I love me some bison. Buffalo. Tatanka. Buffler. However you say it, they’re magnificent, an integral part of my country’s history and what some even call “the elephants of the plains.” I’m pleased that they are now officially the National Mammal of the US, though I fear this is a simple symbolic gesture and nothing more. As Rick Bass wrote bison are “the dark force of the plains – the living muscle of our history. Perhaps no other animal represents so well that richness which we once had, and which we so savagely squandered and mutilated.”
Or how about Thoreau? “I take infinite pains to know all the phenomena of the spring, for instance, thinking that I have here the entire poem, and then, to my chagrin, I hear that it is but an imperfect copy that I possess and have read, that my ancestors have torn out many of the first leaves and grandest passages, and mutilated it in many places. I should not like to think that some demigod had come before me and picked out some of the best of the stars. I wish to know an entire heaven and an entire earth.”
I took these photos in Yellowstone and they show the pitifully small remnant of wild bison we still have in North America. If you want semi-domesticated, cattle-gene-addled hybrids, there are many thousands of them producing meat and leather, but the bison in YNP are the real deal. Explore the Buffalo Field Campaign’s site to learn more.
Long live the buffalo!