In a valley on one of our properties we have, for some years, been raising a small herd of Wood Bison. The population has grown steadily but is maintained at a size suited to assuring the best possible conditions for the animals on the land available. Our herd is a labour of love, and certainly not a commercial enterprise. It is a souce of meat and hides, mainly for the use of family and friends.
The American Bison (Bison bison) is often called the American Buffalo. The largest land animal in North America, males can weigh 1000–2000 pounds and stand six feet from hoof to shoulder. Females weigh 800–1000 pounds and are about five feet tall. The bison has a large head with short black horns and a hump on its shoulders. It has long shaggy brown fur, a mane, a beard under its chin, and a long tail with a tuft of hair at the end. There are two subspecies: the Plains Bison (Bison bison bison) is the smaller of the two. It has a more rounded hump than the Wood Bison (Bison bison athabascae) which has a taller square hump.
Massive herds of bison once roamed the Great Plains of North America, ranging from the Great Slave Lake in northern Canada to Mexico in the south, and from Oregon in the west, almost to the Atlantic Ocean.
Most active in the early morning and late afternoon, a bison generally spends the warm hours of the day resting, chewing the cud, and wallowing in dirt. Females and young males form groups of up to 20 animals. Males may live in groups of up to 20, in smaller groups, or can be solitary. Mature males and females usually remain apart except during the breeding season. Each bison group has a dominant animal.
Bison are now raised for meat and hides. Over 250,000 of the 350,000 remaining animals are bred for human consumption. Bison meat does not have the "gamey" flavour of venison and is much lower in fat and cholesterol than beef.
19th Century motion analysis
by Edweard Muybridge.
A Buffalo Herd is NOT a petting zoo… bison are among the most dangerous animals encountered by visitors to Canadian and U.S. National Parks. They are not carnivorous, but are unpredictable and will attack humans. They may seem slow moving, but can run as fast as 55 km per hour. Surprisingly, given their bulk, bison can leap over a standard barbed-wire fence in pursuit of an annoying tourist.
(1978–1992, more people in Yellowstone National Park were killed or injured by bison as by bears (12 by bears, 56 by bison).