A BLT is tomato,
With bacon, lettuce and mayo,
But to old-fashioned Sioux,
No meat compares to
The “pork of the plains”: buffalo.
The American buffalo (Bison bison) is a large North American bovine that’s related to other buffalos, cattle, yaks and certain antelopes. Also known as bison, they can grow taller at the shoulder than an adult human and weigh up to a metric ton. Their average lifespan is around 20 years. They once roamed the continent in vast herds — numbering perhaps 60 million — from upper Mexico, across the U.S. and far north into Canada. They served as a primary food source for native Americans of the Great Plains, such as the Sioux, Comanche, Arapaho and Cheyenne. When Europeans moved en masse westward in the 19th Century, they used firearms to hunt bison on an unprecedented scale. By 1900, the buffalo teetered on the edge of extinction, with a population of only 300. Today, on public and private lands, they number around 530,000, thanks to over 100 years of conservation. However, the old population bottleneck resulted in a lack of diversity, which has impacted the resiliency of the genome. Though in the same sub-family as domesticated cattle, they are a different genus. Interbreeding over time has reduced the distinctly bison bloodline to some mere 15,000 specimens.