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mountainman_bc

Has anyone kept buffalo?

mountainman_bc
17 years ago

I'm looking for more as a pet and grazer here, not to be raised as meat. Does anyone have experience on pros and cons?

Thanks.

Comments (28)

  • KsKent
    17 years ago

    I have owned three buffalo. All were bought for meat. The first one was a calf that we feed for six months or more. I was trying to gentle it to the point of eating out of the bucket. It got to the point where it was scaring me, so I quit that. The other two were older cows. We feed the first of the cows for about sixty days in our very solid loading pen that we used for cattle. We nearly never got it loaded. I am sure she would have killed anyone who got in the pen with her. We left the third one on the trailer for several days after buying it, until the day of our appointment at the locker plant. Just my opinion, but I donÂt think buffalo would make good pets. I am sure that most cattle have a much calmer nature than most buffalo and I believe would be a better choice.

    Kent

  • brendan_of_bonsai
    17 years ago

    Bufallo are big mean cows, for the most part, Musk oxen might work, they are smaller mean cow shaped oldworld antelope, indigeonous to northhern climates and produce a valuablecomodity whennot being eaten (muskoxenn quivet sells for 150 dollars US an LB and one animal produces 3-4 lbs year) there are issues with heat howeverzone 5 would work, not sure about 6 however.

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  • bulldinkie
    17 years ago

    Thats the same story Ive heard .Never turn yuour back on themTheyll run you down.Thee a man near us has quite a few.They got him, hurt him pretty bad.Always escaping too.We went with Reg.Texas Longhorn cattle,beautiful animals.really neat,theyre docile,yes you have to be aware when around them they throw their head around they want head scratched,the horns are big.What I like it birthing time.They dont need help in birthing like dairy cattle,you breed a white with a black you could get red.So you never know what youre getting.My husband brushes his,I have one the markings on her back look like Indians sitting at a camp fire.They even ride them.We have 9 ,we dont want alot this is a hobby to us although were looking for a bull now.

  • boopster
    17 years ago

    I have a friend that has 3 that she uses for cutting horse practice. They're not pets, but they said they're fairly friendly, not aggressive as some of the others have posted:( wonder if it's because they know they're not going for slaughter LOL, just going to get chased around by some ol' gal on a horse:) They use the buffalo's because they can cut longer on them than regular cattle without them quitting.

  • lesli8
    17 years ago

    There is one (? or maybe more, I know one for sure) down the hill from my parents house near Sutherland Springs, TX. Their property was flooded in I think 1998, I forget- but it was a 500 year flood- water never recorded that high in that area. Anyway, the buffalo was washed away in the flood, they found him about 8 miles from where he originated and he was fine. They even got him back! I think he is a big pet, I have not heard about him being mean. I will ask my mom and see if she knows about that.

  • DPallas
    17 years ago

    A neighbor wanted to do a joint buffalo project, and after some research I decided it would be too expensive to keep them in. There's a beefalo ranch nearby, they have about 300 head, and the fencing is 2" steel pipe spaced about a foot apart, 6" steel posts about 16' apart, and 6' high. That's about what I found was recommended for real buffalo too, except 6' is the absolute minimum height for fencing bison. Also, they don't herd like cattle, so moving them is somewhate different.

  • boopster
    17 years ago

    Hey Leslie8, Sutherland Springs is just a couple of miles up the road from me, as a matter of fact that's where we get our h20.

  • sandymig
    17 years ago

    I was in the same position as you about 5 years ago. My husband wanted a pet Buffalo. We spoke to several breeders, and came to the conclusion that their personalities can go from one extreme to the other. We were told they can be extremely sweet and docile to extremely aggressive and would require a 7 foot fence with electric. We ruled them out as a possibility for a pet. We went to the Pennsylvania farm show that next January and came across a Scottish Highland organization. We spoke to the members for quite a while and were told the Scottish Highlands are known for their gentle nature. We have a blonde Scottish Highland now that we have raised since he was 3 months old, he is now 5. He is super sweet and docile as well as a beautiful animal with his long blonde hair and huge horns.

