Buffalo Jam

Never mess with a bison.

Scientifically speaking, North America’s largest mammal may be just another bovine and therefore related to cows, however bison are not docile farm beasts that give us milk and butter.

No, bison are hefty, undauntable creatures that are strong enough roll your car, should they ever have such an interest. Fortunately, most bison favor other hobbies, like eating grass, roaming the rolling Western landscapes, rolling in the dust, fighting with each other, mating, and caring for their adorable russet-coated calves.

Visiting Yellowstone, I got to observe all of these behaviors firsthand, which made me feel like a very lucky tourist. Once upon a time, America’s wild bison were just about everywhere, but then turned quickly scarce due to careless over-hunting. Set aside in 1872, Yellowstone National Park was the first formal effort to protect what is, in my opinion, the most American animal of all.

Now, some might think the most American creature is a bald eagle (of which I saw several in Yellowstone), or wild turkey (the one we eat at Thanksgiving), but nothing makes me feel more patriotic than watching a bunch of bison kicking up dust on the sagebrush hills of Wyoming.

Today, the Yellowstone herd numbers a healthy and sustainable 3,000 animals. Most important, it is one of very few genetically pure bison breeds left on earth.

Adult male bison can weigh more than a ton (2,000 lbs.) and grow horns up to two feet long. This time of year, the animals are mating, which means the males are often fighting, clashing horns and butting heads with one another. To sit behind the wheel of my car and watch two bison fighting over a female, only a few yards away from me, was a highlight of my trip to America’s first national park.

When not fighting, the buffalo enjoyed crossing the road, strolling back and forth and back again. In fairness, the roads tend to interrupt their endless grazing habitat, so I was in their way, rather than the other way around. If someone stood in front of my refrigerator every time I wanted to go eat, I would probably flare my nostrils and grunt and snort a little too.

Buffalo traffic jams are part of what makes Yellowstone so amazing, so the best thing to do is sit back and watch the show.

For most of us, this is the closest we will ever (safely) get to wild bison.


  1. glmackie
    August 24, 2012, 2:33 pm

    did not realize yellowstone had so much to offer. it really is a natural wonder. thankyou for sharing.

  2. Liam
    August 24, 2012, 8:50 pm

    Bison are such beautiful, yet sort of strange, creatures. What an opportunity to come so close to one!

  3. Tareq
    August 26, 2012, 2:18 am

    Nice one>>

  4. Donna Lachner
    September 16, 2012, 3:44 pm

    I have seen the Bison but in C.O. They are awesome creatures!! I would “LOVE” to go to Yellow Stone . Everyone should see such beautiful places!! Picture’s don’nt give it justice!!! <3 🙂

  5. Suzy Hall
    Yellowstone Country / Montana
    September 20, 2012, 8:30 pm

    If you’re interested in a trip to Yellowstone we invite you to check out vacation rental cabins and homes available through Mountain Home Vacation Rentals. We also offer private guided tours in Yellowstone through our sister company, Greater Yellowstone Guides. http://www.mountain-home.com and 800-550-4589 – Suzy Hall

  6. tom
    new jersey
    September 25, 2012, 12:29 am

    Once upon a time, America’s wild bison were just about everywhere, but then turned quickly scarce due to careless over-hunting. Wow, don’t you mean in order to murder the Indians, the white man decided to eliminate their food source thereby making them starve to death. i believe it’s called genocide.

    British Virgin Islands
    January 25, 2013, 1:44 pm

    Great writing as usual, dear Frere Ajax – bisous – Sophie

    • Andrew Evans
      January 25, 2013, 11:08 pm

      Merci Sophie! Appreciate your kind words. Bisous right back atcha! Andrew

  8. […] last summer, I visited Yellowstone in the height of its busiest season, and though I enjoyed the wildlife, visiting in the dead of winter offered a far more intimate experience. I truly loved the lack of […]