The creation of Beefalo was a deliberate and fascinating experiment in the world of cattle breeding. These domesticated animals, made up of a blend of bovine and bison genes, were carefully crafted in the 1960s with a specific goal in mind: to combine the desirable traits of both cows and bison into one superior breed.
Also known as cattalo, these hybrids were conceived in the American Southwest, a region where a mere 12 percent of the population consumes more than half of the nation’s beef. Beefalo appeared to be a promising solution, offering cost-efficient animals that were easier to handle and sell. However, like many innovations, it came with its own set of challenges.
Over time, some captive beefalo managed to escape, leading to an unexpected consequence. At one point, approximately 600 beefalo were found roaming freely in the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. While this was a fortunate turn of events for the hybrid cattle, it had a detrimental impact on the local environment. These animals wreaked havoc on the region’s grassland ecosystem, depleting already limited water supplies and even causing damage to ancient stone ruins. (Bison, it turns out, have a peculiar habit of rubbing themselves against standing structures.)
You might wonder why they’re called “beefalo” and not “cowson,” considering their buffalo lineage. The answer lies in the fact that the buffalo in question, Bison bonasus, are also known as European bison. These magnificent creatures, known for their heft, can form mixed or all-male groups and hold the title of being the heaviest wild land animals in Europe.
The history of bison has been fraught with challenges, primarily due to human activities that nearly drove them to extinction. By 1927, there were fewer than 50 European bison left, and they only survived in captivity. However, today, Rewilding Europe reports that there are around 8,500 bison, with 6,200 of them thriving in the wild. These animals, once absent from Europe’s wilderness, are slowly making their return.
In July 2022, three female bison made headlines as they were reintroduced to a reserve in Kent, UK, marking the first time wild-roaming bison had graced British soil in thousands of years. Just a few months later, in October of the same year, history was made once again as these bison welcomed the arrival of their offspring.
Speaking of remarkable hybrids, have you heard about the first documented case of a dog-pampas-fox blend? This unique animal was 50 percent pampas fox, 50 percent dog, and 100 percent extraordinary.”