  • mountainman_bc
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    Thanks for all of the replies. I'll speak with the owners, and get an idea on this line. Maybe he has a bottle fed calf, and maybe I'll wake up and decide not to get something so useless (unless you can make bison cheese). Thanks.

  • lazy_gardens
    17 years ago

    I often visited my grandmother, near the big bison preserve in Montana ... they had a truck near the main ranger station as a warning to tourists: stomped into scrapmetal by an annoyed cow.

    I wouldn't trust one of them that wasn't already dead, butchered and on the grill. They can turn like a cutting horse and charge like a freight train. They are also NOT A DOMESTICATED SPECIES!

  • mountainman_bc
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    I was under the impression that they are pretty much or completely domestic. Aren't they largely hybridized with cattle? Cows and horses left on the range go "wild" too. Anything on a game reserve would hopefully and likely be genetically wild stock. I really don't know though.

  • pamcleod
    17 years ago

    I don't know, I think if they were domesticated, then Native Americans would have used them as beasts of burden rather than a food source. Doesn't it take hundreds of years to domesticate a species? An species that has been running wild for thousands of years is a lot different than an individual cow or horse - which have been domesticated forever as a species - turned loose on the range. Of course, most are on private ranches now, other than those in Yellowstone National Park ... but I don't think "privately owned" is the same thing as domesticated.

  • DPallas
    17 years ago

    I've never heard they were hybridized with cattle to rebuild the completely wild herd of bison we have today, which is only a few thousand. Most bison live on private ranches, but I don't see what incentive the owners would have to cross them with cattle if bison are what they want to raise. That would be like crossing German Shepherds with Cocker Spaniels and trying to market the results as German Shepherds - it wouldn't work. I'd think the national associations wouldn't count or encourage hybrids, since they clearly aren't the same animal. Beefalo is a standardized breed of cattle and definitely not considered bison.

    About 50 million were killed in a few decades after the Civil War (vs a 10 - 20 million reduction in the herd from 1600 to 1865), and depending on the source you read, only 500 to 1,500 were left in national parks at some point between 1880 and 1900. They were killed to starve out Native Americans and because they destroyed railroad tracks. There was a trade in hides, but most were just left to rot in the sun.

    I found some statistics:

    232,000: Number of bison in the United States residing on private ranches and farms according to the 2002 USDA census.

    4,000: Number of private U.S. ranches and farms raising bison.

    150,000: Approximate bison herd size in Canada.

    20,000: Approximate number of bison roaming on public lands in the U.S. and Canada.

    400,000: Estimated herd size in North America today.

    70 Million: Estimated North American herd size prior to 1600.

    1,000: Estimated number of bison left at the turn of the 20th century before efforts were made to preserve and restore the species.

    30,000: Number of bison slaughtered under federal inspection in 2004. This number is more than double the figure from 2000.

    Here is a link that might be useful: The National Bison Association

  • mountainman_bc
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    There are actually species of snakes and lizards that are now domesticated (corn snakes, leopard geckos) just bred for the human market, specific colours and patterns. It seems weird, designer pink lizards with special patters but there is a market for anything.

    I remember reading something (and I can't remember the source) but most bison are not "pure" but pullouted with back crossed genes. When they became protected there were were just too few wild ones to make up the half million there are now, in a healthy manner. I'm sure if someone really cared they could find the info in National Geo, Canadian Geo or similar source, likely where I saw it. It was definately something about one of the last 'pure' herds, and that it was living on private lands in Alberta. Forgot the rest.
    I'm not insisting by any means that they are tame and make great (and cuddly) pets because of this, not in any way. Just that very few are actually completely untouched by human intervention, to keep the species from collapsing altogether.

  • lucky_p
    17 years ago

    Bison are bison - there was no 'infusion' of cattle genetics involved in bringing them back from the brink of extinction. There may be some issues with inbreeding, since the genetic base - the small number of
    Beefalo are bovine creatures which have been developed by crossing bison and cattle of various breed makeups to reach a standardized level of 3/8 bison and 5/8 bovine genetics. Development of this breed was, I suspect, fairly difficult, as the halfbloods(1/2 bison 1/2 bovine) have some major problems with infertility.
    Even within the Beefalo breed, there is tremendous variability in how much of the bison phenotype(what you SEE) is expressed. And, because the 5/8 cattle portion can be any breed or mix of breeds, there is a wide variation in what they can look like - as well as how docile or flighty they may be.
    In my own limited experience working with a half-dozen Beefalo herds, they were as wild and unmanageable as any other herd of cattle I ever encountered.
    If you're wanting a 'pet' cow, I sure wouldn't be looking at bison or Beefalo. How about a nice Jersey steer, or a Dexter?

