The Once Rare -White Buffalo
Throughout history, I have read about white buffalo sightings or buffalo with white spots. I have also read many times about domestic cattle running with a herd of wild bison. Some ranchers today believe that bison will not naturally cross with cattle when roaming together. Animals do one thing very well and that is breed. “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one your with.” (song by Stephen Stills} Personally I am not a fan of the forced crosses. It does absolutely nothing to promote our bison. What all these animals have gone through in history, we owe them our dedication to preserving what we were left with.
Oct 1754 white buffalo –Antony Heneday (trader among the Blackfeet saw a white buffalo skin in a Blackfeet village. The skin was used as a seat covering by a Blackfeet chief. (The Buffalo Book, by Dary)
[Burpee] JOURNAL OF A JOURNEY PERFORMED BY ANTHONY HENDRY, TO EXPLORE THE COUNTRY INLAND, AND TO ENDEAVOUR TO INCREASE THE HUDSON’S BAY COMPANY’S
TRADE, AD. 1754-1755.’
Perhaps the only flaw in Burpee’s presentation of the journal is his habit of placing Graham’s original footnotes within his own, thus removing Graham’s comments from the document of which they are an integral part.
In a few places, Burpee appears to have misread Graham’s handwriting. On 14 October, Journal D recorded that the Archithinue “King” was seated on “a clean Buffalo skin.” Burpee’s transcription placed the “King” on “a clear (white) Buffalo skin,” and added a footnote citing George Catlin’s North American Indians concerning the religious significance of an albino buffalo skin. (https://mspace.lib.umanitoba.ca)
The Evening Post New York, New York 1816
STRAYED from the subscriber, at Greenwich, on Friday. 26th April, a large brindle COW, with the tip of her horn sawed off; the above cow went away with two others- one a red and white buffaloe, the other a black, with the tip of her horns sawed off. It is supposed she is now detained by some person, as the two cows which did not give any milk were suffered to return on Sunday evening without her. Whoever will give information where she is detained, or will return her, shall be handsomely rewarded, by WM. C. LUDLOW. Greenwich. May1 – 1w
The Baltimore Sun Maryland June 21 1864 -found white buffalo cow & calf
The American Bisons pg 39 by J.A. Allen-1876
Albinism and Melanism. — Pied individuals are occasionally met with, but they are of rare occurrence.* I have seen but a single specimen, the head of which, finely mounted, is now in the Museum of Comparative Zoology. I obtained it of hunters at Fort Hays, Kansas, near which place it was taken in 1870, where it was regarded as a great curiosity. In this specimen, a female, the whole face, from between the horns to the muzzle, is pure white, but in other respects does not differ from ordinary examples. White individuals are still more rare, but are not unknown. A former agent of the American Fur Company, who had had unusually favorable opportunities of judging, informed me that they probably occur in the proportion of not more than one in millions, he having seen but five in an experience of twenty years, although he had met with hundreds of pied ones. Black ones are rather more frequent, but can only be regarded as very rare. The fur of these is usually much softer and finer than that of ordinary individuals, and black robes, from this fact and their great rarity, bring a very large price. They seem to be more frequent at the northward than elsewhere.
In 1876 when C.J. Jones set out to capture calves to start his process of domestication, on the way home he saw some white buffalo. ” When the Colonel arrived at the spot he had suggested, he found himself within two or three hundred yards of the mixed animals and was surprised to discover that instead of all white beasts being cattle, only one was a white native cow, while the others were white buffalo: a three-year-old, two-year-old and a yearling. Later he figured out what he saw was cattalo, calves sired by a full-blooded buffalo. A white buffalo was killed on the Smokey river in western Kansas, many years ago. The skin was saved and mounted and presented to the State Agriculture Museum at Topeka, Kansas, where it yet may be seen. It was also a catalo.” -40 Years of Adventures
THE WHITE BUFFALO. Aug 22 1885
An Exciting Chase on the Plains of Montana—Indian Superstition.
An Exciting Chase on the Plains of Montana—Indian Superstition.
The color of the buffalo, or American bison, is uniform throughout the herds–dark brown to almost black, and any specimen varying markedly from that color may be considered an accidental freak of nature, like a black fox or a white crow, and I have seen several of the fine “silk” robes, as they are called from the peculiar soft and silky character of the hair, and other curious pelts, but in many years of experience as a plainsman I saw but one white buffalo. Nor from the lips of the many white and Indian hunters whom I have met did I ever hear of any other that deserved the name. Once a yellowish or very light brown buffalo was killed in the Yellowstone region and it is sometimes erroneously recalled as having been white. I also hear of a “white” buffalo among the display of taxidermists’ articles in the Dakota department at the New Orleans Exposition, but those who have seen the specimen say it is far from a pure white. It is therefore safe to say that the only white buffalo deserving the name, of which there is any authentic account, is the one I am about to describe.
