Buffalo…along the Ouachita River?

This article fascinated me and makes me sad at the same time.  The wild bull they are talking about is the buffalo, which would be almost extinct before the century was gone due to over hunting.

The Maryland Gazette (Annapolis, MD) July 18, 1833, Page 4

From the Sporting Magazine.

BULL-HUNTING IN WASHITAW.

Perry Point, Miss. Dec. 8, 1832.

Mr. Editor, – The wild bull inhabits the forest of Washitaw [sic], which lies on the west side of the Mississippi river, extending from the territory of Arkansas into the state of Louisiana – three hundred miles in length, from north to south, and one hundred miles in width, from east to west.  The wild tract of the hunter, and no other, strikes the Washitaw river in the middle of this primeval forest, flowing in solitary grandeur from its source, above the Hot Springs, in Arkansas, to its mouth at Black river, into the state of Louisiana.

The wild bull of the woods is never to be seen in the fields or prairies.  His progenitors, for several generations, if not for ever, have been bred in the forest.  Unlike the tame bulls, they are of a deep black colour, and the cows generally a dark iron grey.  This fact makes some of the hunters think that they have not descended from the stock of the tame bull, but are a distant variety of the same species.  It is not my object to settle, but merely to suggest this doubt.  Perhaps wild animals when domesticated, assume a variety of colours, which they have not in a state of nature.*[1]  Colour makes the only perceptible difference betwixt them and the tame bull, except what it produces by their wild habits. – They are almost as shy and fleet as the deer, and have bottom to stand a long chase, and when overtaken defend themselves by fighting the hunters and dogs.  The dogs by themselves are never a match for the bull, and seldom attack, but hold him at bay until the hunter shoots him.  The sport is dangerous, for if a hunter wounds the bull, or his rifle misses fire, the bull rushes at him, and the dogs that attempt to arrest him are scattered and frequently killed.

The manner of hunting the wild bull cannot be better explained than by stating the particulars of a hunt that took place near the Washitaw river.  At sunrise in the month of November, 1830, Mr. Strong started on a hunt in the forest with three companions, neither of whom had ever seen a wild bull, and to gratify their curiosity, he imprudently agreed to go with them.  Their pack consisted of about a dozen – not of any distinct breed, but selected on account of their ferocity. – They had not proceeded far before they discovered fresh tracts of a bull, and put the dogs on the trail.  After they had pursued about three miles at speed, it was ascertained by the barking of the dogs that they had the bull at bay.  The hunters then dismounted, and leaving their horses in charge of one person, the rest proceeded to the spot on foot. – When they came up they saw the bull facing the dogs, with a cover of green briars in his rear.  The timid companions of Mr. Strong, quailing at the fierce looks and threatening horns of the bull, could not be prevailed on to approach within point-blank shot of the enraged beast.  Mr. Strong proceeded alone, keeping a tree betwixt him and the bull, and discharged his rifle at his head.  The gun hung fire, and the bull pawing the ground, and throwing down his head at the instant the gun went off, the ball passed over it and wounded him in the neck.

The bull, who kept his eyes fixed on Mr. Strong all the time he approached, as if expecting a salute from his gun, as soon as he felt the sting of the wound, bounded directly at the smoke of the powder, scattering as he went the pack of dogs that rushed between him and their master, as if they had been a swarm of flies.  Mr. Strong called in vain upon his companions to fire.  They were too far off, and would have been afraid to do it if they had been nearer, knowing that the bull always turns upon the last gun that is discharged.  In the mean time some of the dogs were crushed beneath his hoofs, and others that came near his head were thrown amongst the lower limbs of the trees.  Several of them were on the ground, at the same distance going up and down like the balls of a juggler.  The dogs were soon scattered, as before Mr. Strong could re-load the piece the enraged bull was upon him ; but he evaded his horns several times by dodging behind the tree. – While Mr. Strong and the bull were thus desperately engaged, the dogs rallied again in defence [sic] of their master.  One of the best dogs attempted to seize the bull by the nose, but unfortunately missed his hold, and the bull instantly catching him betwixt the point of his horns and the ground, ran him through, and tossed him up as if he had been hurled from an engine.  Mr. Strong found time during the second combat betwixt the dogs and the bull to make his escape to a large tree that lay near him, blown down by the wind; and walked out on one of the horizontal limbs a few feet from the ground – he was obliged to stand on the limb.  It was so low, that, if he had straddled it, the bull could have reached him.  The bull run to and fro under him, whilst he was fearfully balanced on a shaking limb, knowing that instant death awaited his fall.

Presence of mind is the last thing a good hunter loses; and Mr. Strong in his perilous situation, managed to re-load his gun, and firing down on the bull, as he passed under, broke his back near his hips.  This shot brought his hinder parts to the ground; but he propped up his fore parts by planting his fore feet before him, and held up his head fiercely at his destroyer, roaring with rage and pain.  He fired another ball in his forehead, and the dying bull dropped his awful front to the earth.

“And now the hurly burly’s done,

And the battle lost and won.”

Mr. Strong next called his cowardly companions, who were still afraid to come near the bull; but having satisfied themselves that he had sunk to that deep sleep that knows no waking, they began to handle and admire his curly head and pointed horns, which a few minutes before they feared to look upon.                                                                                 S.H.

[1] *No doubt of it.  But will they, on being left to breed in unrestricted nature, beyond the care and control of man, resume a uniform colour?

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