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Buffalo Hunt: International Trade and the Virtual Extinction of the North American Bison

  • M. Scott Taylor

In the sixteenth century, North America contained 25 to 30 million buffalo; by the late nineteenth century fewer than 100 remained. While removing the buffalo east of the Mississippi took over 100 years, the remaining 10 to 15 million buffalo on the Great Plains were killed in a punctuated slaughter lasting little more than ten years. I employ theory, international trade statistics, and first-person accounts to argue the slaughter was initiated by a foreign-made innovation and fueled by a foreign demand for industrial leather. European demand and American policy failure are jointly responsible for the "Slaughter on the Plains." (JEL F14, N51, N71, Q57)

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 101 (2011)
Issue (Month): 7 (December)
Pages: 3162-95

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:101:y:2011:i:7:p:3162-95
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  1. McAusland, Carol, 2008. "Trade, politics, and the environment: Tailpipe vs. smokestack," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 52-71, January.
  2. Brian R. Copeland & M. Scott Taylor, 2009. "Trade, Tragedy, and the Commons," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 725-49, June.
  3. Brander, James A & Taylor, M Scott, 1998. "The Simple Economics of Easter Island: A Ricardo-Malthus Model of Renewable Resource Use," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 119-38, March.
  4. Rosen, S. & Murphy, K.M. & Scheinkman, J.A., 1993. "Cattle Cycles," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center 93-2, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
  5. Petra Moser, 2012. "Innovation without Patents: Evidence from World’s Fairs," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(1), pages 43 - 74.
  6. Brian R. Copeland & M. Scott Taylor, 2003. "Trade, Growth and the Environment," NBER Working Papers 9823, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Allen, Robert C. & Keay, Ian, 2004. "Saving the Whales: Lessons from the Extinction of the Eastern Arctic Bowhead," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(02), pages 400-432, June.
  8. Ann M. Carlos & Frank D. Lewis, 1999. "Property Rights, Competition and Depletion in the Eighteenth-Century Canadian Fur Trade: The Role of the European Market," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 32(3), pages 705-728, May.
  9. Robert T. Deacon & Henning Bohn, 2000. "Ownership Risk, Investment, and the Use of Natural Resources," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 526-549, June.
  10. James A. Brander & M. Scott Taylor, 1997. "International Trade and Open-Access Renewable Resources: The Small Open Economy Case," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 30(3), pages 526-52, August.
  11. Besley, Timothy, 1995. "Property Rights and Investment Incentives: Theory and Evidence from Ghana," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 903-37, October.
  12. Farrow, Scott, 1995. "Extinction and market forces: two case studies," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 115-123, May.
  13. Carlos, Ann M. & Lewis, Frank D., 1993. "Indians, the Beaver, and the Bay: The Economics of Depletion in the Lands of the Hudson's Bay Company, 1700–1763," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 53(03), pages 465-494, September.
  14. Lopez, Ramon, 1998. "The Tragedy of the Commons in Cote d'Ivoire Agriculture: Empirical Evidence and Implications for Evaluating Trade Policies," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 12(1), pages 105-31, January.
  15. Lueck, Dean, 2002. "The Extermination and Conservation of the American Bison," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(2), pages S609-52, June.
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