  • basilmom
    17 years ago

    My mom and step dad bought a water buffalo (don't ask me what it's actually called...thats what it looks like and how we refer to it) from Viet Nam. It is very domesticated, just like an ox. Why don't you look in to something like that? Both the water buffalo and oxen have been used for centuries with excellent results, unlike bison.

  • lucky_p
    17 years ago

    Hmm. Looks like my brain petered out in mid sentence. What I was alluding to was the possibility of some depression due to inbreeding in some bison populations, since the genetic base was so narrow, as there were only 1000 or so individuals remaining at the beginning of the last century, and all alive today are descendents of some of those 1000.

    Don't know what your plans are for your 'pet', but I've always wanted to raise & train a set of working steers/oxen; maybe one of these years, when the kids are grown and gone, I'll take the plunge.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Tillers International

  • GrassIsEvil
    17 years ago

    I don't suppose you could actually say I 'kept' a buffalo. One briefly visited our farm, because, like so many things, it seemed like a good idea at the time. It took five minutes in his company to decide this was not true--and another week to arrange his exit (unharmed and unrepentant)from the farm.

    Lessons Learned:

    Lesson #1
    Any decision made after the consumption of more than three beers--way more--should be seriously reconsidered in the cold, hard, sober light of day.

    Lesson #2
    For buffalo, 'young' does not automatically translate into 'small'.

    Lesson #3
    Irritated buffalo left in the company of farm machinery will have roughly the same effect on said farm machinery as an artillery round.

    Lesson #4
    When buffalo decide to exit a barn, they don't always bother with using the door.

    I can't give any meaningful feedback on the care and feed of a buffalo--and I know they're actually bison, but it's more fun to call them buffalo.

    Ray

  • Rosie_Black_Hills_SD
    17 years ago

    I'm fortunate that I neighbor Wind Cave Nat'l park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Bison arrived in Wind Cave in 1913.
    http://www.wind.cave.national-park.com/animal.htm#ani

    Custer State Park, another neighbor :-) has bison also. They have a yearly round up and sale - http://www.sdgfp.info/Parks/Regions/Custer/round.htm

    Any given day we encounter bison on the park roads.. I never fail to slow down and admire their massive grace. Yes!, Bison are unpredictable. There are many many signs through both parks warning folks, yet it seems each year, some idiot thinks they should be able to get "a little closer for a photograph"! ..they often end up in the ER after being gored.

    Bison meat is very low fat and not at all gamey tasting. Several neighboring ranches have bison...either for meat or working horses (the bison don't sour like cattle)
    It's a job to keep their water tanks full enough as their little short necks can't reach into the tank.. LOL

    Years ago I met Larry Belitz. He is quite a wonder.
    Larry uses bison like the plains Indians did. http://www.tipis-tepees-teepees.com/buffalo_hide_tipis.htm
    Until this spring, my sister and I had a soapmaking business and at one time, bought bison tallow (not much fat on bison!) from him, rendered it and used it for soap.

    _Buffalo For the Broken Heart_ is a wonderful book written by rancher/author Dan O'Brian. Any of Dan's books are worth reading..Buffalo for the Broken Heart is my absolute favorite! :-) I highly reccomend it, even if you're not interested in American Bison
    Google Dan O'Brien
    ..or bibliofind.com Buffalo for the Broken Heart

    My then 10 year old daughter and I rode through Custer State Park a couple of years ago. Part of our ride went through a herd of bison...almost all of them were laying down, basking in the sun..the sounds they make as they're resting made our hearts beat a leetle faster!.. almost like they were snoring. .. one or two turned their massive heads as we tip toed through. It was quite an experience.

    Have I bored you all enough! Bragged on my home enough?

