Great Plains Bison

Great Plains Bison

Great Plains Bison

Great Plains Bison


A Project of the Center for Great Plains Studies and the School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska

Great Plains Bison traces the history and ecology of this American symbol from the origins of the great herds that once dominated the prairie to its near extinction in the late nineteenth century and the subsequent efforts to restore the bison population.

A longtime wildlife biologist and one of the most powerful literary voices on the Great Plains, Dan O'Brien has managed his own ethically run buffalo ranch since 1997. Drawing on both extensive research and decades of personal experience, he details not only the natural history of the bison but also its prominent symbolism in Native American culture and its rise as an icon of the Great Plains. Great Plains Bison is a tribute to the bison's essential place at the heart of the North American prairie and its ability to inspire naturalists and wildlife advocates in the fight to preserve American biodiversity.


This is a short, simple book about a complicated slice of history. It is the story of the relationship between human beings and buffalo. the subject has been dealt with in hundreds of books and scientific papers by noted scholars; some of those sources are listed in the bibliography. Though much of what I have included in this volume came from those sources, I am not an academic. I am a buffalo rancher, a storyteller, and a citizen of the Great Plains.

Great Plains Bison is the story of a place, the Great Plains of North America, and an animal, Bison bison bison, the dominant species on those plains for most of the last eight thousand years. of course, buffalo is a popular misnomer. the buffalo of the North American plains are more properly called bison, and they have two close cousins—the European wisent (Bison bison bonasua) and the North American wood buffalo (Bison bison athabascae). All three subspecies have suffered huge declines in numbers as humans have prospered, but the history of the plains buffalo of North America is the most dramatic because their population was so enormous and their decline so precipitous.

I first saw the Great Plains sixty years ago and have lived on them, within sight of the Black Hills, for forty-five. I have traveled the length and breadth of the Great Plains and have . . .

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