It was in September 1875. Three other hunters and hide buyers and myself were following a camp of about two hundred lodges of Teton Sioux under old Medicine Bear. Dr. ——, (name purposely hidden in the article) agency physician at old Fort Peck, (since swept away by the encroaching Missouri,) was in our party for the purpose of seeing a great buffalo hunt. We were on Frenchman’s creek, a tributary of Milk River, which flows from the north into the Missouri. The exact location must have been seventy-five to eighty miles north of “the Muddy” and twenty miles, or thereabout, north of the Canadian boundary.
The country was full of buffalo. That morning the main herd had passed our camp, occupying hours in the movement, and as we advanced toward the Indian lodges we could look in any direction over the rolling prairie and see lone or clustered black forms–the unshapely bodies of feeding buffaloes. When we reached the Indian encampment the bucks of the party, the soldier band, had broken into the main herd, and in every direction, was riding down stragglers, detaching small bands from the rushing mass, whooping, shooting, and spearing. As is their custom on occasions of such a grand hunt, the bucks were gaily painted and feathered and as they rushed to and fro on” their fleet ponies, carrying on the work of butchery, a scene was presented such might well be commemorated in American classics– the arena, the limitless prairie; the game, countless numbers of the noblest of the bovine species; the hunters, the wildest representatives of the untamable native races of the northwest. The buffaloes are gone, the Indians are going; such a pageant will never be witnessed again.
My companions and I were watching the scene with intense interest, though to all but the doctor (who was wild with delight) it was no novelty, when an exclamation from a squaw, who was skinning a buffalo near us, called our attention to the “white buffalo.” When I first looked at this beautiful creature, as her course turned around a low hillock half a mile away, I thought she was one of the not uncommon “silk” buffaloes, and that the sun shining upon her glistening broadside gave her, to my eyes, the peculiar color. But in a moment, her direction changed, so that I knew it was no trick of the sunlight that made her look dazzlingly white. She was, as I afterward found, a cow about four years old and of unusually delicate and symmetrical form as well as of a milky white color. Even her hoofs and horns were white. I had heard from the Indians gossip of this wonderful animal, but from the marvelous character of the stories told had given little attention to them, and concluded that the “white buffalo” was only one of the mythical narrations in which Indian folk-lore abounds. They told of her unnatural color; that she was always surrounded by other buffaloes who protected her from the hunters; that she was very fleet, and on occasions had been known to mysteriously disappear; that they always had bad luck in the hunt when she appeared on the prairie; that she was, in fact, “bad medicine,” -an evil spirit. In common with all ignorant races of people, the Indians are very superstitious, and readily clothe any unusual or unexplainable natural appearance with a supernatural character. This tendency is fostered by their religion–a species of pantheism that reverences all natural objects.
Orders had gone forth that this white buffalo must be killed so that the evil spirit might be exorcised. She had been seen more quickly by hunters than by us and some of the most active of the young bucks were immediately in pursuit, anxious to display their prowess skill, though no doubt secretly filled with fear. We whites were so much interested in the fate of the beautiful animal that we, too, started in the direction of the race across the prairie now left clear by the fleeing herd. As one after another of the pursuing Indians turned aside to join the main hunt it seemed that another supernatural escape of the “white spirit” was to be recorded, for truly the stories of her fleetness had not been exaggerated to the usual extent. But one young buck, mounted on a swift and hardy pony and anxious to distinguish himself, kept up the chase and after a hard ride was successful. His peculiar whoop of exultation drew attention to his success and to his locality and the chiefs of the hunt hastened in his direction and were soon followed by the entire band.
