Real-life Bison

Colorado’s South Park, a high-elevation basin (and namesake of the eponymous animated television series), accessible some 50 miles west of Colorado Springs, is known to harbor several private herds of American Bison. As a follow-up to last week’s post, which anticipated National Bison Day, I want to share some of the impressions captured during an excursion in mid-August of this year. Driving west along US Highway 24, I noticed this gathering of grazing bison on some fenced-in land adjacent to the road. At the earliest possible occasion I pulled off, parked the car, and walked a short distance back in order to gaze in awe and take photos.

This sense of awe always prevails upon encountering these hefty ruminants whose shaggy coats are reminiscent of geographical maps. Adults might tip the scale at one or even two tons, yet when undisturbed, they gracefully amble across the prairie and peacefully munch its grasses. But while they may amble and appear docile, this largest land mammal in North America is able to accelerate to 35 mph, so staying behind the fence is highly advisable.

What struck me most, in addition to the vast sky besailed by fanciful clouds, and the undulating grass-bearing landscape backed by the Mosquito Range with several fourteeners, was the conspicuous number of light-colored bison. I saw at least five.

White bison have always held special meaning in the lives of America’s Indigenous people and are considered spiritually important if not sacred. True white bison are exceedingly rare, estimated to occur only once per every 10 million births. When one considers that only 1.6% of all American Bison are genetically pure, the eye-catching bison attired in bright coats I beheld that beautiful day likely fall into one of the following categories: they might be leucistic, represent true albinos, or embody beefaloe, a bison-beef crossbreed. Or, as my husband calls them, cowfaloe.

But those technicalities did not distract from my enjoyment. Whether brown or beige, male or female, adult or juvenile, hybrid or not, watching these imposing yet serene beasts in a no less imposing and serene setting instilled not only a sense of wonderment, but also gave the slightest inkling of and regretful longing for what it might have felt like to witness millions of their relatives roam America’s Great Plains.

To enlarge a photo, click on it.

65 thoughts on “Real-life Bison

  1. I am glad you shared more of these amazing animals with us Tanja. What a real treat, and they are so majestic and beautiful. Seeing them in their natural surroundings is also very thought-provoking – I can imagine what the prairies must have looked like hundreds of years ago, when humanity had not disturbed the natural balance…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hard to believe that just a century and a half ago enormous herds of bison still roamed North America. Some even made it down to Austin in those days. In a comment on your previous post I mentioned the sculpture of the extinct bison in Lubbock; about a hundred miles northeast of there, Caprock Canyons State Park has a bison herd that we saw some years ago. Let’s hope you get to see it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful shots of these magnificent beasts. I particularly like the 2nd one with the hills in the background. It’s one of those perfect shots that draws the eye into the (photo) frame and gives it a truly 3-dimensional feel. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I see Steve mentioned the Caprock bison. Those are descendents of the bison Mary Ann Goodnight saved; I can’t remember all the details of the genetics, but they’re now considered the ‘Texas state herd.’ I’ve never seen a white one; that was a real treat. Their role in mythology is considerable, of course.

    I have a hank of bison fur sitting on a bookshelf just now. A ‘bison wrangler’ at the Tallgrass Prairie in Kansas took me out to the pastures one morning, reached out his truck windeow and grabbed a handful of fur for me. It’s one of the best souvenirs I’ve ever received.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, wonderful animals. We’ve been to Yellowstone five or six times over the last 25 years, and bison have always been the highlight. I find it so humbling to be close to them, to watch and to listen (and even to smell) them going about the daily business of living. Never seen a white one, though. One day, maybe?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What an amazing experience, Tanja! I can imagine how thrilling that must have been. I am especially intrigued by the white bison–I had never even heard of that before. Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing.
    Wishing you more beautiful sights on the Great Plains,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Julie. The more time I spend on the Great Plains, the more of its fascinating details and denizens I learn and appreciate. One should never judge a seemingly monotonous landscape from the distance, as if often hold amazing experiences.
      Happy weekend to you,

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yesterday I read your post – and today saw this news report, which left me feeling quite empty – and wondering how can this happen? There are so many things that seem ‘off balanced’ – and our planet certainly seemed to have done really well without man’s help – until we’ve managed to almost destroy us all.

    Thankfully there are people like you that spotlight the beauty and wonder – and remind others of how fragile it all is.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Liebe Tanja,
    solch großartige Naturwesen so relativ nahe zu beobachten, ist gewiß ein besonderes Erlebnis.
    In Anbetracht der Weite dieser Landschaft wirken die Bisons auf Deinen Fotos relativ klein.
    Ich habe vor über zwanzig Jahren einmal auf dem Solinger Trödelmarkt an einen Verkaufstand für Tierfelle ein Bisonfell “gestreichelt” – meine Hand versank in der Fülle des Fellflors und ich bekam eine konkrete Vorstellung von der wärmenden Wirkung eines solchen Fells.
    Angeblich waren die Wildtierfelle (u.a. auch Bär, Fuchs und Wolf) von legal getöteten Tieren und pflanzlich gegerbt. Aber was heißt schon legal, wenn die Menschheit sich über die Tierwelt erhebt.
    Herzlich grüßt Dich

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hallo Ulrike,
      Deine Beobachtung über die relativen Größenverhältnisse ist sehr aufmerksam. Aber wenn man sich diesen Bisons nähert, ändert sich der Eindruck sehr schnell. 😊
      Wie Du habe auch ich die Gelegenheit gehabt, ein Bisonfell zu streicheln und war von seiner Fülle beindruckt. Wenn man diese Tiere mal in knietiefem Schnee gesehen hat, wie z. B. im Yellowstone Nationalpark, dann weiß man, das dieses Fell lebensnotwendig ist.
      Ich sende Dir warme Grüße,

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Deine Faszination kann ich verstehen. Tolle Prachtexemplare und das sogar in weiß! Das muss früher unglaublich gewesen sein, als die Horden über die Prärie donnerten.
    Habe gerade letztens mal wieder “Der mit dem Wolf tanzt” mit Kevin Costner gesehen. Und da gab es beeindruckende Szenen, auch wenn digital wohl nachgeholfen wurde…
    LG Simone

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hope you will one day, Karin. The herds at Yellowstone National Park are free-ranging, so there is no fence to keep people away, which leads far too many of them to get too close to the bison for that special photo, preferably a selfie. Not a good idea.


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