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Buffalo

American Bison

 
 

The American Bison, more commonly called the buffalo, came to a point of near extinction.  The total population has been estimated to have numbered somewhere between 60 million and 120 million when the Europeans first discovered  them in North America. After two centuries of wanton slaughter, the low point of the buffalo population was reached in 1900. No one knows for sure, but it is fairly certain they numbered fewer than 1000 head worldwide.


The buffalo owe their survival to the efforts of a few dedicated private citizens.  Walking Cayote, a Pend d'oreille Indian of Montana, saved four in 1873.   E.G."Buffalo" Jones of Kansas captured a few.   Charles Goodnight of the Texas Panhandle saved some.  The American Indian wife of Scotty Phillips of South Dakota begged him to rescue some, which he did in 1901.  He purchased the remains of a small herd belonging to Fred and Pete Dupree.  Scotty's resulting successful breeding program eventually provided the foundation stock for the Custer State Park herd and other well-known herds.  From these tiny breeding centers, owned by dedicated private citizens, our buffalo count has grown to over 400,000 head throughout North America plus thousands more in Europe. Thanks mostly to these caring preservationists, the species is now off the endangered list.

When raising buffalo, one must always remember that they are wild animals, not domesticated cattle. They have a very strong herd instinct and are unpredictable. They should never be kept as pets.  Buffalo ranching is much like cattle ranching, but handling these animals requires bigger and stronger equipment.  Buffalo thrive on grass and hay, much as cattle do, but enjoy the addition of brush and weeds.


They begin to breed around the age of two years and drop their first calf at age three. Their gestation period is a little over nine months. Although buffalo cows have been reported to have calved at over 40 years of age, the average lifespan is considered to be 25 to 35 years.  Buffalo require little health maintence except a regular worming program and are able to adapt to almost any climate and forage. Today, they can be found throughout the United States from Florida to Alaska.

 

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