Shelby Farms Park is home to a thriving herd of buffalo*! There are usually around 15 buffalo roaming the Park each year--the number of buffalo fluctuates as calves are born each spring. The herd roams on its own in a nearly 50-acre range that is full of native grass, trees and sunny fields.
The 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.
You can learn a little more about our herd and how they got here below. If you want to know more about these incredible animals, you can find a free Learn + Play lesson with educational information and fun activities here!
Great question! The animal's scientific or Latin name is Bison bison, and the common term for them is buffalo. However, true buffalo species are native to Africa and Asia and are not the same species as the animals you find in the United States. The term "buffalo" recalls the bison's central role in American history, and we like "buffalo" best.
While both terms are considered acceptable, we want you to know the difference--it's a fun fact you can share with your friends!
Fun fact: Bison were officially designated as the National Mammal of the United States in 2016!
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 2007, 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. Park Rangers dedicate around 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.
You can help provide care and support by making a donation to our Support the Buffalo program. When you donate, we'll send you fun gifts in return!