The idea of domesticating bison was the goal of many early cattlemen who believed the hardiness, longevity, and foraging skills of these animals were superior to those of the common cow, but it wasn’t until the once prodigious herds of bison which roamed the western plains of the United States were diminished to near extinction, that anyone seriously considered the possibility of creating a hybrid species.
The fusing of the American Bison with domestic cattle was the result of years of effort. After numerous attempts throughout the 20th century to interbreed these two species resulted in catastrophic failure – resulting in the commonly held belief that these two creatures could not create fertile offspring – a breakthrough was made by Montana native Jim Burnett in 1957.
Burnett managed to create a fertile, three-quarters Bison-Bull. The result of his efforts is now one of the most common hybrids in the world, an animal more commonly referred to as the Beefalo. It was the creation of this unique animal that helped to usher in an era of unparalleled genetic manipulation.
Creating the Beefalo has had the unintentional consequence of genetically polluting the wild American Bison populations. This development has proven to be a serious setback to the conservation of this unique species. Today there are only four genetically unmixed American bison herds left in the U.S.