It is hard to think that just a week ago Barb and I were finishing a trip to Nebraska to visit with close friends in the NEGenWeb group. On the way home we stopped and visited the Morton Mansion in Nebraska City. I gathered enough material for a series of articles on the Mansion -- but another time.

I mentioned to a couple of folk that my grandson and I would hunt "buffalo" this weekend. True to my word, our youngest daughter and her two children and our oldest granddaughter went with Barb and I yesterday to find "buffalo". We weren't traveling back to Nebraska to visit Ted Turner's Ranch, nor to Custer, South Dakota to visit the Custer Park. Rather, we went to northeast Indiana to the Wild Winds Bison Farm, Bed & Breakfast and gift shop, just outside Fremont, Indiana. Ooops, they bill themselves as the Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve.

When we normally think of the American Bison, we think of the Great American Plains/Desert, and the Sioux Nation, who hold the animal in very high esteem.

We all know, for sure, that the popular name of "buffalo", like the "moose" or "elk", is not its true name. The "buffalo" is rightfully the American Bison, not the water buffalo of India and Asia. The American Bison does belong to the Boidae family of mammals, as do domestic cattle. Bison calves look very much like young domestic "cow" calves.

Since the introduction of water buffalo products into the United State [of America] Americans might begin to use "bison" instead of "buffalo" to avoid confusion. [RIGHT!! ] Will the nickel of my birth era ever be called anything else but the "buffalo nickel"????

With less than 200 bison at the turn of the twentieth century, the American Bison is no longer on the endangered species list, in that the numbers have increased more than a hundred fold. The red meat is non-allergenic, low cholesterol -- maybe this is part of the reason. There are now Bison farms developed for the single reason to produce another domestic meat supply.

So far, the animal has been immune to cancer. Some say that the Plains Indian, whose main diet was Bison, had no known cancer or heart diseases.

Bison, like horses, are considered old at thirty years, but not as "very" old as horses are often thought to be. Though slow and docile appearing, bison can out run and outmaneuver most horses. They are very agile, being able to pivot on their front feet as well as their hind feet.

As mentioned above, they appear docile, however, they do not hesitate to react if threatened. One never approaches a young calf! Calves are red in color when born. They begin to lose this coloring in about four months. The gestation period is nine months and calves weigh in at about thirty-five pounds at birth. Newborns forage within twenty four hours and can swim within two hours of birth. They mature in about two years. Cows who birth yearly usually birth until thirty or more years old. Cows weigh about a half-ton, while the bulls weigh half again to twice as much. They can see about as well as domestic cows but don't do well at all at night. And, much like domestic cattle, they become accustomed to the voices of their care givers and the source of their food.

Bison society is matriarchal -- and, there is a 'supreme' female [or two] within a group. I've been told that bulls won't even protect their group, I'm not sure that I totally believe this due to experience. But I will say that the female is probably the most aggressive, especially toward her calves. A mother will tend her calves for two years, thus there may be calves of more than one age close by.

All this might lead us to believe that Bison become tame, however, this is a serious mistake. They are a WILD animal and this must be remember at all times when near them. They can "hop" a six foot fence and overturn a pickup truck.

The bison traveled in herds of millions when the railroads were being built across the plains. They supplied the Plains Indians with so many sustenance items. Tanned hides were used for winter warmth and untanned hides as teepee coverings. Nothing went to waste for the Native Americans.

Not so with our government or the railroads. The government sanctioned the killing of the bison in order to foster the connecting of the east and west. The railroads gave reduced prices for travel from Chicago to San Francisco for the "shooting of bison until your gun was too hot or you ran out of bullets'.

The mighty bison, which roamed from Pennsylvania to the Rocky Mountains was thus reduced to a mere 200 head.


© 2000, by Bill Oliver
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