Have you heard about our herd? Learn more our buffalo and how to support them below!
HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT OUR HERD?
Shelby Farms Park is home to a thriving herd of American buffalo (Bison bison)! There are usually around 25 buffalo roaming the Park each year. The number of buffalo fluctuates as calves are born each Spring. We maintain a certain ratio of buffalo per acre of land, giving our herd plenty of room to roam and graze.When it starts getting too crowded, we give our friends at Tennessee Safari Park a call.The Shelby Farms Park buffalo herd is cared for by Park Rangers and by large animal veterinarians. This hardworking team makes sure that the herd’s diet is naturally supplemented and that they are cared for every day.
WHY DOES SHELBY FARMS PARK HAVE A HERD OF BUFFALO?
Buffalo played an integral role in the ecological and cultural history of the United States, but for a long time, herds across the country were dwindling in size and number. Conservation efforts were launched throughout the country to help restore the once thriving buffalo populations. Prior to the foundation of Shelby Farms Park Conservancy in 2008, Shelby County Government managed the land. In 1989, the Park’s superintendent, Tommy Hill, brought six buffalo to the Park, and they have called the Park “home” ever since! The herd has grown over the years, and in 2013, SFPC built a new, specially designed range for the buffalo that features a self-filling water trough, hearty native grasses and plenty of shade for hot summer days.Caring for these iconic animals is a big job! Our herd consumes 50,000 pounds of hay and supplemental feed each year, and they can drink up to 30 gallons of water per day. Our Park Rangers dedicate 1,000 hours to caring for the buffalo each year, and periodically bring veterinarians to the Park to make sure the herd is in tip top shape.
ADOPT A BUFFALO
Our classic Adopt-A-Buffalo contribution ($100) is another great way to support the herd. This honorary adoption helps provide annual support for the care of the Shelby Farms Park buffalo and the maintenance of their range.
Your $100 Buffalo Adoption Includes:
a small plush buffalo
a “Roam the Park” buffalo sticker
a letter of thanks from Shelby Farms Park Conservancy's Executive Director, Jen Andrews
Adopt a Buffalo today!
FEED THE HERD
Our Feed the Herd donation ($50) represents the cost of feeding the entire herd for one day. Our herd grazes on the grass of their range, but to that they receive sufficient nutrition without negatively impacting their habitat, we supplement their diet with a blend of sweet feed, fortified with diatomaceous earth and apple cider vinegar to make sure that our herd stays healthy.
Your $50 Feed the Herd Donation Includes*:
- an exclusive "Feed the Herd" window sticker
- a letter detailing your gift from Shelby Farms Park Conservancy's Executive Director, Jen Andrews
Donate to Feed the Herd Today!
THE AMERICAN BUFFALO: A SURVIVAL STORY
The American bison--also called the American buffalo-- is known for being tough. This largest of North American mammals survived the last Ice Age and was nearly hunted into extinction in the late 19th century. Bison once roamed most of the United States—including Tennessee. Fossil records show that buffalo have lived in North America for more than 100,000 years.
It’s estimated that 30-60 million buffalo once roamed North America and were a central and sacred feature of the lives of American Indians. Tribes like the Sioux, Cheyenne, Comanche, and Kiowa followed the seemingly endless herds and used buffalo meat/fat/hides/bones for food, shelter, clothing, tools, and more. Around 1700, the Plains Indians acquired horses, which allowed them to hunt faster and track the herds farther than ever before.
With new settlers heading west across America came a dramatic shift in the lives of both buffalo herds and American Indians. While market and sport hunters decimated the herds, the U.S. Army led an effort to eliminate buffalo as a way to control tribes who depended on them for livelihood. General Phillip Sheridan wrote: "Every buffalo dead is an Indian gone." The scale of the slaughter was unimaginable. At an auction sale in Ft. Worth in 1873, 200,000 buffalo skins were sold in a single day.
Thanks to a concerted effort by people like Charles Goodnight—who captured buffalo in the Texas panhandle and brought bulls to Yellowstone Park for a conservation herd that still exists today---the American Buffalo survived. Today, there are roughly 500,000 buffalo. Buffalo helped shape American history. From their important role in the prairie ecology to forming the Appalachian Trails, buffalo have left an indelible mark on America.
BISON OR BUFFALO?
The animals you see at Shelby Farms Park are American Bison (Bison bison), commonly known as buffalo. American buffalo are different from African and Asian buffalo. "Bison" is scientifically accurate, while "buffalo" recalls this animal's central role in American history. We like “buffalo” best.
The buffalo has a shaggy, dark brown winter coat and a lighter weight, lighter brown summer coat. Buffalo are the largest land mammals in the country! Male buffalo (bulls) are much larger than females (cows), and can be more than six feet tall and eleven feet long, often weighing up to 2000 lbs. Both bulls and cows have short, curved horns, which they use in fighting to defend themselves and for status within the herd.
- With a diet consisting mostly of grasses and sedges, the buffalo was an essential part of the American prairie ecology. As they grazed across the plains, their droppings provided rich fertilization and the prairie thrived.
- Buffalo typically mate in August and September, with a pregnancy of 9-9.5 months. Calves are rusty red when they are born and stand soon after being born and can walk with the herd in just a few hours. Their color changes after a few months.
- Buffalo are not silent. In fact, they can bellow, roar and grunt!
- Wyoming uses the buffalo on its state flag.
- The Buffalo Nickel was produced in America from 1913-1938.
- Buffalo roll or “wallow” in dirt or mud both to remove molting fur patches and to deter flies from biting. Bulls also wallow during mating season to display strength and vigor.
- It’s not always easy to tell bulls from cows at a distance. Bulls have a wider face and thicker hair on their forehead, front legs and beard. Bulls also tend to have shoulders wider than their hips, while females tend to have hips wider than their shoulders.
- The buffalo hump is made of strong muscles supported by very long vertebrae.
- Buffalo are fast. They can run up to 30mph!
Your support helps keep an American legend alive.