Although the current population of free range, wild American bison hovers somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000 animals — and although the species’ conservation status has been downgraded to “threatened” instead of “near extinct” — some hunters may not be familiar with the fact that a handful of ranchers saved the entire species from extinction a little bit more than 100 years ago.
In addition to the free range bison, there are approximately 530,000 bison living on private and public land in America. Attempts to domesticate bison have not been overly successful, and native Americans never domesticated them in the thousands of years that they depended upon them for their meat and hides. Bison have been described as unruly, and investors looking for ranches for sale may find themselves considering land with breeding programs for “beefalo,” a fertile cross between bison and cattle.
In the American west, bison were notoriously difficult to tame. Surprisingly, they can leap six feet into the air, and can run more than 35 miles per hour when they are upset or threatened. When early settlers began to kill bison for their bones, which were turned into fertilizer, they noticed that bison would congregate around their slain herd members, making it easy to slaughter thousands of bison at once.
By 1899, when a rancher purchased a small herd of five animals, the bison’s numbers may have been as low as 540 across the entire country. The rancher was able to expand the number of bison on his ranch and farm properties to more than 1,000 and was willing to send “starter herds” of bison to national parks and private farm properties.
One of the difficult aspects of farming and breeding buffalo is their ability to escape from enclosures that would foil most animals. They can bypass razor wire and are quite agile even at high speeds. Current breeding programs are farming the animals for their meat, which is higher in protein than beef. There are ranches for sale across the American northwest, as well as ample opportunity for trophy level bison hunting. Bison pelts are sold via the internet, and as long as there are ranches for sale with bison on them, there will continue to be high interest from investors in bison’s viability as an alternative to beef.