Buckland is a small but densely populated sliver of land between the Old Forest and the east bank of the Brandywine river, inhabited by Hobbits from the Shire, mostly of the Brandybuck family, who colonized it. It was thus technically not part of the Shire itself, and was effectively a tiny independent country (until later formally added to the Shire during the Fourth Age).
Origins and History
Seven hundred and forty years after the founding of the Shire, in Third Age 2340 Gorhendad Oldbuck crossed the River Brandywine from the Eastfarthing and started the building of Brandy Hall in Buck Hill, in a land hitherto unpopulated by hobbits. As Gorhendad's family grew, the Hall also expanded, and soon there was a flourishing community in the land between the River and the Old Forest. From that time, Buckland was ruled by the Brandybucks, as Gorhendad renamed his family, who were given the title 'Master of Buckland'.
The village of Bucklebury, lying close by Buck Hill, was considered Buckland's chief village, but the expanding population meant that many other villages soon grew up in the region, the largest of which were Newbury, Crickhollow and Standelf. The growing power of the Master of Buckland gained respect from those close by in the Eastfarthing, too; the lands of the Marish between Stock and Rushey also acknowledged themselves under the sway of Brandy Hall.
Buckland was technically not part of the Shire: the Shire had originated officially with a land grant from the last few Kings of Arthedain in T.A. 1600 giving Hobbits (migrating from Bree) permission to settle in that old province of the kingdom which had become depopulated. However, Buckland was not part of the original grant, and was indeed formed over 300 years after Arthedain ceased to exist in T.A. 1975. Unlike the Shire, it is not certain if what became Buckland was ever previously inhabited by Men, nonetheless it was part of Arnor because this entire region of Eriador (including even the Old Forest) was part of the kingdom. However, Buckland may actually have been in what used to be considered part of Cardolan and may never have belonged to Arthedain to begin with, further making its colonization an independent action by the Hobbits. Thus, Buckland was essentially a small independent country of Hobbits, mostly of the Brandybuck family (who made it their new homeland and even changed their family name to reflect their new relationship with the river).
In practice, while nominally "independent", Buckland was effectively not much different from other old family homelands within the Shire, such as the Tookland, in which the heads of prominent local families were seen as effectively controlling a region. Authority in the Shire had become so bucolic and decentralized, with little "government" to speak of, that simply no one took the time to assert these rival claims. Indeed, parts of the Marish, the marshy lands on the Eastfarthing on the west bank of the Brandywine and thus part of the Shire-proper, acknowledge the authority of the Master of Buckland and not the Thain of the Shire (head of the Took family). Authority was so decentralized among Hobbit-kind and they saw this as such a trivial matter, that for Buckland's entire almost 700 year long history, from its founding until the War of the Ring, quite simply no one bothered to reconcile the legal ramifications of the creation of Buckland, or even of the mixed loyalties of the Marish. In practice, Hobbits from the Shire-proper seem to have considered Buckland an odd frontier of "the Shire" more than as a separate country.
The Bucklanders soon found themselves threatened by the strange trees of the Forest, and so built a vast hedge, the High Hay, stretching twenty miles along the eastern border of their land. This was not the only danger to threaten Buckland - in T.A. 2911), the year of the Fell Winter, the Brandywine froze and Buckland was invaded by white wolves.
Buckland was also the childhood home of Frodo Baggins, who returned here on his journey to Rivendell in T.A. 3018. He bought a house in Crickhollow, and claimed that he would be living there, but instead entered the Old Forest through the old Hay Gate, and left the Eastmarch of the Shire.
Although similar in many ways to other hobbits, the Bucklanders did have certain peculiarities. Due no doubt in part to the Fallohidish blood of the Brandybucks, the hobbits of Buckland were somewhat more adventurous than their cousins in the Shire (while still conservative by the measure of many other races in Middle-earth). The Bucklanders are characterized as being of predominantly Stoor ancestry, and were thus a people accustomed to riversides. They enjoyed boating, an activity frowned upon by Shire-hobbits, and some of them could even swim. Due to the often muddy nature of the land near the river, it was not uncommon for Bucklanders to wear boots, making them the only Hobbits known to wear shoes. When the Bree-folk ventured to the Shire, Buckland was their usual destination (though some ventured as far as the Eastfarthing), and so was rather more cosmopolitan (in hobbit terms) than the rest of the land.
There were some minor linguistic regional differences between Buckland and the Shire. During the Hobbit Wandering Days, their migrations westwards across Eriador, many Stoors branched off from the other Hobbits and moved south to the Angle, where they came into contact with the Dunlendings. This contact altered their speech slightly, mostly by picking up a few Dunlending words. However, these Stoors then moved back north to join the other Hobbits in colonizing the Shire. The result was that places that were settled by Stoors have some slight linguistic oddities due to their time of separation and contact with the Dunlendings. The three original Hobbit-kinds merged and blended in the centuries since the settlement of the Shire, but regional variations remained. The Brandybucks of Buckland are noted as having a particularly high concentration of Stoorish blood. Thus there were some minor linguistic anomalies in the place-names of Buckland and perhaps the accent of its speech. Also, Hobbits of Stoorish blood are noted as being the only Hobbits who are known to normally grow facial hair.
Living under constant danger from the Old Forest, the Bucklanders were hardier and more suspicious than the usual Shire-hobbit. They were organised to deal with danger (through the famous Horn-call of Buckland), and they kept their doors locked at night, which was unusual in the Shire.