We were among the first to arrive. The gallant knight errant who had thus successfully overcome the spirit of evil supposed to be inclosed in the form of that noble and beautiful animal, dismounted from his horse and was standing motionless, silent, and stolid beside her carcass. The chiefs held a very brief council and then stripped the successful hunter of all his arms and scanty paraphernalia, except his breech-clout, took his horse from him, and directed him to walk back to the home camp on the Missouri. This was intended as a punishment upon the slayer of the cow in order that the tribe might be in a safe position to plead in case the Deity was offended by the slaughter of this being of supposed supernatural character; they wanted to be on the safe side in any event. It may be here added that the young man was abundantly rewarded and honored for his bravery when the band returned from a successful hunt and (as will appear) a propitious disposition of the cow. When preliminaries had been thus arranged with the gods the buffalo was very quickly and deftly skinned. The longest pole that could be obtained in the vicinity was cut, and upon this, the snow-white, silky robe was suspended high in the air, as an offering to the sun, the Supreme Deity of the Sioux. Then began a sort of religious ceremony in the form of a dance around the pole, accompanied by prayers and incantations. They asked for plenty of grass upon which the buffalo feeds, good luck in the hunt, success against their enemies, and a variety of minor blessings. This was kept up the remainder of the day and far into the night. Next morning when they started again on the trail of the buffalo herd, runners were sent back at intervals to observe whether the robe still remained in its place.
We of white breeding, who admired but did not reverence this handsome robe, conceived a violent desire to possess it and regarded it as a great pity that it should remain on the pole to be destroyed by buzzards or rotted by the elements. Next night, as we smoked around our fire on the outskirts of the Indian encampment, we discussed how it was possible to obtain the robe. A young French half-breed named Louie, one who, from long acquaintance and several favors, was very friendly with us was among the Sioux. Him we took into our counsels. Knowing that his absence from the camp would not be remarked, nor his purpose suspected, we offered him ten dollars, a bright gold eagle, if he would ride back, capture the robe and bring it to us. Louie was almost as superstitious about the white buffalo as were the Indians, though he was a Christian in religion. The pay was good enough, but he did not like the mission; but after some coaxing and mild ridicule of his fears, his pride as well as his cupidity was excited and he started. Shortly after midnight he stole into our wakeful camp and, with a whisper of relief, delivered up the coveted robe, and received his pay, besides a liberal present. Early next morning a courier was dispatched to look after the sacrifice and returned with the news that it was gone. It was immediately concluded that the sun had taken the offering, and the Sioux expressed much satisfaction the auspicious omen. (The white men felt a satisfaction they did not express) As the continued hunt was unusually successful it was promptly concluded by the tribe that the killing of the cow was most remarkable luck, and the removal of the robe by the sun, one the most signal marks of favor ever bestowed upon the tribe.
During the following days that we remained with the Indian camp, we kept the white pelt carefully concealed in our blankets. By unanimous consent, it was given to Dr.________ , and when we reached Fort Peck again he tanned it in his office with chemicals. Soon afterward he left the northwest and returned to his home in New York State, and I have never since heard from either him or the hide of the most beautiful and singular animal I have ever seen on the prairie.
Buffalo Jones helped to organized a plan to cross bison with one hundred head of Galloway cattle in the Grand Canyon. He bailed on the project when he believed they would not naturally cross. This is just one picture proving that they did cross. – 1905
The Washington Post
Washington D.C. Jan. 31, 1909
Fear of White Buffalo
White buffaloes have been frequently seen and killed on the Western plains. The Indian tribes regard them as big medicine and Catlin the painter while with the Mandans in 1832 saw a white buffalo robe on a pole in their village as a sacrifice to the great spirit. It had been purchased from the Blackfeet who had killed it. The Mandans gave the Blackfeet eight horses and a quantity of goods for it. The Comanches always regarded the white animal as very dangerous to themselves.
In a history of the bison published in The American Naturalist, the author tells of meeting a young Comanche Indian returning to his camp nearly dead with fear because he had seen a white buffalo. He was taken into camp, and for more than a week the medicine men of the tribe gathered and smoked medicine over him to drive away the bad effects of meeting the white buffalo. At last, the evil was smoked away and it was considered by the tribe that the young brave had had a very narrow escape from dire misfortune.
In 1863 a white man killed a white buffalo on the North Fork of the Red River and presented the skin to Gen Grierson. In order to preserve the skin the general desired it dressed but for a long time, it was impossible to persuade any Indian- to undertake the task. At last Horseback a noted Comanche chief attracted by the tempting offers contracted to dress the skin under several conditions. When his conditions were accepted Horseback selected one of his many wives and placed her under the care of the medicine man of his tribe.
These medicine men went through various ceremonies to preserve her life against the evil of the white animal. She was next taken to a tent a great distance off from the other tents and placed in it alone. Here the skin was brought to her by a white soldier. No other Indian in the tribe dared to approach the squaws’ tent while she was engaged in dressing the skin. Her food was placed a great way off from her tent and she was not spoken to or looked upon while thus isolated. When the skin had been dressed the white soldier again came for it and once more the medicine men called in the Great Spirit before she was allowed to rejoin the others of her tribe.
