There are now two ways to show your love for our buffalo, including a special Feed the Herd package!
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
- an adoption certificate
- 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!
Click the links below to read more about our favorite Park animal
Roaming in Memphis
The American Buffalo: A Survival Story
Bison or Buffalo
ROAMING IN MEMPHIS
In 1989, the Shelby County superintendent for Shelby Farms Park—Tommy Hill—brought six buffalo to the Park from Tennessee Safari Park in Alamo, Tennessee. Buffalo were chosen because of their integral role in the ecological and cultural history of the United States.
The herd thrived in their new home, a fifty acre plot of land adjacent to Farm Road, and within several years, the number of Buffalo at Shelby Farms grew from six to thirty-eight. Too many animals per-acre can encourage the spread of disease among the buffalo, so the county periodically auctioned off buffalo as breeding stock to thin the herd in a way that benefited the county, and the local agricultural industry. Since the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy's founding in 2008, we no longer auction off the buffalo, but instead we send excess animals to retire at Tennessee Safari Park where our herd originated. Our current policy is to keep the number of animals in the herd between 15 and 25.
In 2013, the buffalo said goodbye to their old range, where they had spent over 20 years, and were moved slightly north, further into the park. Their new range is roughly equal in size to their old one, but it offers more varied terrain and tree cover for the buffalo, and better views for Park visitors from the Chickasaw trail. The 8-foot high-tension wire fence that encircles the new pen was chosen because of its ability to contain the animals without the use of barbed wire, as buffalo can clear obstacles up to six feet tall.
The buffalo do graze on the grass in their range, but each year we supplement their diet with 50,000 pounds of feed to make sure that both the animals and the vegetation on the range stay as healthy as possible. The buffalo also have a self-filling watering trough, to make sure they have access to fresh water at all times. This is important, because large individuals can consume up to 30 gallons of water on a hot day!
What does it take to keep the Buffalo around? The buffalo consume almost $15,000 dollars’ worth of hay and supplemental feed every year, as well as occasional veterinary services to make sure that our herd stays healthy. In addition, the herd as takes up almost one thousand hours of ranger time every year.
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.