History Of Big Medicine, The White Buffalo:

The White Buffalo is the trademark of Prostrollo All-American Automall in Madison, South Dakota. On public display in front of their dealership is a fiberglass replica of the most famous white buffalo ever born, Big Medicine. Their huge white buffalo stands 12 feet tall, is 20 feet long, and weighs 2000 pounds. It was built in Sparta, Wisconsin exclusively for Prostrollo's and it's the only one of its kind in the world. Prostrollo's chose the white buffalo to be their trademark as a tribute to our Western Heritage. No animal in the history of any nation has ever played a more important role than the American Buffalo. It was believed by the Plains Indians that anyone who gazed upon the white buffalo was a favored one. By using the white buffalo as a trademark, Prostrollo's want their customers to feel that they are favored ones. 

In the early 1800's between 75 and 100 million buffalo roamed across our country. The early explorers could not find words to describe the great hoards of these monarchs of the prairie. By 1830, the number had dropped to 40 million. In 1865 there remained only 15 million. It was not until 1894 that the U.S. Government passed its first buffalo protection law. But it came 10 years after man's greatest slaughter had ended. By 1926, there were only 4400 buffalo left in the U.S. Today, thanks to preservation measures and private help, there are 30,000 buffalo living in the U.S. 

It is fitting that the 5 cent piece of yesterday had a buffalo on one side and an Indian head on the other. For the life and economy of the Plains Indians depended entirely on the buffalo. The huge beasts furnished him with clothing, bed, lodge, utensils, weapons, medicine, fuel and most of the decorative ornaments that brightened his life. The Indian spoke of "Our Father the Buffalo, the Gift of the Great Spirit." The white buffalo was believed by the Plains Indians to be the child of the Sun God. The Indians would hang a white buffalo robe outside in the sunlight near the medicine man's tepee as an offering to the Sun God. Indian Chiefs carried a white buffalo robe into battle believing that it would shelter them from any harm. 

The Cheyenne, Mandan, and Pawnee Indians worshiped the white buffalo. They believed him to be "good medicine." When a white buffalo was slaughtered, great care was taken so as not to anger the gods. Some of their medicine men used white robes in ceremonies to cure illness. The Pawnee would often keep white robes as part of their medicine bundles or would wrap the bundles in a white robe. 

The most famous white buffalo of all time was born in captivity at the National Bison Range in western Montana in May of 1933. He had blue eyes and the only normal coloring on the animal's whole body was a woolly knot of brown hair between his horns. By the time he was two years old, he was becoming a well known tourist attraction on the National Bison Range and he had become known as "Big Medicine." In May 1937 the white bull's mother, bred by Big Medicine, her own son, gave birth to a pure albino calf. The calf was completely white with white hoofs and pink eyes but was totally blind. At the age of six months he was shipped to the National Zoo in Washington D.C. for public display where he remained until his death in 1949. Back in Montana, the calf's father, Big Medicine developed into an extra-ordinary fine animal. Thousands of tourists came to view him every summer until his death in August, 1959 at the ripe old age of 26. Bob Scriverk of Browning, Mont. spent two years mounting the remains of Big Medicine for posterity. Today his figure remains as a popular tourist attraction at the Montana State Historical Society Museum in Helena, Montana.

It is hardly surprising, given the rarity of the animal in the immense historic herds, that few white buffalo are found in herds today. During 1939-58 in the Big Delta herd in Alaska, six white calves were born. None of these white calves ever lived more than a few weeks. Three more were born in 1961, but all disappeared within 3 months. In 1963 two more were born. One died within 3 months. The second one failed to survive the winter. The 12th white buffalo known to have been born in Alaska was spotted in 1973. Government officials set out to capture it intending to give it to the Children's Zoo in Anchorage, but their capture attempt was unsuccessful. 

We hope you have enjoyed sharing our enthusiasm for preserving the heritage of the buffalo. For a unique experience, visitors can view buffalo in their natural wild state at 3 places in South Dakota, Custer State Park, Hermosa; Wind Cave National Park, Hot Springs; and Badlands National Monument, Interior. For many persons the buffalo has become the picturesque symbol of vanished days when civilization was only a word in the West and not a way of life. For some the animal represents strength and endurance. For others the buffalo is symbolic of man's ignorance of conservation. We are sure you will agree with us that the American buffalo deserves our awe and respect.

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