The Stories Of Buffalo And Bison
Source: The Sa'-zada Tales
This evening the whole Buffalo herd had come out of the park to the
meeting-place in front of Chita's cage; even their brother, the Indian
Bison, was there, as also was the true Buffalo, Bos Bubalus.
Said Sa'-zada, opening his book: "We should learn much this evening,
for Buffalo and Bison are to tell us of their lives. But first, let me
put you all right as to their names. Those we have called Buffalo, from
our own western prairies, are not Buffalo at all, but Bison,
half-brother of Gaur, who also lives in India, where the true Buffalo
"It does not matter," said Buff, the prairie Bison, "it does not matter
what I'm called, seems to me, for all my life I have been most badly
treated. Why, it seems no time since I was a calf, one of a mighty
herd, on the sweet-grassed prairie, and in those days I thought there
was nothing in the world like being a Buffalo.
"The first touch of danger I remember came in this way. The herd had
tracked, one after another, all walking in the same narrow path, down
to a hollow in which was water. I was feeling frisky, and, seeing
something move, something that seemed very like a calf, smaller than
myself, I ran after it, cocking my tail, kicking my heels in the air,
and thinking it great sport; for, Comrades, the great weakness of all
grass-feeders is an idle curiosity."
"And did all this happen when you had your tail kinked in the air, that
time you were a silly calf?" jibed Magh, holding a peanut out on her
under lip, and looking down at it very sedately, as though the subject
were of little interest.
"I'll tell you my story in my own way," declared Buff. "The thing that
I followed was like a grey shadow, and slipped about with no noise, but
when I came close to it, with a vicious snarl it sprang up, and also
there were three others hidden in the grass. Much milk! but I became
afraid, and I believe I bawled. Just then I felt the ground tremble,
and a dozen of the herd galloped towards me with their heads down. It
was a wolf, and help came just in time, for the big fangs of the fierce
brute cut my hind leg a little where he sought to hamstring me.
"Then Mother explained, first bunting me soundly with her forehead,
then licking me with her coarse tongue, that these Wolves were always
following up the Herd, trying to catch a Calf, or sick Cow, or old
Bull, to one side."
"We have Wolves in India, too," said Arna, "and Chita the Leopard, and
Bagh the Tiger. Blood drinkers! but we have many enemies there; even
Cobra will hardly get out of the way seeking to carry to one's blood
his sudden death. There are no animals so ill used, I believe, as
"One has need of big Horns in the heart of the Jungle. Why, mine
measure nine feet and a half from tip to tip across my forehead. And
see the strength of them, fully the size of Bagh's leg--for I am a
Curly Horn, which means one of great strength. Never have I locked
Horns with a Bull that I have not twisted his neck till he bellowed.
Eugh-hu, eugh! Next to lying in muddy water with one's nose just
peeping out, there's nothing so pleasant as a trial of strength. And
with all respect to Hathi's handiness of trunk, I must say I prefer
good, stout Horns. When Bagh or Pardus come sneaking about, there's
nothing like a long reach.
"Hear that, friends," said Magh. "Here's a traveler from Panther's own
land calls him a sneak. He, he he! now we shall get at the truth."
"Yes," said Gaur, the Bison; "Panther and all his tribe are sneaks.
They murdered a Calf of mine. To be sure, it was the Wife's Calf, for
had I been there at the time I'd have fixed him. She had just lain down
to rest for the night, and the Calf was a little to one side, and this
evil-spotted thing, Panther of the Red Kind, came sneaking up the wind
like a proper Jungle Cat. He knew I was away, for he has the cunning of
Cobra, and how was the mother to know that any danger threatened? He
stole like a shadow close to the poor little Calf, and with a rush
jumped on his back and bit his neck, breaking it, and cutting it so the
red blood ran his life all out in a little while."
"I was born in Mardian," remarked Arna, the Buffalo, "many years ago;
and save for the loss of a Calf, through Chita or Bagh's treachery, or
perhaps a lone Cow at times, our herd feared no Dweller of the Jungles.
Mine is a big family," he ruminated, "for we wander over almost all
India and Burma. Before I had grown up our Bull leader had taught us
all the method of battle. When it was Bagh, we formed up, heads out,
with the Calves behind, and if we but saw him in time, he surely was
slain, if he sought strongly for a Kill.
