Napoleon Bonaparte Arrives in Bobcaygeon
February 19, 2023
It was a much anticipated event, as he quickly became “the chief wonder” of the village. No, it was not the visit of the fallen French Emperor, it was beginning of the Mossie Boyd’s buffalo breeding adventures.
Shortly afterwards, on March 9, the Victoria Warder Newspaper, reported on the occasion:
“Last fall, while Mr. M.M. Boyd was travelling on the Pacific Coast he by chance fell in with an opportunity of purchasing a full grown, thoroughbred buffalo. There are not now many left on the continent and this one is perhaps the largest and finest animal alive. It was shipped at once, and arrived safely at Sarnia, where it was detained in quarantine until this week. Wednesday evening it arrived at Little Bob, and was placed in its quarters, which had been specially prepared. The buffalo is quite docile, but in case such inherited instinct should lead him to get up aboriginal capers, everyone at Little Bob from Mr. Gidley to the youngest boy have been industriously filling in time by throwing the lariat. It is scarcely safe to go to Little Bob at present, not through any danger from the buffalo, but for fear some enthusiastic juvenile may lasso you from his seat on a firefly Clyde and go galloping off with you over the plains, strung up from the heels. The buffalo is not quite as expressive as the cattle, in making its presence felt, but should you care to see it, you will have no difficulty in locating it from the cricket grounds. It is expected that the council at its next sitting will revise the corporation crest and make it a bass couchant and a buffalo rampant.”
With local attention fixed on the newest resident of village, often nicknamed Old Boney, it was a unique opportunity for the Page Wire Fence Company to showcase their revolutionary rolls of fencing (at the time, wire fencing was just beginning to supplant split cedar rails as the most common fencing material.) After all, if a Page Wire Fence could hold a buffalo bull, wouldn’t it hold your cattle too? Yet for all of the hype, there were some sceptics wondering it was all justified.
At the time, many wealthy gentlemen sought to make a lasting contribution to humanity by improving agriculture. At a time when most Canadians were farmers, and most spent their lives constantly doing tedious manual labour just to get by, improving agricultural technology and livestock was something that would be seen to benefit everyone. Mossie Boyd (son of Bobcaygeon’s first Mossom Boyd) was pursuing an ambitious scheme to improve beef cattle by combining the positive traits of cattle and bison (or buffalo). He called the hybrids ‘cattalo’—today they would be called beefalo.
Shortly after the experiment began, Napoleon died of dysentery in 1896, but his head was stuffed, was displayed by the Boyd family, and later hung for many years in the Bobcaygeon Council Chamber. Though the Boyds lost many animals and struggled with the fact that many of the offspring were sterile. After Mossie died, the Dominion Government, at his son Cust’s urging, purchased the Cattalo in 1915, and shipped them out to the northern plains hoping to repopulate the species around Buffalo National Park, near Wainwright, Alberta (a park from 1909-1940, transferred to the Department of National Defence in 1947 to create CFB Wainwright). Another Boyd breeding project, to create the Polled Hereford, was more successful.