AMARILLO, Texas (AP) — Descendants of the last pure Texas herd of American bison are again roaming the range at the Goodnight Ranch in Palo Duro Canyon, the place where Charles Goodnight first started the herd in 1878.
The bison have been brought home by Cecil Miskin, a 65-year-old Detroit native who began raising the animals with his wife after retiring from his job as a lawyer.
"We will show that we can expose people to an iconic animal in its natural setting," Miskin told the Amarillo Globe-News (http://bit.ly/Wzzxqa ). "The whole idea is to educate people. There's a tremendous amount of lessons to be learned on the pasture.
The herd of six cows and four calves are on loan from the Texas State Bison Herd at Caprock Canyons State Park.
"The herd is vitally important. This is the last of the American southern plains bison," said Donald Beard, the park superintendent who oversees the state herd.
In the 1800s, the Union Pacific Railroad split the American bison population between the northern and southern plains. Hunters nearly obliterated the animals as they went after the bulls for their meat, hides and tongues, wiping out the southern plains bison more quickly, Miskin said. The orphans were often left to starve.
Goodnight used five to seven of these orphaned animals to start his herd, Beard said. He was the only one to raise the southern bison, which are genetically different from those that roamed the northern plains.
"They have unique genetic markers that are just in this herd. That makes them the last pure Texas herd," Beard said.
The bison transfer comes at the end of a restoration of the Goodnight Ranch house that began in 2005 and was funded by local, state and private donations.
"What a better place to have these animals than at the Goodnight Ranch," Beard said.
Information from: Amarillo Globe-News, http://www.amarillo.com