Bison released San Diego Zoo

A genetically pure herd of American bison has been living in Utah’s Henry Mountains, a discovery offering new hope that wild herds can be expanded to once again roam freely in the West.

Most bison alive today have been interbred with cattle after the iconic prairie species was nearly hunted to extinction. But, scientists having run DNA tests on some of the 350 bison in the Utah herd have now confirmed they are direct descendants of roughly 20 wild bison transferred from Yellowstone National Park in 1941.


Farmers started cross-breeding cattle with bison in the 1800s hoping to create livestock that could flourish in the arid lands of the desert southwest. It was assumed that wild bison, roaming freely with cattle would also interbreed with domesticated livestock, but this rare herd has avoided that for 70 years.

The Utah herd, though grazing closely by cattle, showed no signs of brucellosis – a livestock disease that ranchers fear bison could spread if reintroduced to parts of the country.

RELATED: New Baby Bison, First One Born in Nearly Two Centuries in Eastern US

“This is a remarkable finding considering these free-roaming, legally hunted animals live on unfenced public lands and graze alongside livestock,” Johan du Toit, wildlife ecologist from Utah State University, and one of the researchers said.

He adds that the herd could be an important resource in restoring bison to their historic range across the American West.

The researchers published their findings in the journal PLOS One.

Share This Story With Your Herd… – Photo: San Diego Zoo


  1. This is really great. My story may be of interest to you. I am a native of Minnesota; my grandfather and neighbor purchased two buffalo cows and buffalo bull back in the 70S’. Their idea was to breed them as well as cross them with I think it was Herford cows or bull or both! They both were farmers and they both went to MN Agriculture and Animal Husbandry workshops when they came to Saint Cloud. However; they both soon discovered, that the buffalo cows did not conceived with the buffalo. Next, they tried the buffalo cows with Hertford bull; they eventually ended up with two beefalo calves, one female and one male. However, the two beefalo when of proper age, they prove to be sterile. The same principle applies to crossing a donkey with a horse and the out come is Mule. The mules did not prove to be fertile; consequently, they were sterile.
    The Mules proved to be good helpers as in stone boat pulling, moving heavy logs, etc. Gramps did use the team principle…same with his Belgians…[today, this breed is on the extinction list and are protected. They were not sterile; in fact, they have a program in Netherlands that perpetuates the Belgian breed, among other draft horses.] Apologies, I did not mean to side track. I believe they had good intentions, however, back then “it was trial and error” methods. I am not sure what happened to the buffalo bull; I believe he was sold. Two main reasons: infertility, and the buffalo bulls are huge and strong. My grandfather did build fencing using the white oak that is extinct today. 8x8x10′ posts (two men) 3x12x8′ white oak boards (gramps had his own sawmill, so back then lumber he cut was true. Today, they take off 3/4″ and call it for example 1x12x8 is really 3/4×11 1/4x 8 and they charge a small fortune. Pine is becoming scarce so now it is fur. Really scrub wood. They are using it in building these big $100,000-$200,000 homes. The two buffalo cows just like cattle in some respects. One did succumb to hardware’s diseases (that is what they called it back then). The other lived till it got old, do not remember what happened to her. Most likely sent to the meat market. I am working on my own revival of extinct species of wood.

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