The Linam Buffalo Herd

Charles Goodnight founded a herd of buffalo on his Texas ranch. Goodnight had died in 1929 and a successor owner reportedly announced plans for a buffalo hunt on the former Goodnight ranch. Fortunately, the new owner was persuaded not to go forward with the plans. Some animals were sold, like the ones sold to Virgil Linam, and through a series of steps, the remaining animals became the Texas State Bison Herd. They now reside mainly in Caprock Canyons State Park, near Quitaque, Texas.

Below is an excerpt from a 1949 newspaper article by Katy Marshall in the Hobbs News Sun about rancher Virgil Linam’s small herd. As a youngster, seeing these big animals was always a treat when heading into town with our family to do our payday grocery shopping.

“Patriarch of the Goodnight Bison Herd” – Image Credit:

Remnants of Thundering Herd Still Roam Plains Amid Oil Wells, Tourists

Seven-Animal Herd of Virgil Linam Preserves Plains Tradition, Makes Motorists Stare Near Hobbs Limits

By Katy Marshall

The derrick-dotted plains of southwestern New Mexico are today a far cry from the vast herds of Buffalo that once roamed the area.

Yet within a few miles of Hobbs a herd of the huge beasts grazes not far from the Hobbs-Carlsbad highway, causing motorists to stare and wonder if their imaginations are carrying them back to the old days.

True, the herd is small, only seven animals, and it is one of the few remaining in the nation today, but the sight of the humped backs and lowered heads grazing among the mesquite on the Virgil Linam ranch is still a reminder of the vast open land of the old days.

Linam purchased the beginning of his herd in 1932, from the old Goodnight Ranch near Amarillo. He originally bought three animals, and has also added to the herd. In addition there has been a calf crop every year, although the calves did not always live through the hot New Mexico summers. One cow of the original group is still on the ranch, and has calved every spring.

The problem of keeping them within the lot arose when Linam first brought the buffaloes to the ranch. The section in which they were placed had a fence of net and four strands of barbed wire – enough to keep in any cattle. The buffalo, however, found this fence no obstacle, and jumped it, like deer, to go wandering down the road. Tracks in the dirt showed where they had jumped, Mrs. Linam said, and apparently they had not touched the top strand in going over. Two more strands were added and this has proved a high enough barrier for them, she said.

Why keep buffalo in the first place? Mrs Linam said her husband’s original purchase came about “because he always has liked things that were a little different, something strange, or uncommon.”

[Hobbs News Sun, Hobbs, NM, 21 Feb 1949.]