The American Buffalo, also known as Bison, is the largest American land animal.
Despite their great size, they can run between 35 and 40 mph. That means they can out run horses over short periods of time and they can sprint triple the speed of humans. American Bison also have similar lifespans to a horse averaging around 20 to 25 years. I found that surprising because I actually envisioned them having the life span of an elephants, maybe due to their massive size and somewhat similar behavior.
What fascinates me is that buffalo fur is truly and completely waterproof. This could be one of the factors that makes their coats warmer than sheep’s wool. Their hide is tough too – tough enough to use as industrial factory belts! At least, that was the case in the previous era. If that doesn’t interest you this might: Despite their weight (2000 lbs. for males, 1000 lbs. for females) Buffalo can jump up to 6 feet vertically! Now if only they could kick sideways like a moose…
Here’s a quick bit of history: In 1848, there was a great Buffalo slaughter. It was vicious. With the railroad installation, train cars would actually stop so riders could just shoot Buffalo as the herds ran by or not. There are accounts of people hanging out of the railcar windows as the train moved to shoot bison – just for sport. The hunting and fur trade of the late 1880s demolished the bison herds so they were no longer so abundant that people felt they could pick the beasts off my speeding trains. There were only a few hundred bison left in the entire country. Currently, around 5000 live at Yellowstone National Park – all wild. Great efforts have been made to keep the population not just healthy but growing because of the recent health craze for bison meat.
This isn’t a problem because Buffalo are actually easier on the environment and easier to raise than cattle. Buffalo graze more ecologically than domesticated bovines, farm cattle in particular. People have also become more comfortable with grass-fed beef which is more conducive to Buffalo behavior, what with being from the Great Plans and all. Even though grass-fed Beef is healthier, the public has shied away from it because the flavor it gives the meat is unpredictable. Depending on the type of grass, the buffalo meat will adopt the flavor. What does that mean? It means you might not get the consistent flavor from brand ABC that you would expect from farm raised cows. Every time you buy brand ABC, you could have a sweet flavored meat due to sweet grass grazing or you could end up with a more onion flavor if the buffalo stumble on wild onions – not much consistency.
Do you really see this as a problem though? You would still be getting organic grass-fed meat instead of grain-based meat that could contain pesticides and hormones, maybe even controversial GMOs. So much of our meat is already grain-based and full of omega six and omega 9 fatty acids that I tend to think that there is an over saturation in the market and in our diets. However, people apparently care a great deal about having consistent flavor in their meat because I’m not seeing a lot of options for American buffalo in the supermarkets. Are you? I imagine most hunters have gotten used to this unexpected flavor problem with their wild game and wouldn’t hold this fact against bison meat. Regardless, it’s no longer detrimental to the herd to be hunted, as there are now sustainable resources in place to protect bison and to replace cattle driven to beef production with the American Buffalo instead.
For another animal-friendly read, try the Grizzly Bear post.