Great Falls Tribune
Great Falls, Montana July 7, 1933
ALBINO BUFFALO CALF IS BORN IN MOIESE BISON RANGE; AMONG FEW EVER KNOWN BY WHITE MEN
Special to The Tribune.
DIXON, July 6. An albino buffalo was born about six weeks ago at the national bison range near Moiese. The animal is pure white except for a few patches of brown hair on the upper part of the head. This is the first albino buffalo to be born on the reserve and records show only two others, one at Pierre, S. D., about 50 years ago and another which was killed by an Indian trader in the early days.
R.S. Norton, warden of the bison range, reports that more than 100 buffalo calves were born on the range this spring.
Even when millions of buffalo lived on the great plains, a white buffalo was so rare that few were observed. “One or two in a lifetime was the utmost that any hunter secured,” says Ernest Thompson Seton, and Dr. W. T. Hornaday tells that he “met many old-time buffalo hunters, who had killed thousands and seen scores of thousands of buffalo, yet never had seen a white one.” According to E. Douglas Branch there was “only one white animal in the five million and more bison of the southern herd.” Dr. Hornaday believed that “not over 10 or 11 white buffalo, or white buffalo skins were ever seen by white men.” A single albino was raised about 30 years ago in a herd at Pierre, S. D says Dr. Robert S. Norton, protector or the national bison range.
The Indians looked upon an albino buffalo with awe, considered it “big medicine,” and for a good skin paid the price of 10 or 15 horses. Then piety, says Branch, demanded that three or four years after the purchase the skin should be offered to the wind and rain. The white man also was willing to pay a high price for an albino skin. Branch tells that the single albino of the southern herd fell to the gun of a plainsman, who sold it for $1,000. So highly were the white buffalo prized that, said Hornaday, not a single one, so far as I can learn, ever had the good fortune to attain adult size.”
“The national bison range,” says Paul G. Redington, chief of the bureau of biological survey, “is maintained to assist in perpetuating the American buffalo, which at the time of the establishment of the range was threatened with extermination. We are therefore much interested in having in the herd an example of a variation so rare as the white buffalo. When only one was known in a herd of more than 5,000,000, it is particularly interesting that we should have this “big medicine’ in a herd of about 500 animals.”
Canadian Geographic by Ben Singer (2007)- Domestication of Bison
“As far back as 1750, wild bison were known to occasionally breed with cattle in the southern United States, yielding hybrid calves with some qualities of both animals. “
The Buffalo Book by David A. Dary – Published by Ohio University Press, who was kind enough to let me share this small part of D. Dary’s book.
This book was very well-researched and sourced. If you are looking for a great read, this book is one. Its chapters include the first buffalo to the future and where to find buffalo and everything in between. One of my favorite reads.
A buffalo’s robe did not have to be completely white – a true albino – to be considered powerful in the eyes of most Plains Indians. Any buffalo with unusual coloring was often held in great reverence. Even buffalo with only small patches of white or cream color were thought to be good medicine.
During the early 1870s, J. A. Allen bought one of these pied buffalo from some hunters at Fort Hays, Kansas. The animal, a cow, had a white face. From the horns to the muzzle, the hair was pure white, but the rest of the body was a normal color. Allen had the head mounted and gave it to the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, where it remained on display for many years.
There were plenty of pied buffalo on the planes when wild buffalo abounded. A former agent of the American Fur Company reported around 1850 that he had seen hundreds. Edwin James, who recorded Maj. Stephen H. Long’s expedition to the Rockies in 1819, also reported the presence of pied buffalo: “A trader of the Missouri informed us that he had seen a grayish white bison, and that another, a yearly calf, was distinguished by several white spots on the side, and by a white frontal mark and white forefeet.” He also told of seeing in an Indian village a buffalo head with a white star on his four head. The Indian who owned the head believed that buffalo returning to the area “to seek their white-faced companion.” The Indian valued the buffalo head highly and would not sell it.
During the early 1800s, few Indians would part with white or partly white buffalo robes or those of light coloring. But as the Indian of the plains had more and more contact with white man, customs changed. By the 1870s, many Indians thought nothing of selling or trading a white buffalo robe for something from the white man’s world. High prices may have had their influence. On the upper Missouri about 1879, George Bird Grinnell saw a pied buffalo skin that Indians had sold. It was white on the head, legs, and belly, with a wide band of white bordering the normal dark brown coloring – “beautiful,” Grinnell said. “If I recollect aright, this particular hide was sold on the river to an Englishman for $500.”
