National Bison Day, celebrated in the United States on the first Saturday each November, will fall on November 6 this year. The American Bison was named a national symbol in 2016, only the second animal to be so distinguished, after the Bald Eagle was declared National Bird in 1782.
Though commonly called buffalo, American Bison (Bison bison) are only distantly related to the true Asian water or African buffaloes. There are two extant subspecies, the Plains Bison (Bison bison bison), and the Wood Bison (Bison bison athabascae).
An estimated 30 to 60 (and possibly as many as 90) million bison roamed the North American continent for millennia, until they were brought to the brink of extinction in mere decades through ruthless hunting by European immigrants. At the turn of the 20th century, only a few hundred of these remarkable animals endured. Fortunately, the species was brought back from the precipice and numbers today amount to approximately 500,000. However, most survivors interbred with cattle and all but 1.6% of extant bison are hybrids. Genetically pure individuals survive only at Yellowstone and a few other locations.
I occasionally come across and photograph small herds of the living, breathing ungulates during my travels in Colorado, but I have also been collecting images of their artistic renditions throughout the state. Their prevalence and popularity are a testament to the animals’ power to awe and inspire. Happy National Bison Day!
To enlarge a photo, click on it. To read its caption, hover the cursor over it.
PS: The topmost photo shows a herd of bison roaming downtown Denver’s iconic 16th Street Mall.