This diorama is set in the mid-1800s, when the prairies teemed with tens of millions of bison. A few decades later fewer than a thousand remained. The species was nearly exterminated for hides and sport, and to subdue Native Americans who relied on bison for food and livelihood.
This “great slaughter” ignited the first effort to save a mammal from extinction. As bison dwindled, ranchers began to breed them, and some were transferred to sanctuaries. Today, this North American icon is numerous again—but nearly all bison are raised for meat on fenced ranches. Domestication and inbreeding means that truly wild bison are still quite rare.
Diorama site: Between Rawlins and Saratoga, Wyoming
Range: Bison once lived in prairies, mountains and open forests in much of North America. Now most bison live on private ranches.
Did You Know?
Early French explorers called these animals les boeufs, meaning oxen. Eventually this name became “buffalo.” American bison actually are quite different from the buffaloes of Asia and Africa.