The American Bison (Bison bison), more commonly known as the buffalo, is an icon of the North American plains. It brings thoughts of the wilds that once were to mind; the true essence of the plains and the North American West before it was settled by Westerners. Historically, bison were not able to be domesticated due to their wild temperament. It reminds me of early attempts to domesticate the various Zebra species in Africa.
Many bison nowadays do have a limited amount of cattle blood in them due to crossbreeding when their population was dangerously low. There are a few wild herds today that are considered pure. At one point in the late 1800s, their population was as low as 300 individuals. Today, there are an estimated 360,000 or more American bison in the world.
Bison are becoming more common for hobby farmers. There is one bison farm about 5 miles from my home in Ithaca, and there is one in a town in Maine that is about an hour from where I grew up. There used to be a bison and yak farm 30 minutes from my childhood home, but it is gone now. They are raised for meat and hides, but the meat is what is most sought after. The meat is higher in protein than cattle meat but is lower in fat and cholesterol. This makes it a prized meat for meat-lovers that are also watching their health, as well as anybody that enjoys the taste.
Previously, the only known way to anesthetize a bison was by using a potent narcotic that could kill a human with one drop. Now, there is a good body of research about bison anesthesia so that it can be done safely with less terrifying compounds that are safe to handle.
I hope that I get a chance to work on some bison when I enter practice. I do not expect to do too much with them, but I would be happy with vaccinations, blood draws for disease testing, or even herd health consults. I hear that blood draws can be eventful, especially if the producer does not have a squeeze chute to put the animals in. I have heard that bison hind limbs can move as fast as lightning and are very accurate when it comes to hitting you. I think it would be an honor to work with and care for them in any capacity, especially considering their importance in North American history.