Before this became a great agricultural country its most important product was the buffalo. Millions of these animals grazed over the prairies, moving in great herds that stretched from horizon to horizon. They were life itself to the Plains Indians who ate their meat, dressed in their hides and used their bones and sinews for countless purposes. Indians killed only what they needed, but wasteful white hunters slaughtered indiscriminately, sometimes using only the tongues of the dead beasts. Between 1868 and 1881 it is estimated that carbon companies paid $2,500,000 in Kansas for buffalo bones alone, representing the skeletons of 31,000,000 animals.
The buffalo has been saved from extinction through private and public preserves. One herd is maintained in this state park. The Kansas legislature in 1955 recognized the historical importance of the buffalo by designating it the official state animal.