Reference Textbooks

Textbooks Related to Bison

The Bison Centre of Excellence has collected a variety of books related to the bison and the bison industry. In this section we have listed some of them and provided a brief description of their contents. Many of these books are available through the National Bison Association's website at . They may also be available through your local library or bookstore.


Bison Breeders Handbook
American Bison Association
Fourth Edition 2001

This handbook has been designed as a tool for all those who wish to be knowledgeable about bison and the bison industry. Although the bison falls into the family Bovidae along with a number of other ruminants, including cattle, the African Cape buffalo, the wild Indian buffalo, the domesticated water buffalo and a number of other minor species, the genus bison has certain traits and characteristics that separate it from other bovines. Bison obviously has quite a different appearance, their skull structure has certain peculiarities, and bison have 14 pair of ribs as opposed to the 13 found in cattle. Originally referred to as cibola by early Spanish explorers, the bison was later called bisonte, armenta, Bison d'Amerique, boeuf, bufflo, and later buffelo. It may have been from these latter terms that name buffalo was given to the animal by English colonists. That it is still frequently called buffalo rather than bison is possibly attributable to an understandable reluctance to discontinue the use of a word that has been so associated with the American expansion and the romance of western culture. Through the advent of importation of African cape buffalo and Indian water buffalo meat and by-products, it became increasingly important that we properly identify and differentiate the North American bison from the "buffalo" of Asia and Africa. In 1987, members of the American Buffalo Association voted to change the name of the association to the American Bison Association to better represent the animal and the industry.


Bison: Monarch of the Plains
Linda Hasselstrom

More than any other animal, the bison symbolizes the American West. Bison: Monarch of the Plains recounts the story of this great beast, from its arrival across the Bering Land Bridge and migration down into Mexico, to its becoming the cultural cornerstone for many original peoples of our continent, to its current renascence. Photographer David Fitzgerald, avid bison enthusiast, captures the grandeur and appeal of the bison, while Linda Hasselstrom's moving and informative text and James Welch's poignant foreword offer special views into the creature's world.

In Bison: Monarch of the Plains we learn of the evolution of the American bison, its life cycle, and its inherent strength and adaptability. In particular, we gain insight into the critical role of the buffalo in Native American life-from providing food and a wealth of material goods, to being central to daily activities and spiritual beliefs. We are disturbed by a retelling of the buffalo extermination campaign of the 1800's, and we find our spirits lifted when we read of the reviving herds of American bison across the West. We are given a provocative message about the interdependence of grass, bison, and humans on the Plains.

As James Welch cautions in his foreword, "The buffalo are coming back. ...Whether they are here to stay is up to us. We must want them to stay for the sake of the many generations to come, Indian and wasichu alike. Like the grizzly, the wolf, the sandhill crane, and the condor, these buffalo are a part of us and we are a part of them. We are all of the earth."


Bison: Symbol of the American West
Michael Sample

Did you know...
* That as many as 200 million bison once roamed western North America?
* That the infamous slaughter of the great bison herds was inevitable and was actually encouraged by the U.S. Government?
* That the mighty bison, America's largest land mammal, can live as long as 40 years, jump over a six-foot fence from a standing position, and dig as deep as four feet into the snow to feed?
* How Buffalo Bill earned his name and how the Buffalo nickel came to be?
* That Americans can still see real-life bison roundups?
*That there are actually three kinds of bison, not just one?
* How the bison was preserved and where?

Bison: Symbol of the American West answers these questions-and many more-about the fascinating bison in a non-scientific, easy-to-read manner. Plus, it contains 52 outstanding color photos of the bison and its habitat.


Bring Back the Buffalo: A Sustainable Future for America's Great Plains
Ernest Callenbach

Little more than a century ago, thundering herds of buffalo tens of millions strong roamed the grassy heartland of North America. With white settlement, the buffalo (or bison) was hunted almost to extinction. But now nearly 200,000 of these magnificent beasts are thriving on the continent. America's largest and most powerful animal is making a dramatic comeback-holding out the promise of a sustainable future for the Great Plains.

In Bring Back the Buffalo!, Ernest Callenbach portrays the history and present situation of bison, and explores their remarkable potential. Bison belong on the Plains. Legendary symbols of independence and self- reliance, they endure blizzards, survive without feeding, and need no human help to give birth. Unlike cattle, bison move dozens of miles a day as they graze, reducing impacts on grasses and streams. Vast stretches of the Plains, declining in population and i1l-suited for farming or cattle raising, provide ideal habitat for bison.