On the other hand, of course, robes were sometimes given as gifts out of simple friendship. James W. Schultz tells of such an incident of his own subsequent role. In April 1881 Blackfeet Spotted Eagle and his son presented a pied buffalo skin to their friend and Schultz’ fellow trader, Joseph Kipp:
The robe was perfectly tanned, as soft as velvet; and on its flesh side the old man had painted some pictographs of enemies he had killed, enemy horses he had stolen, and encounters with grizzly bears. Said Kipp when we had extended and hand it to a wall of the trade room: “it is the only pure white spotted robe that I have ever seen. And it is worth something. Anyhow a hundred dollars.”
The earliest historical account I can find of a white buffalo is dated October 1754, when Antony Henday, a traitor among the Blackfeet, saw a white buffalo skin in a Blackfeet village somewhere in the lower Battle River country of Canada. The skin was used as a seat covering by a Blackfeet chief.
Another early account is dated 1800, when Alexander Henry wrote in his journal that the Crees had seen in the middle of a buffalo herd a calf as white as snow. Four years later, Henry reported that he had bought a white buffalo skin, probably the first time a white man was able to buy a white buffalo robe from Indians. “The hair was long, soft, and perfectly white, resembling a sheep’s fleece,” wrote Henry. The Indian he bought it from apparently did not value it highly.
Perhaps the first white man to kill a white buffalo was William Craig. He was of that hardy breed of mountain men who crossed the plains to trap and trade in the Rockies. Sometime during the early 1830s on the plains just east of the central Rockies, Craig shot and killed the animal. Many years later, Craig told a Montana newspaper editor that the buffalo was not pure white, but of a light cream color. In Craig’s mind, however, it’s still qualified as a white buffalo. Craig gave the skin to Sir William Drummond Stewart, a captain in the British Army, whom he met while Stewart was on a pleasure and hunting trip in the America West. Stewart reportedly carried the robe back to England with him.
As tales of life on the frontier were carried east and retold during the middle 1800s, stories about white buffalo ranked high with yarns about fighting with the Indians, the hardships of living in the West, the vastness of the planes, and prospecting for gold. In 1868 Theodore R. Davis, an eastern writer and illustrator, came west to see what the frontier was really like. And he saw a white buffalo. But, he wrote,” being mounted upon a pony tired from much travel and somewhat long run, I failed to secure a position sufficiently near it the animal to make a sure shot, but a white buffalo is certainly was.”
In 1870 a white buffalo was killed on the planes it became known as the Morgan White Buffalo and may have been the first white buffalo killed in Kansas. One day near the Kansas – Colorado border James Morgan and his brother John were hunting buffalo when they spotted a white one in a large herd and gave chase. James finally shot the animal, but it was John who recognized the potential value of the white oddity. Carefully, John Morgan skin the buffalo and took the hide to Denver, where it was mounted. For several years the Morgan White Buffalo was exhibited in various towns and cities. In 1875 the Morgan’s grew tired of showing the trophy and placed it in storage in Kansas City, where it remained for several months until some Kansas businessman decided that the buffalo would be a good attraction at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. They got in touch with John Morgan, who then lived at strong city, Kansas. Morgan gave them permission to ship the buffalo east.
Officials forgot about the trophy until early in 1903 when a daughter of James Morgan visited Topeka and asked to see the white buffalo her father had killed. The people at the state agricultural office tried to explain. When Morgan’s daughter asked for the name of the woman who had taken the trophy, no one had it. No one had written it down. The daughter threatened an investigation, but the white buffalo was gone. So far as I can determine, it has never been found.
Another white buffalo was killed in Kansas in October 1871. James Caspion and another hunter, Sam Tillman, started out on horseback looking for buffalo in far western Kansas. A third man followed in a wagon to pick up the kill. To cover more ground, Caspion and Tillman separated that kept inside of each other over the rolling plains. In the late afternoon Caspion reach the top of a long ridge and saw some buffalo grazing peacefully in a wide valley, perhaps twenty-five miles across. As his eyes scanned the herd, they suddenly stopped focused on one spot. On the outside of the herd was a milk white buffalo feeding on the tall grass about a mile from Caspion, it’s whiteness contrasting vividly with the dun tints of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of buffalo nearby.
