Buffalo History

A Condensed Story

The American Bison has a bigger history than many assume, with origins in pre-historic times and more recently becoming an official national symbol.

Ancient History

The origins of the bison stem back to pre-historic times with the Bison latifrons (an extinct species of bison) living during the Pleistocene epoch, which lasted from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago, Buffalo grazing fields stretched from the forests of modern-day Alaska to the grasslands of Mexico. Both the prehistoric and current plains buffalo are well adapted to face the summers and winters thanks to its thick hide and massive body structure.

Native American Plains Indians

The huge and muscled mammal thrived in the land now called the United States of America. The indigenous people who lived in the expansive plains used the bison for survival. The buffalo served as their source of food, shelter, clothing and more. This importance extended the buffalo’s significance into both their cultural and spiritual lives.

Facing Extinction

It was after the US Civil War that the bison faced the danger of extinction. By the time the 20th century began, there were only a few hundred of bison left. History gives credit to a few concerned individuals who fought tirelessly to save the mammal. The US Department of the Interior and Yellowstone National Park worked with states, individuals and indigenous tribes to the rescue and restore the pride of the land.


Prehistoric bison are closely related to the buffalo of today. There are many national parks in the west including Custer State Park with hundreds of buffalo allowed to roam free.


Buffalo ranchers and conversancy groups across the world work together to manage the buffalo population. Today, buffalo are a sustainable resource that is valued and no longer faces depletion. Ranchers sell buffalo for both the meat and the animal’s byproduct (furs, hair, hooves, etc.) These private herds represent the majority of today’s population. However. Bison do roam freely in places like Yellowstone National Park and Custer State Park, in South Dakota.

Learn more with these Buffalo Facts