Buffalo Symbol in Manitoba

Manitoba Buffalo Road Sign
Manitoba Buffalo Road Sign

Buffaloes Are Everywhere

The Canadian province of Manitoba has adopted the animal silhouette of the American bison as its official symbol. All across the prairie province, visitors and travelers will find signs like this. If perhaps you are wondering why the use of this symbol came about, then perhaps a short look into the survival and near-extinction of this large grazing animal is in order.

Electrical towers now cover parts of the Manitoba prairie.
Electrical towers now cover parts of the Manitoba prairie.

Prairie History

While its true that the Southern Canadian prairie was once covered with large herds of Buffalo, today the large herbivores are also gone and in their place visitors will find large areas of agricultural growth or sometimes, just a long stretching network of metal towers. However, since the Winnipeg area did once support one of the few surviving herds of bison, the symbol of the animal on the highway signs are definitely apropos. During the 1870’s large hunts nearly wiped out the prairie bison. According to General Sheridan, the attrition was a premeditated effort to bring the Plains Indian onto reservations and civilize him.  So successful were the buffalo hunters that by 1870s only a few score of the once populous animal remained. One of these places was Winnipeg, where two ranchers, James McKay and Charles Alloway maintained a small heard. As it turned out this group of rescued calves turned out to be one of the major surviving gene pools.

Manitoba Today

Today agriculture is more important than ranching in Manitoba. Traditionally, wheat and other grains have been grown here, but a new product, canola beans has come into its own. All across the southern end of the province,the yellow flower comes out during the summer months and turns the fields to a brilliant hue of yellow. At first glance, the plants appear to be mustard, but it is the legume from which a cheap oil is made that provides the bright hue.

Canola fields in Manitoba
Canola fields in Manitoba
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