  • berrygood1
    17 years ago

    I am fortunate enough to live by a bison ranch and a reindeer farm. The reindeer farm bought a female buffalo orphan to raise as part of their farm tour. This "baby" was kept with a small deer until the deer was found with a broken back. Now the "baby" buffalo shares a pen with a full grown bull moose, and they seem to get along fine. I am curious to see where the buffalo will live when full grown.

    One of the most wild and awesome sights I have seen is watching 20 or more yearling buffalo ripping around their paddock one evening. It had been a hot day and it finally cooled off about 10 p.m. These bulls were running circles around each other and then 2 or 3 would come together and just crash into each other. Over and over, running and crashing head-on into each other. Such a wild sight!

  • Rose_Qld
    17 years ago

    Great responses enlarge my sketchy knowledge of bison; will look for Dan O'Brian's book in the library. There is a fledgling beefalo society in Australia and one stud is but two hours from here; it's marketing its meat through the local supermarket at the same price as regular beef. Hope to try some when it next is available on 8 August.

    I hope I'll be looking for *pet* bovines someday. They could be water buffaloes so long as they didn't expect to wallow in the dam. Bit of a sucker for colour though...fell in love with blue roans after reading Malabar Farm as a kid. Need tropicalising to cope with the ticks, could be a project. Or the Braford colouration with the red replaced by black appeals. A bullock with the inclination to do a litle draught work on lantana pulling sounds pretty good. Also love those bullock teams; it'd be hard on the back putting shoes on a team in rough country, as was done.
    Rose

  • lazy_gardens
    17 years ago

    "under the impression that they are pretty much or completely domestic. Aren't they largely hybridized with cattle?"

    Nope ... unless your definition of "completely domestic" includes likely to decide to trample you into corral dirt. They are "captive", and even workable as livestock if you know what you are doing, but they are several hundreds of generations from domestication.

    "Beefalo" are a buffalo/cow hybrid, but deliberately produced. Quite a few ranch buffalo herds have a small amount of cow genetic material, but it's usually because of badly managed attempts to make genetically stable mostly-buffalo crosses.

    I saw a bison/Mexican fighting bull cross once ... he had horns like a longhorn, was the size and build of a bison, a curly mane and chaps of black hair, and the disposition of a velociraptor. Impressive animal, but destined for taco meat because he was unmanageable.

  • cheribelle
    17 years ago

    Mountain Man, have you ever been up close to one? I only ask this because after seeing one up close at a sale barn (through a huge corral fence) I can not imagine wanting anything that huge around. Beautiful, maybe, but the head alone on this creature had to be 4 ft from tip of nose to top of head! I looked him right in the HUGE eye, said, gee, hope you get a good home, and went and bought a goat!

  • mountainman_bc
    Original Author
    17 years ago

    I have looked one in the eye, a farm near here has a large number. I've yet to speak with the farmer, I keep an eye out for him.
    I'm looking into having local farmers hay my field until I can get it fenced better. Thanks for all the interesting responses.

  • vancleaveterry
    15 years ago

    Anyone lurking now have bison experiance?

  • more_to_grow
    15 years ago

    I did some work with my grandfather on a 100k acre buffalo ranch between Wright and Gillette Wyoming some years ago, what I recall most was the fence it took to keep them in, it was 6' high tube steel and stretched nearly 50 miles along the state highway. They were VERY short tempered and hard to contain, the rancher said their eyesight is not too good and once you get close enough to them for them really see what you are....its too late they are extremely fast and mean spirited.

    But then I've seen all manor of things obtained early enough and bottle fed that they made reasonably good pets....for a while.;)

  • vancleaveterry
    15 years ago

    I just remembered I read an artcle a year or two ago about a family that had a bison as a house pet!

    Indoors....I kid you not.

  • farmgirl
    15 years ago

    I delivered mail to a cluster of boxes that was a mere 6 feet away from a buffalo pasture. The "herd" consisted of a bull and four cows. The inner fence was 6 ft. tall, made of 2 x 12's bolted to railroad ties. The outer fence was chain link, 6 ft. high with two rows of barbed wire across the top and angled out. That was to keep the curious and the stupid out of the field.

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