Many ranchers are switching from cattle raising to bison, whose delicious, low-fat meat has growing appeal in the American diet. Indian tribes are bringing back bison to restore the ancient spiritual balance of the world. And even now, on park and other public lands, millions of Americans are experiencing the fascination of these stalwart, free-spirited animals.

Callenbach foresees great herds of bison again sweeping across much of their former range and reclaiming a central role in the ecology of the region. Vibrant, renewed towns will dot the Plains-supported by bison ranching, wind farms using bison ranchlands to produce clean energy, bison-oriented tourism, and some remaining plow agriculture. There is an important place waiting for bison in America's future. Callenbach concludes, "If we make room for them, they will come."


John Foster, Dick Harris, I.S. MacLaren

The heated controversy over proposals to exterminate the herds in Wood Buffalo National Park is a reminder of the significance the buffalo has acquired, standing symbolically at the point of interaction between aboriginal and white cultures and the plains environment. In Buffalo, specialists in the natural and social sciences, the humanities and fine arts examine the involvement of the buffalo in plains ecology and culture from its prehistoric evolution and migration to its present and uncertain future.

The importance of the buffalo in plains Indian culture is explored in essays on the development of the Cultural World Heritage Site at Head- smashed-In Buffalo Jump and in an historical study of the last decade before the extinction of the wild herds. Its imaginative appropriation by white culture is traced through a survey of verbal and pictorial images of the buffalo from the sixteenth century to the present, culminating in a display of full-colour prints of paintings by Oarence Tillenius, the dean of Canadian wildlife painters. Five essays are devoted to issues fueling the current controversy: the history of exploitation and restoration of the wood buffalo, the factor of wolf predation in the Peace-Athabasca Delta, the scientific case for extermination of diseased herds, the importance of aboriginal involvement in decisions affecting the buffalo, and the findings of medical science regarding the danger of bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis to human beings. Finally, getting right down to earth, the volume concludes with a report on rigorous research into the thermal properties of buffalo chips as fuel.

Buffalo is the first in a new multi-disciplinary series of books under the general editorship of John Foster and Dick Harrison. The Alberta Nature and Culture Series offers informed commentary on Alberta and its people, past and present, and on related national and international issues.


Buffalo in Our Backyard
Jean Cummings

Jean Cummings was born in Charles City, Iowa. She attended Carleton College and the University of Iowa, where she met her husband. When they were married after her junior year, Mrs. Cummings exchanged her career ambitions for a secretarial job to finance her husband's long years of training to become a surgeon. Through night school, she got her B.A. degree from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

With their children, they settled in Stanwood, Michigan, a village tucked into the wild forests of central Michigan. It was not the life Mrs. Cummings had expected. When her husband announced he was going to raise buffalo, she didn't take him seriously, but in the spring of 1964, the arrival of thirteen buffalo changed their lives. Her husband became known as the Buffalo Doctor.

You'll find out all about it in this charming account -Kahtanka crowned herd bull; the donkey who thought he was a buffalo; first calves and buffalo baby announcements; a sexy cow named Mable; a bath for a buffalo; an exotic dancer in a buffalo fur bikini for a buffalo-fur fashion show. There are herds of facts and information about buffalo history, the killing off of the great herds, and anything else you could possibly want to know about the monstrous but lovable animal.


Buffalo Nation: History and Legend of the North American Bison
Valerius Geist

The U.S. government and its army killed millions of buffalo as part of an all-out war against the Native Americans in the nineteenth century. Buffalo Nation tells the story of this brutal war and details the amazing comeback of the buffalo. The number of bison in the U.S. plummeted from more than thirty million in the early 1800's to fewer than 500 at the turn of the century. There are now more than 250,000 bison on ranches and sanctuaries across the nation.

Valerius Geist also examines the natural history of the buffalo, underscoring its importance in North America in this enlightening exploration that will appeal to history buffs, conservationists, wildlife enthusiasts, and those concerned with Native American issues.


Buffalo Producer's Guide to Management and Marketing
Kim Dowling

This is the definitive textbook on raising, feeding, handling, breeding, and marketing bison. This book brings together the knowledge of leading experts in the bison industry in combination with applicable research from the beef industry to give you management of bison from "the wild" to "the feedlot". This text also gives consider- able insight into the behavior of bison.

