SunSpecial: Better Sooner than later   Leave a comment

This weeks’ fast-breaking ruminant news has been an announcement of the American Bison (Bison bison) as the official National Mammal of the United States. (The official animal symbol of the USA is the Bald Eagle. And also, for now, the official bird). And, as the news announcers chew on this (many of whom wouldn’t know a Bison from a Beagle), we’re certain to hear the name ‘Buffalo’ mentioned from time to time. Which, if the reporters had quoted from an actual buffalo, these news bites would have correctly identified the Bison and Buffalo as two different, and not that closely related, animals living in different parts of the world and having entirely different histories. But maybe that was too much information for the news outlets to stomach.

Bison galloping Muybridge

Bison enjoyed running long before it became the trend to post selfies of your daily workout.

Bison are a member of the bovine family, generally large, herding, grassland animals that are found, in one species or another, across much of the world. Cows, which are specially bred bovines, are now nearly everywhere on earth there is man. It’s generally believed that cows (and other bovines) have four stomachs – which is somewhat true, as they actually have four compartments of a large stomach, each of which partially digests the tough, fibrous grass and other plants these animals eat. And also why they spend so much time eating, as there’s only a limited amount of nutrients in grass. Bison – for tens of thousands of years the most numerous bovine (or ruminant animal) in North America – could be found practically across the continent: From Atlantic to Pacific coasts; north into Alaska and south into Northern Mexico. Described by Native Americans as ‘too numerous to count’ the Bison was a revered and irreplaceable resource, providing many native nations, particularly those in the central US, with virtually everything they needed to survive. Over time nearly all bison were exterminated, largely because they were seen as a threat to western expansion (and with so many, how could killing a few thousand here or there make any difference). In less than a hundred years the only wild populations remaining in the US were a few small herds in the Midwest – largely the areas of Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas – and within a few decades these were gone also.

Which is strange that an animal that so many people were so anxious to be rid of, has been commemorated on currency; flags; postage stamps; statues; and other remembrances usually reserved for things people, well, appreciate, respect and value. Maybe by the designation this past week of the Bison as the National Mammal – along with the endless work that has gone into protecting the animals that remain and restoring their native environment – the Bison has finally achieved the recognition it deserves. Even though it’s still regularly mis-named as an African or Asian Buffalo that are only distant cousins.


Michonne Says: Those fuzzy-head bisons are one of the main reasons the little flag-tail squirrels live underground. The fuzzy-heads never look where they’re going and they will step on you without a second thought. I’ve heard the dangerous rattler-snakes make their loud rattler noises just to keep the bison from stepping on them, so those bisons don’t seem to pay much attention to anything. There’s not many fuzzy-heads or rattler-snakes living around marmots – I don’t think they like the rocks – but if they did live here, I’d stay underground too.

Posted May 15, 2016 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SunSpecial

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