September 17, 2022 1 Comment
The plains of North America were once home to millions of Wild Buffalo and Bison.
This is a Plains Bison
If you've been calling the American Bison 'Buffalo' all your life, you're not alone! You can blame it on the early American settlers, who misidentified the bison, 'bufello', the name for what is actually a Water Buffalo, supposedly due to the similar appearance of the two animals, though in my estimation that's a stretch. Because of their confusion, the name "Buffalo" stuck in the American mind, and we've been calling Bison ‘Buffalo’ ever since! In fact these animals are distinct species: American Bison (Bison bison), the Wild (Cape) African Buffalo (Syncerus caffer) that roam in Africa, and the Asian Water Buffalo (Bubalus). Both Bison and Buffalo are part of a family called Bovidea, which also includes cows and antelopes!
This blog will attempt to set the record straight, and you'll hopefully learn something, as I have on this journey.
Generally, the Water Buffalo has a larger body than the Bison. The Asian Water Buffalo also has bigger horns that might sweep backward, though they can also curl, they're not usually as curly as the African variety, which have a significantly more broad horn structure spanning across their foreheads. The Bison has a larger head which they use to forage for feed during the winter months, swinging it from side-to-side to clear snow and create foraging patches. The Water Buffalo has a smooth coat, while the Bison has a shaggy winter coat which it sheds. And lastly, Bison have a hump at the top of their back, while buffalo are smooth. The shaggy Bison have beards and sometimes even muzzles (or snouts), whereas Water Buffalo do not.
To complicate matters, there are two Bison, the European and the American, but I'm not done.. there are further differences
There are Forest, or Woods Bison and Plains, or Prairie Bison.
"Through extensive long-term natural history studies and scientific investigations, even to the genetic and cellular levels, we now understand that there is one species of bison that is comprised of two subspecies in North America.." Excerpt from Bison Bellows: Plains and Wood Bison - What's the Difference? "Plains bison have massive heads with short noses and have clearly defined shaggy capes that cover the upper portion of their bodies. Woods bison, on the other hand, have large triangular heads and have less defined shoulder capes and head hair, and they have more distinctive and bigger shoulder humps."
And there are two subspecies of Asian Water Buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), the 'Swamp' and 'River' varieties. #asianwaterbuffalo #bubalus
~ The 'Swamp' (Water) Buffalo (B. bubalis kerebau) has backswept horns whose sweep is sometimes more extreme. They may be straight or have a soft curve.
~ The 'River' Buffalo (B. bubalis bubalis) has more distinctly curled horns.
The horns on either variety, which are a subspecies with many breeds can vary wildly, from thin to wide, with color variants ranging from grey to black, they may be smooth or have distinctive ridges, and the tightness of their curl will vary radically. Although the swamp and river types will interbreed to produce a 49-chromosome hybrid, neither can interbreed with cattle.
Wild (Cape) African Water Buffalo belong to a the Caprid family.
These Buffalo have heavier, more intensely curled horns that carry across their foreheads. #wildafricanwaterbuffalo
The Asian Water Buffalo that was domesticated thousands of years ago, and is being bred here in the United States and abroad for it's dairy products, including my favorite, Mozzarella di Bufala AKA "Genuine Italian Mozzarella", as well as for its meat. Read how the mild tempered Asian Water Buffalo is being designed as a "Wonder Cow of the Future".
Frontiersin.org states that "Buffalo have higher longevity than cattle (they can surpass 30 years of age, while maintaining their reproductive capacity until they are 18–25 years old). This docile, intelligent, and curious animal is farmed in several countries worldwide, mainly for its good quality meat (which has better nutritional composition compared to that of cattle) and its high-fat milk." #buffalo #waterbuffalo
Visit here for more on Water Buffalo Types
Some of our Damascus knives, with Water Buffalo and Camel Bone Handles (Featured in Cowboys and Indians Magazine, October, 2022. #cowboysandindiansmagazine #damascusknives
Our Carved Bone Pendant Necklaces and Rings are also derived from the Asian Water Buffalo
Bison Chief Carved Bone Pendant Is a wonderful talisman to carry for protection, to embody freedom, and manifest prosperity.
Silver & Carved Bone Longhorn Skull w Silver Feathers
& Coral Teardrop | Spirit Animal Collection
Bison are native to North America. Once found roaming the plains of Canada and the United States, in grasslands, prairies, or plains where they ate grasses and other plants as their main food source. Those same prairies were once quite extensive throughout the United States, due greatly to their access to sunlight and controlled burns, and dependence to a great degree on the Bison grazing back the higher foliage and trampling back the forests. Read this highly informative article by Janet Marinelli - June 20, 2019 (Forgotten Landscapes: Bringing Back the Rich Grasslands of the Southeast).
THE BISON REVIVAL
The bison is making a comeback, but not without controversy. The California Psychics website succinctly wrote, "You cannot tell the story of the bison without telling the story of Native Americans.
Chief Iron Tail with Bison
It’s ironic that an animal that symbolizes abundance was almost killed off by the wants and needs of man. Before the days of guns and settlers, there were millions of bison; some estimate well over 20 million. But now there are only thousands left. This makes a bison sighting even more meaningful and rare. The Native Americans of the Great Plains revered, honored, and respected this animal. For many tribes between Canada and the U.S., the bison provided life; food, clothing, and shelter. The Indians’ nomadic way of life synchronized with the migrations of bison, deer, and elk. Without the interference of European settlers, Native Americans could have lived life hunting bison almost indefinitely.
Local tribes believed that killing the bison would bring them ill fortune, so they kept their culture alive by passing on stories about how important it was for each member of a tribe to care for animals so that everyone could survive in harmony with nature and each other. Today, many Native American tribes are working to revive traditional practices like hunting buffalo for food or preserving their land through conservation efforts. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has seen an increase in its wild bison population from 1300 at the turn of the century back up to over 4500 today! It’s great news since many conservationists believe there are only about 20 purebred individuals left anywhere else on Earth. From this perspective alone we can see why bringing back these majestic creatures is critically important, especially given how much they mean culturally (as well as historically).
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