"I learned all the different sounds that come far ahead of danger.
One's ears get wondrous sharp in the Jungle, I can tell you, where the
little Gonds hunt. If a stone went singing down the hillside, that
meant Men, and Men meant the worst kind of danger. No Animal starts a
stone rolling; we are too careful for that.
"Also do the Jungle Dwellers not break sticks as they travel. The crack
of a broken twig meant Men Hunters; and when a beat was on, the Jungle
was, indeed, possessed of great sounds. All the Dwellers ran mad with
fear--the fear-madness that is like unto the way of Baola Kutta, the
Mad Dog. There is nothing so terrible in the life of an Animal as the
drive of the Hunters. 'Tap, tap, tap,' like the knocking of Horns
together, meant the strike of Beaters against the trees, and then the
Men's voices crying, 'Aree ho teri.'
"I, who tremble not at the roar of a Tiger, shivered when I heard that,
and lost all knowledge of which way I should run--that was in the first
drive, of course, before I became possessed of much Jungle wisdom.
Surely it drove us all mad. Like the sound of rain falling on leaves
was the rush of Python's little feet as even he flew from the
"Our best food was down in the jhils, also the nice soft mud to lie
in, and in the early spring, after the fires had passed, the young
bamboo shot up and we ate them. Then when we took it into our heads, we
went up into the deep, cool sal forest and rested in peace. But in the
Dry Time was the time of danger, for we had to travel far to find
water. We are not like Antelope or Nilgai, who go without water for
days and days.
"I remember once when we had crept down out of the hills, leaving the
big sal trees behind, and passing through tamarind, and mango, and
pipal, and just as we were coming to the pool, which was almost hidden
in the jamin bushes, I heard a roar--there was a rush and a Bagh of
ferocious strength sprang on one of our Cows and sought to break her
"But worse than Bagh's cruel charge was the silent method of the
little, dark Men-kind--the Mariahs. Like Magh's people, they would sit
quiet in the trees, and as we came slowly back from the water would
shoot arrows into us. Of this we could have no warning, neither any
chance to fight for our lives, only the noise of the arrow coming like
the hiss of King Cobra, and the cruel sting of its sharp end. Our Bull
leader got one this way not strong enough to bring him to his death,
and for days and days it stayed in his side, and made him of such a
vile temper that the Herd had to cast him forth, and he became what is
known as a Solitary Bull.
"There is some kindness in Bagh's method, more than in the way of these
evil Men, for when he kills he kills, and there is no more sickness;
but of the Men, when they hunt us with their arrows or a thunder-stick
which strikes with a loud noise, many of our kind are struck and die at
the end of much time.
"Strong as the fire-stick is----"
"Arna means by the fire-stick a gun," explained Sa'-zada.
"Strong as it is," continued Arna, "we Buffalo are also of great
strength. Why, the skin on my neck and withers would stop its strike
"Stop the Bullet?" queried Sa'-zada.
"Yes," asserted the Bull. "I have at least three buried in the thick
skin of my neck, and I hardly know they are there. Why, it has been
known in my Herd for a Bull to be struck fifteen times by one of these
fire-sticks, and then the Men did not get him. But just behind the
shoulders we are weak. My mother taught me a trick of this sort--'Never
stand sideways to an enemy,' she told me. Yes, though it is good to be
of great strength, a little wisdom is also of much use, even to a
"It was so with us," concurred Prairie Bison. "From all the other
animals we suffered little compared with the misery that came from the
Men--the Redmen; and worse still were the Palefaces; it was, as you
say, Brother, all because of the fire-stick."
"Even I was struck by it," continued Arna; "it was this way. Early one
morning I had gone down to a jhil, being alone at that time of the
year, for our wives were busy with the Calves, and, as I was going to
the uplands, to a favorite nulla of mine, in which to rest, suddenly
I caught sight of an evil-faced Gond; these same Gonds being of all
Shikaris (hunters) the most strong in their thirst for blood. I rushed
away for the hills, thinking to leave him behind. I traveled far, and
thought to myself, now surely I have lost this small killer. Being
hungry, I fed on the rich grass, but, as I fed, suddenly a dry twig
broke in the Jungle, and I knew that it was either Hathi or the little
Gond. Looking back, I saw with the Shikari another of a white face.
