Bison Wool

Bison Wool-Down


Utilizing Short Carded ‘Down”  Prime Grade

In situations where it is found that the cleaned fiber is too short to draw through spinning equipment, short carded fiber may be blended with another fiber which can act as a carrier to draw the buffalo fiber through spinning machinery. The choice of this carrier will determine the quality of the finished

– A blend of buffalo with alpaca and/or llama makes a stronger, slightly coarser yarn that is excellent for children’s and men’s wear such as mittens, socks, or slippers. On a finer basis, a blend with silk makes an excellent yarn for baby wear or ladies’ fine garments that may be worn comfortably next to the skin.

Secondary Grade

Short fiber can be carded into quilt batting, which makes wonderful filling for duvets and pillows. It is soft, light, and has amazing insulating properties!

Short carded fiber can also be felted into sheets of material for sewing. Poorer grades of carded fiber,
which have been discarded in the carding process, can be used for stuffing pet mattresses, or felted into horse blankets or saddle pads.

Enclosed in this pdf that the Canadian Bison Association so graciously shared with me is much more information. Bison_Down_Fibre- 2004 Please feel free to download the file or contact them. 


Bison Wool

1804 Lewis & Clark
The Buffaloe I killed yesterday had cast his long hare, and the poil which remained was very thick, fine, and about 2 inches in length. I think this anamal would have furnished about five pounds of wool.’


1887-Once a year the great fleece, weighing from 10-14 pounds is shed and its manufacture into thick warm cloth was at one time a regular industry at Winnipeg until it was discontinued by the extirpation of the animals in the adjoining region. 

 1888-Each animal yields from 10 to 12 pounds of this material, and some years ago there was established in Winnipeg a cloth factory for the manufacture of buffalo wool.

Today a couple of sources say 1-3 pounds of down and separated to  8-9 ounces of fine down,  ending up 4-6 after cleaning. 



Bison Fur Gown Suit Oct 13 1895

The Cree word for “bison hair rubbed off and fluffed up on bushes” is “omestanpewayanah”

The natives did not use “down” for a textile purpose but as an insulator, such as liners for moccasins, or for diaper filling.

Selkirk Settlers who came from Scotland into the Red River the area in 1812 used buffalo fiber for clothing.

During 1820-24 there was a Buffalo Wool Company which exported goods back to Britain.

In 1895 a bison gown was made in California.




Presentation by Adele Boucher, Fiber Coordinator,

Canadian Bison Association


1905 est Ernest Harold Baynes, exhibited a lot of Buffalo wool that had been shed by the Corbin herd. From some of this, a scheme of yarn was spun by the usual method and from this, a pair of gloves had been knitted. These and the yarn were soft and felt very much like medium-grade yarn,  but were somewhat oily and emitted a strong odor which of course could have been eliminated had there been a desire to do so.


“Bison Down”

(Micron Size)

21-24    Delicate curly fiber like cotton fluff, or ‘down’.

30-32    Fine light brown/beige/white hair approximately same size as alpaca hair.

36      Medium brown hair about the same size as human hair.

55      Coarse brown outer hair.

98      The stiff black hair found in the cape and tail.

Bison Wool Samples


Raw fiber is collected by picking “fluff” off fences, brush, tall grass or rubbing post.

                   Fence Collection                                                 Wool on Tree Collecting


The big chunks that fall off the bison are called ‘tags’. I can usually watch out for these anytime they are shedding and they will be caught in the tall grass or against a tree… you can see in the picture below, how a tag is peeling off from the body.

Bison Wool TagsBison Wool Tag Inner-sideBison Wool Tag Outer-side

Bison ‘down’ has a staple length of 1-2 inches and contains no lanolin so it does not dye or bleach well.

It will not shrink if washed and rinsed in the same temperature water and must be dried naturally without heat.  It must be washed gently without agitation or fibers will felt easily. The ‘down’ has high modulation, or insulating properties, and is soft, warm and durable.

Early lab analysis indicates that a large percentage of ‘down’ is under 30 microns in size, thus yielding a high comfort factor.


Loose Wool

Processing of “Down”

Hand sorting – debris and dirt are picked out and coarse hairs and felted chucks must be removed. Fiber is washed, rinsed picked open then carded and drawn into pencil rovings, or felted into sheets.




Rovings Bison Wool

Rovings are spun into a strand, two or more strands are piled together to form yarn.

Yarn can be woven into a fabric, or knit into garments, crocheted into cushions, afghans, etc.

Costly to process in small amounts _ about $ 10 per ounce or about $1.50 for each step in processing.

Enhanced when blended with other natural fibers of similar micron size, such as cashmere or silk.




wool vest, handmade
Made by Bonnie Mae of Idaho (Frasier Bison logo embellished on the back)


This is a bison wool vest made for me by a wonderful lady in Idaho. She makes some great things that can be viewed at Frasier Bison Wool Products.









Department of Commerce
Report on Blanket of Buffalo Wool
Submitted by  Mr. C. Goodnight, Goodnight, Texas

Reference: Letter of March 1, 1918. In reply refer to: Test No. B76

Sample MarkB9B76
Heat Transmission1.7151.715
Weight Oz. per Square20.614.1
Thickness Ins.0.1360.163

The rating refers to a comparison of the heating qualities with reference to the old U. S. Army Standard Blanket which is given here as B-9.  

The Heat Transmission is the number of calories transmitted per sq. cm. per hour per degree C difference in temperature.

The permeability may be considered as an index to the amount of air passing through it and is the tangent of the curve obtained by plotting velocity of air passing through against the pressure resulting therefrom. To secure the most advantageous warmth qualities it is desirable to have the heat transmission and permeability as close to zero as possible.

BUREAU OF STANDARDS. March 23, 1918. Washington, D. C.



The advantage of the buffalo over cattle is, that it has a true wool similar to that of sheep. Ernest Harold Baynes, at an exhibit of the American Bison Society at the Sportsmen’s Show some years ago, showed samples of this wool, together with yarn spun from it, and gloves knitted from the yarn. The exhibit included letters from woolen manufacturers expressing the opinion that buffalo wool was very closely akin to sheep’s wool, that it was stronger than the average wool, and that for a long time it would be in demand at a high price as a novelty. If it could be obtained in quantity, there would be a good market for it for the manufacture of articles not requiring to be dyed in lighter colors.

The Pittsburgh Press
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Sep 13, 1920
Today – Wool From Bisons.

The wool of the American bison surviving in the national parks is no longer to go to waste. It will be clipped, the bisons permitting and made into clothing for the park rangers. In national parks, laws protect bisons, deer and other animals from their enemies, the wolves and men. There would be no lack of wool, no lack of meat if the government all over the country would protect sheep from their enemies, the dogs. In one state sheep farming is given up almost entirely in order that foolish individuals may have the pleasure of owning 400,000 dogs, useless, except to flatter their masters by pretending to think them superior.


The Minneapolis Star
Minneapolis, Minnesota Jan 9 1923
Short Jacket Gains Favor For Winter

 By Interactional News Service

Paris, Jan. 7. Generally speaking, the short jacket seems to have gained the upper hand over the long coat this winter.

Two reasons have made madame choose the fur jacket instead of a great coat. It is much lighter in weight and infinitely less expensive. Shaved caracul, with bands of gray Iamb, makes a charming short jacket, and there are others in brletschwarntz, gazelle, monkey, bison and pony. Gray squirrel and moleskin probably claim the greatest number. Moleskin is best suited to incrustations, gathers and little folds.

The jackets are mostly hip-Iength straight in cut and drawn in about the hips with a belt, many of them in metal, closed by an old fashioned buckle.