Bison bison

| 20 Comments
Buffalo.jpg

Bison bison — American Buffalo, Yellowstone National Park

20 Comments

Well, I can’t top that. Not even with a Gorilla gorilla gorilla.

James F said:

Well, I can’t top that. Not even with a Gorilla gorilla gorilla.

Think of what would happen if a buffaloing buffalo from Buffalo got into a romantic relationship with a water buffalo.

There is something so Pleistocene about this species, onc can not look at it without stirrings of some deep cultural memory. This and the muck ox are among the few species which make us feel primal still.

Or maybe I menat MUSK OX - a muck ox is the species uncle Billy Dumbski belongs to.

I visited these guys in Yellowstone a couple months back. Late in the day, with room reservations in Cody 80 miles to the east, I went to leave via the east entrance, and a fire cut me off. I was obliged to drive all the way around the park, 200 miles of slow park road. So I did a U-turn, started back…and a buffalo (maybe this one) wandered into the middle of the road and sat down. I was about 6 hours late to the motel…

[bart]Don’t have a cow, man![/bart]

@ James F:

How ‘bout Homo Sapiens Sapiens?

Bison: 1) Much bigger than cow. 2) Much faster than people. 3) May not telegraph intent at any given moment. 4) You are no match.

These guys like to claim a zone about 25 meters or more in radius as their “personal space.” Outside of that zone, which might vary due to circumstances the average shutter-pusher is unaware, you are merely a potential threat. You are tolerated because the bison knows you can’t threaten or catch it from that distance. Inside of that zone you are a potential target and the animal may attack. Whether you are killed or merely put in traction, you should not be surprised in the least.

One thing that fascinates me about bison is that they can mate with domestic cattle and produce fertile offspring. Would someone more knowledgeable than I be willing to indulge us with a discussion of the phenomena of cross-genera hybrids?

If you do a search on “beefalo,” you’ll find that getting Bos taurus and Bison bison to mate and successfully produce viable and fertile offspring is not that easy. A number of ranchers tried it over a number of decades without success. It was accomplished by artificial insemination. First generation hybrids look like bison. They will mate and can be back-crossed (by AI again) with either parental species. A beefalo that is 7/16 bison looks like a Bos taurus (I was going to write “like a cow”, but cow and bull are terms used for female and male bison too), a BIG Bos taurus. [What do we call one individual of Bos taurus without respect to gender? A cattle? Head of cattle? A beef? The language is deficient. It’s that way because it evolved that way.]

That domestic cattle and bison are assigned to different genera is embarrassing. Since those two will hybridize it might be argued that Bos and Bison ought to be collapsed into a single genus to reflect the closeness implied by the hybridization. The “biological species” definition does require that interbreeding and production of fertile offspring be an event that can and does occur in nature. I don’t know that that has ever been documented. There are now enough Bison genes in Bos populations (and vice versa?) through crosses from many generations of beefalo that any fertile interbreeding between contemporary cattle and bison would probably not qualify as natural events in the meaning of the definition.

Steaks! Roasts! Burgers!

Karen | October 2, 2008 12:16 AM | Reply Steaks! Roasts! Burgers!

Karen, - well past your bedtime! You’re dreaming about MOOSE!

Encountered some of these magnificent beasts (buffalo) up in Alaska years ago, and wasn’t interested in if they were just curious as they came towards us with nothing but an open paddock between us. But as far as I know moose are often much more aggressive.

MichaelB said:

That domestic cattle and bison are assigned to different genera is embarrassing. Since those two will hybridize it might be argued that Bos and Bison ought to be collapsed into a single genus to reflect the closeness implied by the hybridization.

Better yet - use phylogenetic classification and avoid confusion from arbitrary ranks.

How about a better picture? One that clearly shows their wings. ;-)

Is the new PT focus on animal pictures setting us up for some sort of Celebrity Deathmatch? Meercat vs. Sheep, Rhinoceros vs. Buffalo? I think my money’s on that Carolina Mantis.

eric

eric said:

Is the new PT focus on animal pictures setting us up for some sort of Celebrity Deathmatch? Meercat vs. Sheep, Rhinoceros vs. Buffalo? I think my money’s on that Carolina Mantis.

eric

I thought that the white rhinos had something to do with the pink unicorns on the Luskin and immunology thread.

I did hear that the bison became extinct in the USA, and the present animals are descended from stock imported from Canada.

Eric Bloodaxe said:

I did hear that the bison became extinct in the USA, and the present animals are descended from stock imported from Canada.

Two subspecies of bison did become extinct, the Eastern, and the Western, but the Plains buffalo survived in Wyoming: though, people often supplement their own herds with Woodlands buffalo (the Canadian subspecies).

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This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on October 1, 2008 12:00 PM.

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