Again I galloped, and trotted, and walked, up a long nulla, over a
hill, around by the side of it, turned, and went far back, much the way
I had come, only to one side. Then I sought the top of a hill where the
bamboos grew thick, thinking to hide. As I rested, an evil smell, that
was not of the Jungle, came to me as the wind turned in its course and
blew up the hill. I stood perfectly still, even ceased to flap my ears
against the wicked Flies. As I watched, suddenly this Man of the white
face stood up from the grass just the shortest of gallops away, his
thunder-stick roared, and something I could not see struck me most
viciously in the shoulder. I was mad. Lashing my hips with my tail, and
throwing my nose straight out, I charged him.
"Again his thunder-stick spoke loud, but there was no sting--nothing,
and he turned from me and ran down the hill. Just as I was almost upon
him, he looked back, his foot caught in a bush and he fell. Now, as I
have said, my big Horns are of great use when Bagh charges, or when
another Bull disputes the right to command the Herd, but as for the
small enemy lying on the ground, I could not get at him at all;
besides, I was rushing down hill at great speed, so, though I lowered
my head till my forehead almost crushed him into the earth, yet I had
him not on the Horns, as, carried by my weight, I was forced to the
very bottom. Before I could turn he was up and away, and I never saw
"We are also killed by the Men," added Muskwa, the Bear. "They take off
our black coats, and I thought, perhaps, that was lest we might come to
life again. Yes, I think they mean to kill all Animals."
"They have killed nearly all my people," sighed Prairie Cow--"nearly
all of them. I know that is true, for one day Sa'-zada came into our
corral, and, rubbing his nice soft hand on my forehead--I was sick that
day, I remember--said, 'Poor old girl! we must take care of you, for
there are not many of your sort left now.' Then he said it was a shame
that the brutes had slaughtered us so."
"Ghurr-ah!" barked Wolf, "tell of this thing, O Buffalo Cow, for to me
it has been much of a mystery where the many of your kind could have
"Lu-ah!" sighed Prairie Cow, "it makes me sad to even think of it. As I
have said, in my young life we were many, many in numbers like you have
seen our enemies, the Men, here at times. All through the long, warm
days of sun, we ate the grass that grew again as fast as we cropped it.
Our humps became big and full of rich fat for the cold time. Not that
I had the hump on my back as a Calf, not needing it as food, for my
mother's milk kept my stomach at peace when the winds were cold, and
the grass perhaps under a white cover. Sometimes when the days were
harsh we had to travel far in search of feed grass, but that was
nothing: few of us died because of this. Even when the Red-faced ones
sought us, they killed but few, for their hunger was soon stayed. But
suddenly there came to us a time of much fear. Wherever we went we were
chased by the Palefaces, and their fire-sticks were forever driving the
fire that kills into our faces. Our Bull leader was always taking us
farther and farther away, and our Herd was getting smaller and smaller.
It was a miserable life, for there was never any rest.
"At last our Bull said that we must go on a long trail, for the prairie
wind was talking of nothing but danger; so we trailed far to the south.
For days and days we passed across hot sand deserts in which there was
little grass and hardly any drinking. It was terrible. My hump melted
to nothing; we were all like that, worse than we had ever been after
the coldest time of little sun.
"Then we came to a land in which there was grass and water, and none of
the Men-kind; and once more we were content, only for thinking of our
friends that had been killed. I don't remember how long we were
there--I think I had raised two Calves, when one day the evil that
comes of the Men was once more with us----"
"Yes, it is even as I have said," interrupted Arna; "when one thinks he
has got away safely, and stops for a little rest, he will see that evil
Gond, or some other of the Men-kind, waiting to do him harm."
