Thursday, August 26, 2010


Today's animal is a bit... different. It's a hybrid, an animal that is a cross of two separate species. In this case we have American Bison and domesticated beef cattle. Efforts to combine the best qualities of the two have gone back decades and decades. Charles Jesse "Buffalo" Jones, dismayed at the loss of so many cattle to the harsh weather of Kansas, decided to raise Bison and attempted to produce hybrids which he called "cattalo." Unfortunately, his project didn't' work out too well, and it wasn't until the 1960's that Beefalo really began to take off.

Image from Beefalo Australia
Beefalo are not actually a 50/50 cross. They are instead closer to 5/8 Cattle, and 3/8 Bison. Crosses that contain more Bison than that are referred to as Bison hybrids. Beefalo are fertile hybrids. They are more weather tolerant, calve easier, forage better, have a longer lifespan, and provide leaner beef due to the Bison influence, and provide more milk and are easier to handle due to the Cattle side. The American Beefalo Association oversees the registration of these hybrids.

One downside to this, and I suppose to the entire western ranching industry, is that the wild Bison herds have become genetically polluted over the decades. Many of the wild Bison have Cattle DNA in them, and could actually be termed hybrids themselves because of it. This is due to the general land overlap between the ranches and Bison ranges, and due to the fast recovery of the Bison in the last few decades, after they were nearly driven to extinction.

Thanks to Ashley for the suggestion!

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea that American bison would breed so readily with cattle, and that they'd become genetically 'tainted' in this way. Thank you!


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