During the final decades of the 1800s, North America's buffalo population dwindled to 500. A few private ranchers gathered some of the remaining animals to keep small herds alive.
Many of these animals ended up in the ownership of the New York Zoological Society, housed at the Bronx Zoo.
On Dec. 8, 1905, a group of 16 people, including Theodore Roosevelt, gathered at the zoo and formed the American Bison Society. Their goal was to re-establish buffalo herds on the Great Plains, including South Dakota.
Wind Cave National Park was established in 1910. The following year, the release of a study and the support of Seth Bullock, then the park's supervisor, ignited efforts to send a small herd to the southern Black Hills.
On Nov. 24, 1913, 14 animals (seven males and seven females) were crated and loaded onto a train in New York. On Nov. 28, that train arrived 2,000 miles away in Hot Springs. Local volunteers donated the use of wagons to haul the crates the final leg of the journey.
In the evening darkness, the animals were not eager to leave their crates.
"...we had a good deal of trouble in getting some of the bison out of their crates," reads an American Bison Society report. "In several cases the operation was more like removing the crate from the animal than the animal from the crate."
The animals soon adapted to their new home. By the end of 1913, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture declared that, "The future of the species now seems assured."