"Just so," commented Prairie Cow; "the Palefaces had found us out. But
I must say there was less use of the fire-sticks than before, and I
soon came to know why they had trailed us across the Texas desert--they
had come to steal our Calves. Never were any poor Animals so troubled
by Man's evil ways as were we Buffalo. At first I thought they had not
fire-sticks with them, and meant to kill and eat the Calves, they being
less able to fight. I remember the very day my Calf was taken. As the
Herd fed in a little valley, we saw three Wild Horses coming toward
us--we thought they were Wild Horses, but it was an evil trick of the
Palefaces, for beside each Horse walked one of the Men. They were down
wind from us, so we did not discover this. Suddenly our Herd leader--he
was a great Bull, too--gave a grunt of warning--much like Bear grunts,
only louder; but still we could see nothing to put fear into our
hearts. Then our leader commenced to throw sand up against his sides
with his forefeet, and, lowering his head, shook it savagely. 'Why does
he wish to battle?' I wondered, for the Wild Horses had never made
trouble for my people.
"Just then the Men jumped on their animals, and away we raced. I
remember as I ran wondering why there was no loud bark of the
fire-stick, for I could see the Hunters galloping fast after us; in
fact one of them was close at my heels, for my youngest Calf, not two
months old, could not run as swiftly as I wished. I was keeping him
close; and on my other side galloped my Calf that was a year old.
"Suddenly I heard a 'swisp' in the air, and my little curly-haired pet
gave a choking gasp and fell in the grass. Of course, I could not stop
at once, and he bawled much as I did when the Wolf was at my hock. When
I turned in great haste I saw the Paleface on top of him. I was just
crazy with rage. I charged full at the Man and his Horse, and it almost
makes me laugh now to think how I kept him jumping about. He did use a
small firestick on me, but I am sure it was because of the Man-fear, of
which Hathi told us; I saw it in his eyes plain enough. But who can
stand against the fire-stick? Not even Bagh or Hathi, as we know, so I
was forced to flee with the Herd.
CURLY-HAIRED PET ..."]
"We galloped far, far, before we stopped; and that night there were
many mothers in the Herd bawling and crying for their lost Calves, for
these evil Men had stolen a great number. I felt so sad thinking of my
little one's trouble that I could stand it no longer, so I went back on
our trail, and, following up the scene of the Men-kind, came to where
they had my Calf and the others. It was night. I soon found him, for a
Cow Mother's nose is most wise when looking for her young. But I could
not get him away with me, for he was held fast by something; so I
stayed there and let him drink of my milk.
"Even with the fear of a fire-stick on me I stayed with him, and in the
morning when the Pale-faces saw me their eyes were full of much wonder.
But I did not try to run away, and one of them, making many motions and
noises to the other two, I think, commanded them not to harm me. Well,
good Comrades," sighed the Cow, regretfully, "mine has been a very long
story, I'm afraid, but when one talks of her Babe there is so much to
"And did they bring you here with the Calf?" asked Magh.
"Most surely," answered Prairie Cow; "and because of my milk he grew
big and strong, much faster than grew the other Calves, and is now big
Bull of the Herd."
"But how fared the others with no mothers?" asked Chita.
"They gave them Cow mothers of the tame kind," answered the Cow.
Said Arna, scratching his back with the point of his long horn: "It is
not quite this way with us in India. We stick pretty well to the
jhils and Jungles, so the Men cannot kill many of us at one time; but
still we are becoming fewer. Even those of the black kind now have the
thunder-stick, and kill my comrades to sell their heads to the horn
merchants. Think of that, Brothers, having a price on one's head, like
a Bhil robber."
Said Sa'-zada: "I wish all the Men who slay Animals, calling it sport,
might have sat here to-night with us, that their hearts might be
inclined more kindly toward you, Brothers, who war not against my
"Sa'-zada," cried Hathi, in a gentle voice, "could you not put all
these things in a new book, and lend it to each one of your people so
that they might know of these true things? Surely then they would not
seek for the life of each one of us that has done them no harm."
"I have a notion to try it, good Comrade," said the Keeper. "But in the
meantime it is late, and now you must all go back to your corrals and
"Good-night, Prairie Cow," trumpeted Hathi, softly, caressing her
forehead with his trunk; "your people most certainly have been badly
treated by the Men."
Soon silence reigned over the home of these outcasts from the different
quarters of the world.
Next: The Story Of Unt The Camel
Previous: The Story Of Birds Of A Feather