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All About Buffalo

The Buffalo Will Always be Our Education

As the largest mammal in North America, the Buffalo has ecological and cultural necessity to the land and people. When we coexist with the Buffalo and learn more about them, we are in turn learning more about ourselves and our relationship with the land.
Facts about Buffalo

Buffalo Facts

  • The Buffalo is our National Mammal, and the largest mammal in North America.
  • Yellowstone National Park is the only place in the U.S. where Buffalo have continuously lived for millenia.
  • Buffalo can run up to 35 miles per hour, and they’re strong swimmers.
  • Buffalo primarily eat grasses, weeds and leafy plants — typically foraging for 9-11 hours a day.
  • The average lifespan of Buffalo is 10-20 years, but some live to be older.
  • Just like humans, females give birth to one calf after a nine-month pregnancy.
  • Every day, the average Buffalo produces 10 to 12 quarts of dung. The patties are important sources of nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, sulfur and magnesium for plants and other animals.
  • Like elk, Buffalo have four stomachs.
  • Adult males and females have horns, which are typically three to six inches in diameter at the base and grow up to two feet long.
  • Buffalo have seven times the amount of hair per square inch as a cow. They shed every spring, and hair can be used to make yarn and ropes (or birds use it for nests).

Traditional Uses of Buffalo

Buffalo are in our songs and stories — they provided clothing, tools, toys, shelter and a critical food source. They were once life’s commissary, and while we may not use buffalo hides for modern clothing today, there are countless ways we can restore our cultural connection, spirit and gifts from the animal.
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Traditional Uses of Buffalo
all about buffalo keystone species

Buffalo Are a Keystone Species

Many plant and animal species in Wind River and the North American high plains depend on Buffalo for survival. The Buffalo hold them together — providing fertilizer, spreading native seeds, aerating soil with their hooves, and creating habitat for other small animals.

Buffalo wallows (compacted depressions in the ground created by Buffalo rolling on their backs) also hold rainwater during heavy downpours, where plants and insects can thrive.

Species that rely on the Buffalo include:

  • Magpies
  • Long-Billed Curlew
  • Prairie Dogs
  • Pronghorn Antelope
  • Mountain Plover
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Ferruginous Hawks
  • Cowbird (should be called the buffalo bird)
  • Many more…
“Buffalo are ecosystem engineers.”

– Dr. Leroy Little Bear

Glossary Terms

buffalo jump

Buffalo Jump

A Buffalo jump is a natural cliff or steep drop-off used in ancient hunting practices by tribal people. This method of hunting allowed the hunters to gather and kill large numbers of Buffalo at one time.

buffalo wallow


Wallowing takes place when a Buffalo rolls on bare patches of dirt. Wallowing is used for dust baths to protect Buffalo from insects and is an important form of social interaction.

buffalo bellows


Bellows are communication between individuals within a herd. They are made during mating season to announce a male’s presence and establish dominance within the herd. Mature bull bellows can be heard up to three miles away during peak rutting season!

ungulates hoof


Buffalo are ungulates, or two-toed mammals with hooves. Other ungulates include elk, moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, and deer.

herbivores herd


As herbivores, Buffalo like to eat low growing grasses and shrubs. They graze for about 10 hours each day, and can even walk while they eat.

buffalo red dog calf

Red Dog

A red dog is another name for a baby Buffalo, since they are born with orange-red hair. Many calves are born in the spring, and after a few months their hair starts to turn brown and their horns begin to grow.

Learn More About Buffalo

All About Buffalo

History of the Buffalo

Healing with Buffalo

Native Values

Myths & Facts

Science & Research

For Educators