Another “white buffalo” yarn concerned a settler from the East who had built a sod house on the northwestern Kansas prairie and started farming. Like many other settlers, he largely depended for his survival on what the land produced, especially wild game. One day, when his meat supply got low, he decided to go get a buffalo. He took his gun and horse and soon found a small herd grazing near a stream. On the edge of the herd was a buffalo at least half of whose body was white. The settler gave chase. The buffalo took off into the wind, the settler following, determined to “get the white one” if he had to chase the animal all the way to Texas. He got off a good shot and the “white buffalo” fell dead on the prairie. The settler smiled, but as he neared the fallen animal the smile changed into a frown. If ever a Kansas settler was disappointed, this settler was. The dead animal was a buffalo all right, but, as the settler recalled years later, ”You know that Henri buffalo had been over by them chalk cliffs, and all those white markings came from rubbing against the blamed to cliffs.” Nevertheless, the settler cherished is not so quite Buffalo, and as the story goes, he had the animals head mounted and kept it for many years under his bed – one of those beds built high off the floor – along with his high silk hat.
Aside from chalk that might shade a brown buffalo white, dried mud sometimes had the same effect. What a buffalo rolled in a muddy wallow in an area of light-colored earth, the clay that stuck to the animals robe would bake in the sun to be “very nearly white.”
Then there was the “white buffalo” that were not all buffalo. In the spring of 1886, C. J.”Buffalo” Jones was returning to his Kansas ranch from Texas. At a point between the two Canadian rivers and West Texas, Jones and his party came upon what appeared to be a mixed herd of buffalo and domestic cattle. Wanting a closer look, Jones followed a nearby ravine and until he was almost within touching range. One of the herd was a milk cow, all white, but there were three white buffalo: a three-year-old, a two-year-old, and a yearling. They were not as white as the driven snow, recalled Jones, but they were white enough to be called “white buffalo.”
Although his horse was used up, Jones was determined to capture at least one of the white buffalo. He returned to his horse and headed straight for the herd. The white cow spotted him, rolled her long tail up into the air, and led the buffalo south at a fast gait. Jones’ horse could not keep up the pace and finally gave out. Years later Jones concluded that those ”white buffalo” were actually prototypes of “catalo,” or crosses between buffalo and domestic cattle.
David Morrow might be considered typical of many Easterners who came to the Kansas buffalo range about 1870.
As Morrow began hunting buffalo again late in 1872, he heard other buffalo hunters talking about a white buffalo supposedly seen on the planes southwest of Hays City toward Dodge City. Most people, including many old buffalo hunters, had some doubts that such an animal really existed, but reports persisted. Prairie dog Dave decided to hunt the white buffalo. He bought a gallon of formaldehyde, took his gun, some ammunition and supplies, and set out in his wagon to search for the animal. Just how long he was out on the planes or where he went, no one is sure. But around January 1, 1873, Dave Moreau drove his wagon into Dodge city, pulling up in front of Robert Wright’s general store, and tied his team to the hitching post. He was smiling. In the back of the wagon was the carcass of the white buffalo. Wright paid Prairie Dog Dave $1,000 cash on the spot for the animals remains and had the white robed in head mounted and shipped to Kansas City, where it was put on display. Later it was shown in Topeka at the statehouse. It finally ended up in the Hubbell Museum at New York City, where it was destroyed by fire a few years later.
In October 1876, almost 4 years after Dave Moreau killed his white buffalo near Dodge city, another white one was killed on the planes of West Texas. J. Wright Moore was camped near where Snyder, Texas stands today. He had spent the day scouting the countryside for buffalo. It was almost sunset, and he was about to head back to camp when he saw a small herd. More instantly knew what it was – a white buffalo.
He had seen another almost fours years earlier in Kansas and had tried to kill it. “I took four shots at her and hit her every time, but I didn’t kill her. I was six or seven hundred yards away, and it was after sundown. The next day and another man run her down and killed her.” The white buffalo Moore had failed to kill was on Three Mile Ridge, west of Dodge City, Kansas, the same general area where Prairie Dog Dave killed his white buffalo. Looking back and comparing the stories, one could not unreasonably conclude that the white buffalo Moore shot at was the very animal killed by Dave Morrow.
The most famous white buffalo of all time – the one that received the most publicity – was born in captivity at the national bison range in western Montana. (became known as Big Medicine) The year was 1933, the month of May. Cy Young then refuge manager, was checking the pastures, as he did almost every day, when he discovered that a cow had given birth to a white buffalo calf. The little fellow was only a few hours old when Young found him near his mother. Young checked the animal over as best he could from a distance and found him normal in every way except his coloring. The herd, including the calf’s mother, apparently had accepted the bright – looking a little buffalo even though he stood out like a snow-covered mountain top in July.
