2-1 Bison Killed

Estimate the Number of Bison Killed

Photograph of a man standing next to buffalo  skulls
Buffalo skulls that were shipped from Saskatoon to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to be made into bone charcol.  The skulls are stacked eight feet high and eight feet wide by 200 feet long!  From The American Buffalo in Transition, J. Albert Rorabacher, 1970.

Bison bones were used as a refining agent in sugar processing, for fertilizer, bone charcoal, and for fine bone china. Records of railroad shipments of bones into Kansas City reveal the following information:

  • From 1868 to 1881, $3,000,000 were paid for bison bones.
  • A ton of bones sold for an average of $8.00.
  • It took 100 buffalo skeletons to make a ton of bones.

Question 2.1.
How many bison were killed over the 13-year period?

Question 2.2.
What was the average number of bison killed per year?

Question 2.3.
Kansas City was the major center for railroad shipments East, but there were other smaller trade routes to the north and along the rivers. How does the number of bison estimated above relate to the total number that were actually killed?


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