Park Life Blog

We "Herd" tomorrow is National Bison Day


National Bison Day is finally here, and we are excited to shine a spotlight on the Park’s most iconic residents! National Bison Day is celebrated on the first Saturday in November, and it was founded in 2016 when the National Bison Legacy Act was signed.This day is meant to celebrate the great American Bison*. Herds used to freely roam by the millions and acted as a vital part in the ecology, economy and culture of America. As communities moved to the west, the sport of bison hunting grew and their species were on the brink of extinction. Thanks to conservancies across the nation working to protect the bison and their habitats, the American bison are no longer on this brink. That’s definitely worth celebrating!

So, why does Shelby Farms Park have a buffalo herd?

Shelby Farms has had American Bison since 1989. Tommy Hill--Shelby County Superintendent for Shelby Farms Park at that time-- brought six bison and two longhorn steer to the park to roam, and they quickly became its most beloved residents. In fact, the buffalo are so popular that they have become the Park’s mascot and one is prominently featured in the Park’s logo! 


Caring for these big mammals is a big job! Check out these fun facts to get to know our herd a little better and to learn what it takes to care for them:

  • It takes $11,000 and more than 1,000 Ranger hours each year to keep the herd in tip top shape!

  • In addition to grazing, the Shelby Farms Park herd consumes 50,000 pounds of hay and supplemental feed each year!

  • The buffalo at Shelby Farms are American Bison, commonly known as buffalo. “Bison” is scientifically accurate, but “buffalo” recalls the animal’s role in American history.

  • Males are called "bulls" and females are called "cows."

  • Males can weigh up to 2,000 lbs.

  • Male and female buffalo have short, curved horns, which they use in fighting to defend their status within the herd.                                                                                                                                                                    

  • Buffalo typically mate in August and September and have a 9-9.5 month gestation period, which is about the same as the human gestation period.

  • Calves can stand soon after they are born and can walk with the herd in just a few hours.

  • Calves are born with a rusty red coat which gets darker as they grow up, which has earned them the nickname “red dogs”.

  • Buffalo can run up to 30mph.

  • 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 wallow in dirt or mud, both to remove molting fur patches and to deter flies from biting. Bulls also wallow in mating season to display strength and vigor.


*Wait, I thought you had a herd of buffalo! The animals you see at Shelby Farms Park are American Bison(Bison bison) commonly known as buffalo. American buffalo are different 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!


Want to show the Shelby Farms Park buffalo herd some buffalove and help offset the cost of their care? In honor of National Bison Day, we’re launching new giving levels that feature fun, new buffalo-themed gifts! Learn more and support your herd:

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