Records in the files of the Alaska Department of Fish and game showed that one white buffalo was born in 1938, another in 1939. They were seen together on several occasions, but by 1941 both animals had disappeared. In 1949 another white buffalo was seen in the Alaskan herd but he was struck and killed by a truck shortly thereafter. In 1958 two more were seen and in 1961 three more. All were completely white except for one which had a brown patch on the top of his head like Big Medicine. But by the end of summer in 1961, none of the calves could be found.
The Alaskan buffalo ran wild, unlike those at the national bison range in Montana and in other herds owned by the US government. Thus, it was hard for Alaskan fish and game people to keep track of the buffalo. Also, because white buffalo are usually not so healthy as normal Buffalo, Alaska wildlife specialist have concluded that their white buffalo either have died from the elements or were killed by wolves or bears. None of the white buffalo born in Alaska is known to have survived to reach the age of three years in the wild and virgin country across which they roamed. The 12th White Buffalo known to have been born in Alaska was spotted near Chitina in the fall of 1973. Government officials set out to capture it, with the intention of giving it to the Children’s Zoo in Anchorage, where it’s survival chances would be greater than in the wilderness; but there sure attempt was unsuccessful. Private parties took up the search, but the animal eluded them too.
It should be noted that the non-white buffalo thrived in Alaska.
October 1754 The skin was used as a seat covering by a Blackfeet chief. (above)
1804 – “Some fievv fusees I observe among them, not with standing they live by the Bow and arrow, they do not Shoot ‘So Well as the Nothern Indians the Warriors are Verry much deckerated with Paint Porcupine quits & feathers, large leagins and mockersons, all with buftalow roabs of Different Colours, the Squars wore Peticoats & a White Buffalow roabe with the black hare turned back over their necks and Sholders.” Lewis & Clark Original Journals (It would have been nice to hear more about these robes)
1830’s- William Craig shot and killed one in the Rockies (above)
In 1833, a white bison was killed by the Cheyenne. The Cheyenne killed this white bison during the Leonid Meteor Shower (The Night the Stars Fell) and scribed a peace and trade treaty on its skin. This event was documented by historian Josiah Gregg and other travelers on the Santa Fe Trail.
One was found in 1867, and constituted part of the trappings of a horse ridden by a Cheyenne chief who was killed in battle on the Arickaree River. (In 1868, Chief Roman Nose)
1868 Theodore R. Davis saw one on the western frontier. (above)
1870 a white buffalo was killed on the planes it became known as the Morgan White Buffalo (above)
October 1871 white buffalo was killed in Kansas by James Caspion (above)
January 1, 1873, Dave Moreau- Kansas Killed a white buffalo. (above)
On October 7, 1876, a buffalo hunter named J. Wright Mooar killed a white buffalo in the Deep Creek drainage near Snyder, Texas. He retained the hide his entire life, despite reports that Teddy Roosevelt offered him $5000 for the hide. White Buffalo Park is presently located near the site of the shooting, and an adjacent ranch is the current resting place of the hide.
1881, Hide was mounted and set up in the State House Museum at Topeka Kansas.
1886, C. J.”Buffalo” Jones spotted 3 in west Texas (above- probably cataloes)
1938-1973 Twelve white buffalo known to have been born in Alaska. (23 hd starter herd relocated from Montanas Range in 1928)
Big Medicine on display at the Montana Historical Society museum
A bison named Big Medicine (1933–1959) was born in the wild on the National Bison Range on Montana’s Flathead Indian Reservation. The name “Big Medicine” was chosen due to the sacred power attributed to white bison. Following its death in 1959, its body was preserved and is now displayed at the Montana Historical Society in Helena.
A white buffalo was recorded at the U.S. Army Arctic Testing Center, Fort Greely, Alaska. There is a copyrighted photograph of it in Seeing the White Buffalo by Robert Pickering. This buffalo was part of a herd that had been relocated from Montana.
A female named Miracle (not to be confused with Miracle Moon), was born at the family farm of Dave, Valerie, and Corey Heider near Janesville, Wisconsin on August 20, 1994. Her fur fully transitioned to brown as she matured, and she gave birth to four calves of her own before dying of natural causes on September 19, 2004. Additionally, a calf born at the Heider farm died aged 4 days in 1996. A third white calf was born in August 2006 which died after being struck by lightning in November of the same year. Kathleen Buerer wrote a memoir about her 1994 visits to Miracle, “By the Side of the Buffalo Pasture”.
