The history of the extermination of bison in the wild

Prioksko-Terrasny Zapovednik continues the series of articles dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Central Bison Nursery.

The name “European bison” indicates the area of its distribution. Several centuries ago, the bison occupied almost all the large forests of Europe. The range of the bison extended from the west of Europe and the Caucasus to the Altai and the Angara River.

With the development of these territories by humans, the area of the bison gradually decreased as “shagreen skin”.
In the XVII-XIX centuries, the territories of European countries were intensively mastered by man: forests were cut and burnt, areas of settlements and agricultural lands increased, and intensive hunting was conducted. At the same time, the destruction of forests was more damaging for bison than population growth.

Already in the era of the glacial period, bison were a hunting object for man. Russian tsars, Polish and Lithuanian kings arranged grandiose hunting, during which dozens of bisons were killed. According to the chronicles, for princes – participants of the Volyn Congress in 1431, every week at the feast brought up to 100 fried bison. Meat of bison was harvested for troops in hundreds of barrels.
Peasants also often hunted bison and killed many of these animals. In the diet of a medieval European bison occupied a significant place. Gradually, the number of bison decreased. For the rarity and majesty of the appearance of the bison began to be called “the royal game”, for the extraction of which commoners were severely punished. People began to protect the bison, and hunted by these animals could only high-ranking people.