Major sections include Bison Characteristics, Hybridization, Language & Behavior, Bison Production, Breeding Stock Selection, Nutrition, Marbling & Genetics, Anatomy & Physiology, Bison Reproduction, Bison Health & Disease and Bringing Up Baby, Bison Management, Handling Facilities, Transporting, Marketing the Low Cholesterol Red Meat, Wool, Horns, Hides, Skulls, and Hunting.

Ranch Reviews from 14 bison producers giving details of how owners actually raise and manage large, medium, and small herds.

The public section gives details of wildlife and park management while the reference section is a guide to government agencies and regulations affecting bison production and health.

Canadian interests both private and public, as well as import and export requirements are covered.

This book is written by bison producers for cattle and bison producers, veterinarians, teaching agricultural schools, researchers, animal behaviorists, wildlife managers, alternate agricultural enthusiasts, buffalo lovers, and even hunters.

The section of cholesterol, along with nutrition studies on bison should open the eyes of the medical community and dieticians to the fact the I! Bison is the heart healthy red meat!.

This is the only book in print dealing with all aspects of bison management and marketing. It is published by the National BuffaloAssociation.


Buffalo: Sacred and Sacrificed
Grant MacEwen

White men, on their arrival in the West, saw the buffalo as dull and sulky, and of no benefit except to the Indians. Early governments saw the huge, free-ranging herds as an impediment to enforcement of newly signed treaties. Enterprising pioneers recognized buffalo hunts as first-class sporting events, sure to appeal to wealthy and upper-class Britishers and others overseas.

In the era of the big herds, shooting a buffalo wasn't really a great feat. It was only when a remnant of this part of North America's natural history remained that the significance of the destruction became clear. While bows and arrows, buffalo jumps and pounds, and guns threatened the survival of the species during the 1800's, it is the continuing risk of disease contamination which plagues the buffalo during this current century.

In BUFFALO - Sacred & Sacrificed, popular historian Grant McEwan captures the efforts of early conservationists James McKay, Charles Alloway, Sam Bedson, Frank Oliver and Michel Pablo to preserve and protect this monarch of the plains. It is the remarkable account of where the buffalo once roamed - and its comeback from the brink of extinction.


Buffalo Sunrise: The Story of North American Giant
Diane Swanson

In Buffalo Sunrise: The Story of a North American Giant, Diane Swanson introduces young readers to the fascinating world of an awesome animal. Through a combination of facts, anecdotes, and legends, they will discover how the surprisingly agile buffalo moves on tiptoe as it picks its way along narrow ledges and how it sometimes goes swimming just for fun. They will read about "buffalo birds" that warm their feet in the thick fur on buffaloes' backs and will find out why the birth of a white buffalo is so miraculous. They will also discover how buffaloes nearly disappeared from our planet a hundred years ago, but were saved just in time.

Amazing archival images and stunning full-color photographs combined with Swanson's award-winning text will make this book a favorite with young readers.


Field Guide to the North American Bison
Robert Steelequist

One of the most powerful icons of the Old West, the North American bison once numbered in the tens of millions, blanketing the plains from horizon to horizon. By the turn of the century , they were nearly extinct. Today, however, you can again see wild, free-ranging buffalo in their natural habitats and learn about them firsthand. This fully illustrated field guide provides a complete natural history of these fascinating animals, describing their evolutionary origins, physical characteristics, life cycle and behavior, and unique role in the grasslands ecosystem. Learn about the importance of buffalo in the lives of the Plains Indians, and trace the tragic tale of their near-extinction. With this field guide, you'll discover where and how to view wild bison today, and come to appreciate them as something far more vital and alive than simply a symbol of our past.


Heads, Hides & Horns: The Complete Buffalo Book
Larry Barsness

Originally I meant this book to present only the story of the men who saved the buffalo, but as my research grew, so did the scope of the book. Its direction changed. I began writing about the relationship between buffalo and man on the North American continent, for this, it seemed to me, was the story that hadn't yet been told.

The grass-eating North American buffalo both led man to the North American continent, and then, by feeding him, clothing him, and housing him, made it possible to live there. The appearance of grass on the recently bared Bering Isthmus had attracted grasseaters, the musk-ox, the tapir, the giant ground sloth- and the buffalo-to the isthmus and to the continent beyond. Man followed where the grasseaters went, especially such sizeable and easily hunted grasseaters: each kill provided food for many days.

Although some people on the new continent raised crops and others fished or hunted deer and smaller animals, many of the people who arrived here hunted amongst the plenty of the buffalo herds.