Medicine Wheel, a white buffalo was born on May 9, 1996 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Pine Ridge, SD on the Merrival farm, In 2000, Medicine Wheel escaped his pasture and was shot by a tribal police officer.
Spirit Mountain Ranch donated a herd of white buffalo to the Sacred World Peace Church and Alliance, The SWPA has successfully bred six generations of white buffalo starting from a single white female, almost all with brown fathers. Their herd includes 17 white buffalo as of February 23, 2015:
Miracle Moon (female, born April 30, 1997), calf of Big Momma (brown). Miracle Moon (the first white of this line) has been DNA tested, and is shown to be 100% buffalo, or bison.
Rainbow Spirit (female, born June 8, 2000, calf of Miracle Moon)
Mandela Peace Pilgrim (female, born July 18, 2001, calf of Miracle Moon)
Arizona Spirit (male, born July 1, 2002, calf of Miracle Moon)
Sunrise Spirit (female, born May 22, 2004, calf of Mandela Peace Pilgrim)
Spirit Thunder (male, born May 27, 2004, calf of Rainbow Spirit)
Chief Hiawatha (male, born May 16, 2005, calf of Miracle Moon)
Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo in Tupelo, Mississippi, owns a white buffalo bull named Tukota (“Too-ko-ta”)
A male white buffalo named Spirit of Peace was born on April 17, 2005, on the Blatz Bison Ranch in Fort St. John, British Columbia. Spirit of Peace died on June 1 of the same year, probably as a result of his premature birth.
A female white buffalo calf was born in Shelbyville, Kentucky on June 3, 2005 at Buffalo Crossing, a buffalo ranch and tourist facility. She was named Cante Pejute (Medicine Heart in the Lakota language) in a traditional ceremony led by Steve McCullough, a Lakota/Shawnee from Indiana.
A male named Blizzard was born in March 2006 on the farm of an anonymous rancher, who arranged to have the calf transported to Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba in recognition of his spiritual significance to aboriginal people.
A third white buffalo was born on the Heider farm (see “Miracle” above) on August 25, 2006. The male calf was named Miracle’s Second Chance and was unrelated to Miracle. The Heiders planned to breed the male with the descendants of Miracle, but during a thunderstorm late November 26, 2006, five buffalo on the Heider farm were killed in a lightning strike, including Miracle’s Second Chance.
Lightning, formerly known as Kenahkihinen (Kĕ-Nah‛-Ki-Nĕn, from the Lenape language meaning ‘Watch Over Us’), a male white buffalo, was born November 12, 2006, at Woodland Zoo in Farmington, Pennsylvania.
On May 31, 2008, a third white calf was born to a normal brown two-year-old at the National Buffalo Museum, Jamestown, North Dakota.
On May 12, 2011, a white male buffalo calf named Lightning Medicine Cloud (Wakinya Pejuta Mahpiya in Lakota) was born near Greenville, Texas during a thunderstorm on the ranch of Arby Little Soldier. In May 2012, less than year after its birth, Lightning Medicine Cloud was found dead, thought to have been butchered and skinned by an unknown individual; his mother was found dead the next day. A necropsy determined that they died of natural causes, from a bacterial infection called blackleg. In April 2012, Lightning Medicine Cloud’s father was killed by a lightning strike.
On June 16, 2012, a white male buffalo calf was born on Peter Fay’s dairy farm in Goshen, Connecticut. The calf was temporarily called Tatanka Ska (‘white buffalo’ in Lakota). Four elders from the Oglala Sioux Tribe, along with Fay and members of the Lakota, Seneca, Mohawk, and Cayuga tribes, performed a naming ceremony on July 28 at the farm; the calf was named Yellow Medicine Dancing Boy. Fay plans to care for the buffalo rather than sell it for meat.
On July 4, 2012, a white female buffalo calf named “Baby” was born on Steve and Carol Sarff’s Countryside Buffalo Ranch in Avon, Minnesota. She died on July 20.
On May 7, 2016, a white buffalo mother gave birth to a white male buffalo calf at Sioux Valley Dakota Nation in Manitoba.
White buffalo can be found in the village of Questa, New Mexico.
June of 2020. Bitterroot Bison had a white heifer calf born. (Named “Faith”) (DNA tested, she was a natural-born white bison)
After Faith, I quit recording the white births, if one comes along that is rare and white, I will report its story. There are many in the news, but they are not the rare whites, they are a creation of probably Charolais cattle intentionally bred to bison creating the illusion.