Synopses & Reviews
Stoic, regal, and formidable in size and strength, the bison has long epitomized the American West. Perhaps this is even more so because we have, in our avarice, nearly destroyed them all, and are now seeking to restore their populations. From spiritual figure to abused resource to powerful symbol of wildlife preservation, the bison is a microcosm of the West itself, and in this book, renowned zoologist Desmond Morris tells its fascinating story from the first evidence of its fossil record two million years ago all the way up to today.
Exploring the bisonand#8217;s evolution and habitat, Morris paints a nuanced portrait of this iconic animal, exploring the different sides of its personality. He shows that, while generally seen as gentle and calm, bison in fact are very unpredictable, liable to attack at any moment. Comparing and contrasting the two remaining speciesand#151;the European wisent and the American bisonand#151;he goes on to tell the heartbreaking story of their near-extinction, how we hunted them down from innumerable numbers to less than a thousand, with such little regard that it was a common practice for train travelers to shoot them from their passing cars. He also tells the story of our more recent effortsand#151;and successesand#151;at bringing them back to such a point that their domestically raised meat has now become a popular alternative to beef. Throughout, Morris balances this natural history with a cultural one, the lore of the bison and the spirit of the west, dotting his text with vibrant images of the bison from nature, art, and popular culture. The result is an absorbing history of one of the most majestic creatures to walk the plains of the earth.and#160;
From the host of the Travel Channel's "The Wild Within."
A hunt for the American buffalo--an adventurous, fascinating examination of an animal that has haunted the American imagination.
In 2005, Steven Rinella won a lottery permit to hunt for a wild buffalo, or American bison, in the Alaskan wilderness. Despite the odds--there's only a 2 percent chance of drawing the permit, and fewer than 20 percent of those hunters are successful--Rinella managed to kill a buffalo on a snow-covered mountainside and then raft the meat back to civilization while being trailed by grizzly bears and suffering from hypothermia. Throughout these adventures, Rinella found himself contemplating his own place among the 14,000 years' worth of buffalo hunters in North America, as well as the buffalo's place in the American experience. At the time of the Revolutionary War, North America was home to approximately 40 million buffalo, the largest herd of big mammals on the planet, but by the mid-1890s only a few hundred remained. Now that the buffalo is on the verge of a dramatic ecological recovery across the West, Americans are faced with the challenge of how, and if, we can dare to share our land with a beast that is the embodiment of the American wilderness.
American Buffalo is a narrative tale of Rinella's hunt. But beyond that, it is the story of the many ways in which the buffalo has shaped our national identity. Rinella takes us across the continent in search of the buffalo's past, present, and future: to the Bering Land Bridge, where scientists search for buffalo bones amid artifacts of the New World's earliest human inhabitants; to buffalo jumps where Native Americans once ran buffalo over cliffs by the thousands; to the Detroit Carbon works, a "bone charcoal" plant that made fortunes in the late 1800s by turning millions of tons of buffalo bones into bone meal, black dye, and fine china; and even to an abattoir turned fashion mecca in Manhattan's Meatpacking District, where a depressed buffalo named Black Diamond met his fate after serving as the model for the American nickel.
Rinella's erudition and exuberance, combined with his gift for storytelling, make him the perfect guide for a book that combines outdoor adventure with a quirky blend of facts and observations about history, biology, and the natural world. Both a captivating narrative and a book of environmental and historical significance, American Buffalo tells us as much about ourselves as Americans as it does about the creature who perhaps best of all embodies the American ethos.
Both a captivating narrative and a book of environmental and historical significance, "American Buffalo" is an adventurous, fascinating examination of an animal that has haunted the American imagination.
Bison once ranged across the Great Plains of North America in vast herdsand#8212;early 18th-century explorers described them as and#8220;innumerableand#8221;and#8212;and at the beginning of the 19th century they numbered in the tens of millions. During the next century or so humans were responsible for the bisonand#8217;s near-extinction in North America, slaughtering an estimated 50 million for their meat, pelts, and fur, reducing the bison population to less than 1,000 by 1890. Hunting of bison became so prevalent that travelers on long-haul trips in the Midwest would shoot them from their trains. Attempts to revive the American bison in recent times have been highly successful however: farming of bison has increased their population to nearly 150,000, and the American bison is no longer considered an endangered species.
In Bison renowned zoologist Desmond Morris explores the animaland#8217;s evolution and habitat, from the first evidence in fossil records 2 million years ago to today. He reveals the different sides to its personalityand#8212;they are extremely unpredictable and, while they normally appear lazy and calm, can attack at any momentand#8212;and describes the important differences between the European wisent and American bison, the only two species now surviving.
This book, complete with many vibrant illustrations of bison from nature, art, and popular culture, will appeal to anyone curious about the natural and cultural history of this iconic creature.
About the Author
is a world-renowned zoologist and the author of many books on animal and human behavior, including Leopard, Owl, and Monkey
, all also published in Reaktion Booksand#8217;s animal series.and#160;