Interesting facts about Bison


These animals, which once roamed North America by the hundreds of thousands, became nearly extinct a little more than 100 years ago. It was estimated that fewer than 100 bison remained when the government stepped in to protect the remaining ones. Parks such as Yellowstone became a refuge and a few farmers began to contain and protect them. By 1992 there were an estimated 150,000 bison in North America. Current estimates are about 350,000 in North America.

Although they are commonly called buffalo, the correct name is bison. “Buffalo” may mean water or cape buffalo from Asia or Africa. “American Buffalo” however, is also correct, so the terms are used interchangeably. Bison may appear to be awkward, but they are quite agile, able to run up to 40 mph and jump a 6-foot fence. Mature bulls will often weigh over 2000 pounds, but they don’t reach full maturity until they are about 8 years old. They have no natural predators other than man, and a buffalo will stand its own against a grizzly bear.

Cows will usually have their first calf at 3 years and may continue to produce a calf each year until they are 20 to 30 years old. Bulls are left with the herd year-round. Gestation is 9 months; calves are usually born in May or June. The calves weigh about 40 pounds and are orange when they are born. They rarely have calving problems.

The herd grows fat during the summer and fall feeding on grass. During the fall they turn dark brown as their winter coat comes in. Their metabolism rate drops and they survive partially on the fat they have accumulated during the fall. If there is sufficient grass left from the summer they do not require any additional feed during the winter. If needed, they are fed prairie hay, but they require only about half the amount of food required during the summer. Snow and cold weather don’t bother them; they will face into a storm rather than try to move away from it. They also tolerate heat well but are bothered by flies and biting insects.

The uniqueness of the bison business attracts the interest of others. The Bredthauers have been interviewed and featured in newspapers, magazines, television stories, and on public radio. They do not offer formal tours but do welcome visitors to the ranch if they call ahead.