Largest of the land animals in North America, the bison normally lives
15-20 years, but may live up to 40 years. Both the cows and bulls
have short, curved horns. Full growth - 2,000 pounds or more for a
bull and 1,300 for a cow - is usually reached in 7-8 years. A
deceptively quick and agile animal, the buffalo can stop instantly, whirl,
and gallop up to 35 mph over rough terrain.
For thousands of years,
vast herds of bison once thundered across the Great Plains. An estimated
60 - 70 million plains bison roamed North America in 1700; by 1900, only a
few hundred were left.
The buffalo's return is a
fascinating story. Among the first to take action against the imminent
demise of these majestic animals are the very people who once made a
living hunting them -- people like Daniel Boone, who as early as 1775
introduced a bill to restrict hunting in Boonesborough, so alarmed was he
at the quickly diminishing game. Others tried to domesticate the wild
cattle, or cross-breed them with oxen.
Today's bison herds, including the animals at LBL, can trace their origins
to a later group of "preservationists." Buffalo hunters such as Charles
Goodnight, Wild Bill Hickok and Charles Jesse "Buffalo" Jones, to name a
few, were famous for slaughtering hundreds of bison a day. Even so, by the
late 1800s, such men had become alarmed at the near-extinction of this
symbol of America's frontier, and began developing small captive herds to
protect against extinction. Herds seen today are descendants of these
Today, such conservation efforts and the rise of a buffalo ranching
industry has brought their numbers back up to an estimated 100,000 in the
U.S. alone. LBL 's buffalo herd was started in 1969 with 19 animals
brought from the Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park in North
The idea was to establish a small herd as a symbol of man's destruction
and later restoration of the Tennessee Valley's natural resources.
For over 20 years this herd flourished in LBL's Buffalo Range. Then in
June, 1996, 40 animals were moved into the new Elk & Bison Prairie, where
they continue to thrive.
MORE Bison Pictures
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