The buffalo population increased to millions, filling the Great Plains, spilling over into eastern forests and Mexican desert; the Great Plains tribes who depended on these buffalo lived surrounded by the beasts. Over thousands of years a buffalo culture developed among these tribes. They understood the buffalo's ways and respected them; they emulated his traits; they worshipped him (and the sun) as givers of life. Much that they did each day was related to their knowledge of and reverence for the buffalo.

When European white man arrived on the continent, the buffalo in turn affected his imagination: he imagined riches from the buffalo leather sold in Europe, he imagined owning herds of buffalo. He accomplished neither, but he lived on buffalo meat as he explored the continent. Later, as he began to farm, he raised cash grain crops but ate buffalo meat rather than raising cattle. And he tried to cross this native bovine with the bovines he had imported.

But when buffalo hooves trampled crops, when his eternal rubbing brought down newly-set telegraph poles, when his herds stopped railway trains, these men began to think of him as pest rather than lifegiver. And when the plains Indians, fighting against the reservation system, fed upon the buffalo as they fought off federal troops, the United States government came to see the beast as a pest also. It saw to it that the herds were all but wiped out. Free Indians became reservation Indians.

Then, the few hundreds of buffalo remaining again captured the acquisitive imagination of the white man. Showmen exhibited buffalo, schemers captured calves and started commercial herds, brokers sold commercial buffalo to butcher shops for Christmas-and to Indian tribes that could raise the money to buy buffalo to renew buffalo ritual in their lives.

Also, the dwindling numbers of buffalo captured a different aspect of man's imagination-a totally new aspect in the relationship between man and animal-an idea of saving the buffalo species from extinction. This idea so captured the imagination of Americans that, even today, eighty years later, the question I'm most often asked is, "Do you think the buffalo is really safe from extinction?"

So that's what this book tells of: man and buffalo in North America.

My years with the buffalo have changed the way I look at my home country. As I ride through it I look at hillsides, and, where brush on a sunny slope grows in bunches, I see old buffalo wallows. My eyes follow cattle trails knowing that many of them are trails first scuffed out by buffalo. A gully with raw cutbanks I suspect began as a steep buffalo trail. The signs tell me I'm in buffalo country, but I see no buffalo.

Larry Barsness
Missoula, Montana


Of Bison and Man
Harold Danz

From the days when approximately sixty million bison ranged over most of the continental U.S. and into Canada and Mexico, to its near extinction due to mindless slaughter during the westward expansion of the mid and late nineteenth century, the American bison remains both a national symbol of strength and freedom, and of shame and exploitation.

Today the American bison once again is in the centre of controversy over its role in our economy, its range, and its very right to exist in the wild.

In Of Bison and Man, Harold Danz, longtime National Park Service employee and former executive director of the American Bison Association, gives a clear, informative, and highly entertaining overview of this magnificent animal. Danz explores the bison's prehistory and natural history, its complex relationship with Native Americans, the bison slaughter and recovery, the establishment of the bison as an industry, and the role bison play today, both as a food source and as a wild animal.

Of Bison and Man will appeal to readers interested in our complex relationship with the bison as well as those wanting to know more about our natural history and resource management policies.


Seeing the White Buffalo
Robert Pickering

In the summer of 1994, the birth of a white buffalo calf in Wisconsin created a wave of excitement throughout Indian Country. The event inspired Dr. Robert Pickering to research the white buffalo's importance to Indian peoples, as well as its historical and biological significance. He journeyed to the family farm of Dave and Val Heider, where the calf-aptly named Miracle-was born. He spoke with them about the astonishing flood of visitors who came to see Miracle, and about the uncanny accuracy of some Indian elders' prophecies.

With the Heiders' cooperation, he uses their poignant story as the starting point for his investigations, Pickering examines the history of the buffalo and the biological reasons for the white buffalo's rarity, and he shares his conversations with tribal elders and modern bison ranchers. Seeing the White Buffalo skill- fully marries scientific and cultural perspectives in its exploration of the phenomena of this unusual animal.


The Buffalo Book: The Full Saga of the American Animal
David Dary

No wild animal has had a more important role in America's history than the buffalo. And The Buffalo Book captures the story and the significance of this great animal. The journals and the memoirs of nineteenth-century explorers and travelers in the American West often told of viewing buffalo massed together as far as the eye could see. This book appropriately covers the subject of the buffalo as extensively as that animal covered the plains.

