerly roamed in herds over most of the temperate portion of North America, but is now restricted to very limited districts in the region of the Rocky Mountains, and is rapidly decreasing in numbers.


© Webster 1913.

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