The Adventure Continues… Camels and Bison

Back in August 2018 I was pretty thrilled to see the small group of buffalo in the Bison Paddock at Golden Gate Park; there have been American bison living in the park ever since the 1890s, and their existence even helped to bring the species back from the brink of extinction. In this Classic episode of California’s Gold from 1991, Huell learns about a different bison herd, this one living off the coast of Southern California, and the mystery of their origin in such an unusual setting.

I actually was reminded of this particular episode while browsing through the online catalog of the Argonaut Book Shop in San Francisco. They are an antiquarian bookstore specializing in Western history, and among their offerings are a couple of books about the “Camel Experiment.” According to their blurb, camels were imported from Asia “under the direction of Jefferson Davis for the U.S. Army to use in the Great American Desert.” The experiment may have been a flop, but it makes for a great story!

Huell goes in search of two animals found in our state today which aren’t supposed to be here. First, he travels to Catalina Island in search of historic buffalo – the descendants of fourteen which were brought over from the mainland for a silent movie, The Vanishing American, shot in 1924. Next, Huell travels to Fort Tejon State Historic Park between Bakersfield and Los Angeles, in search of camels used during the 1850’s by the U.S. Army in hopes of developing improved transportation across the arid west. It was dubbed the “great camel experiment” and was a bizarre chapter in our states history book.

(Click on the linked image below to see the video.)

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