The Buffalo Book rounds up all the contemporary buffalo. Locating just about every single buffalo alive today in the United States, Dary has visited or corresponded with everyone who raises a private or government herd, small or large. He maps their location, size, purpose, and future. There are even some instructions about how to raise buffalo if one is so inclined. For the gourmet, The Buffalo Book provides a number of recipes, such as Sweetgrass Buffalo and Beer Pie or Buffalo Tips a la Bourgogne. From the buffalo nickel to Wyoming's state flag, from The University of Colorado's mascot to Indiana's state seal, we picture and use the buffalo in hundreds of ways: Dary surveys the nineteenth- and twentieth-century symbol adaptation of the animal. This book weaves fascinating threads of buffalo lore and legend with fact, culminating in an authoritative portrait of an animal that is part of the cultural experience and heritage of America.


The Buffalo People; Prehistoric Archeology on the Canadian Plains
Liz Bryan

The native peoples of the Canadian prairie provinces have been living on the land for at least 12,000 years, wresting sustenance from the grasslands and the aspen parklands of the great plains that cover North America's heartlands. Our knowledge of them is limited: we have a brief picture of them galloping out on horseback to hunt the bison, then the glory is gone. Already in the process of change, the Indian way of life was swiftly destroyed by the influx of explorers and settlers who came to take over the country.

The prehistorical nomadic inhabitants of Canada had no writing, no large settlements, and very little in the way of lasting material things. Before Europeans came to North America they had no guns, no horses, no hard metals. What clues we have come primarily from the work of archeologists sifting through the buried evidence-little bits of stone and bone and pottery, refuse heaps and fire pits, ancient villages and burials, fingerprints and prehistoric blood. Yet theirs is a long and triumphant story of survival, a story that is even now just beginning to be told.


The Long Hunt: Death of the Buffalo East of the Mississippi
Ted Frank Belue

Centuries before railroads, Sharp's rifles, and Buffalo Bill Cody, buffalo roaming east of the Mississippi River were hunted by Indians, Spanish, French, and English explorers, as well as colonists, Long Hunters, and American settlers. By the 1820s, the eastern buffalo herds were gone, and much of the wild cow's habitat had been radically altered. The Long Hunt: Death of the Buffalo East of the Mississippi is the fifth book to deal solely with the buffalo that once ranged from east of the Blue Ridge to the waters of the Mississippi.

An elegy of lost innocence, The Long Hunt documents the killing of buffalo and spoliation of the buffalo's range by placing the saga in the historical setting of the European intrusion into the first Far West. Grim visions of the slaughter are chronicled through the eyes of Daniel Boone, George Rogers Clark, John Donelson, John Filson, Christopher Gist, Louis Hennepin, Louis Jolliet, Jacques Marquette, George Morgan, Thomas Walker, George Washington, and many others.

Historians, conservationists, bison herdsmen, ethnologists, and environmentalists will find in The Long Hunt a trove of previously unpublished material on buffalo, early Americana, Woodland and Southeastern Indians, and the flora and fauna of eastern North America. Moreover, for "living-history" enthusiasts, special emphasis is given to the arms, accouterments, frontier skills, lifestyles, and attire of natives, European explorers, Long Hunters, and settlers.

Representing a synthesis of disciplines, Belue's work combines the rigors of scholarship with a lucid, fast-paced narrative, and marks a milestone regarding the near-extinction of America's wild cattle. Extensively footnoted, illustrated, and supplemented with an annotated bibliography and glossary , The Long Hunt fills a significant gap in American frontier historiography.


The Time of the Buffalo
Tom McHugh

The magnificent beast that once roamed from Alaska to the Carolinas "in numbers numberless" is splendidly memorialized in The Time of the Buffalo, which begins with its genesis in the Ice Age, traces its evolution and natural history, observes its patterns of behavior, and records its life-and-death relationship with three cultures of man. Here are the ways in which the buffalo crucially affected (and was affected by) the hunters of the Pleistocene epoch and, in our era, the life of the Plains Indians and nineteenth-century frontiersmen. Here is the creature itself-seen as an integral part of a rich ecological and cultural tapestry.
Combining extensive field research on live herds with the study of historical records, Tom McHugh offers a rare closeup of the buffalo's habits and life cycle, detailing such aspects as mating, calving, stampedes, play, and aggression. In equally fascinating detail he tells how the Plains Indians used the buffalo for food, clothing, and shelter, and endowed it with spirit; how the European settlers viewed it first as an object of awe and then as a source of plunder and how, by nearly exterminating this single species, they destroyed all the Plains cultures. An account of the movement to save the buffalo completes this informative and moving work-the 1972 winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award in the nonfiction category as well as being voted the year's best western historical book by the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

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