The history of the American Bison is interwoven with the history of the early American West. You simply can’t tell the story of the American West without mentioning buffalo.
(Quick note – we use “buffalo” and “bison” interchangeably here. We are always referring to the American Bison. Read more here.)
Thriving in a Harsh Environment
As early American settlers made their way West, they encountered cold temperatures, snow, and strong winds. These settlers looked to nature’s bounty around them and utilized buffalo hides as robes and blankets to stay warm in harsh elements. Due to their large size, buffalo hides were used as bedding and blankets while traveling via carriage.
Buffalo were also utilized as a primary source of food and sustenance. Leather and bones were made into early tools for hunting, farming, cooking and more.
Buffalo Fur Clothing is an American Tradition
Buffalo Fur clothing can be traced back hundreds of years. Clothing made from thick winter buffalo hides was prized for its incredible warmth and durability.
Buffalo coats were utilized by early American military personnel (pictured left). The Smithsonian even houses a buffalo fur coat said to have been Buffalo Bill’s! (pictured right).
Modern Buffalo Fur Apparel – A Story of Preservation
The history of buffalo fur clothing must also touch on the near extinction of the American Bison.
As the American West became more populated, bison were over hunted and nearly became extinct due to the high demand of buffalo hides, leather, bones, and meat. According to the Smithsonian, only 300 buffalo were left in the wild at the end of the 19th century.
In 1905, the American Bison Society was formed in order to save the majestic animal. It established wildlife preserves and facilitated the creation of private herds that were used to promote conservancy and preservation.
Today, the creation and use of buffalo fur clothing is a tradition steeped in preservation. Bison ranchers work hand in hand with processors to support healthy herds that provide buffalo meat, leather, and fur to businesses across America.
Here at Merlin’s Hide Out, we are proud to be a part of that tradition. We handcraft apparel and home goods in the same historical way as early Western Americans. For us, this is more than a business – it’s our way of life.