Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Model Americans: Buffalo Jumps

If you drive through Montana, Wyoming, or head through any of the plains states, you may see a number of signs indicating presence of "Buffalo Jumps." Being a naive individual from the Pacific Northwest were Loggers, Hipsters, and the occasional orca might be the only wildlife we encounter, I was unfamiliar with this phenomena.

In my mind, Buffalo Jumps evoke images of spring lambs bounding in the fields, however, the majestic, yet lumbering bison seems less likely to pop up and down across the the grassy plains of America as their ovine cousins.

Fortunately, while strolling through a county museum on one of my random jaunts, I happened upon a a museum diorama that explained everything so it made perfect sense.

The buffalo jumps were one of the prime hunting tools of the Native Americans of the plains. When herds of would near, they would round them up and then drive them toward a near cliff. The stampede of animals would then plow over the precipice, not necessarily dying, but breaking their legs and finding themselves severely immobilized. Hunters at the bottom of the cliff would wait and then finish off the kill.

Hunting by this method would be extremely effective, energy efficient, and considerably safer than stalking and animal.

And if you were lucky, you could be the spooky guy sitting on the ledge of the cliff watching the buffalo fall instead of doing the dirty work.

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  1. This was also one of the ways to hunt mammoths, I suppose.

  2. Quite possibly…Or other megafauna of the American Plains during the Pleistocene.

    Of course, I have no idea whether mammoth bones have ever been found at buffalo jumps. Just lots of buffalo bones.