A white buffalo or white bison is an American bison possessing white fur, and is considered sacred or spiritually significant in several Native American religions; therefore, such buffalo are often visited for prayer and other religious rituals. The coats of buffalo are almost always brown and their skin a dark brown or black; however, white buffalo can result from one of several physical conditions:
- They may be albinos, in which case they will remain unpigmented throughout their lives, and may also have hearing and vision problems.
- They may be leucistic, with white fur but blue eyes, instead of the pink seen in albinos.
- They may have a rare genetic condition which causes a buffalo to be born white, but to become brown within a year or two as it matures.
- They may be beefalo, a bison–cattle crossbreed, and thus have inherited the white coloration from their cattle ancestry.
White buffalo are extremely rare; the National Bison Association has estimated that they only occur in approximately one out of every 10 million births.
Individual white buffalo
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 his death in 1959, his body was preserved and is now displayed at the Montana Historical Society.
- 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, 1992. 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".
- Spirit Mountain Ranch donated the herd of white buffalo to Sacred World Peace Church and Alliance, and has successfully bred five generations of white buffalo starting from a single white female, almost all with brown fathers. Their herd includes fifteen white buffalo as of June 16, 2012:
- 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)
- Our Lucky Star (male, born June 10, 2006, calf of Big Momma)
- White Spirit (male, born June 10, 2007, calf of Sunrise Spirit)
- Be Happy Spirit (female, born May 4, 2008, calf of Miracle Moon)
- Joyful Spirit (female, born May 15, 2008, calf of Big Momma)
- On June 4, 2006, Miracle Moon gave birth to Little Dream Walker, an male albino, sired by Arizona Spirit. This was the first white to white breeding. The calf died on June 6, 2006, due to albinism.
- Jade Love Spirit (female, born May 7, 2011 to Mandala Peace Pilgrim)
- Opal Mayan Spirit (male, born May 8, 2011 to Sunrise Spirit)
- Silver Shield Spirit (male, born May 9, 2011 to Miracle Moon)
- Desert Rose Spirit (female, born June 16, 2012 to Joyful Spirit), sired by Chief Hiawatha
- Mahpiya Ska ("White Cloud") (Cherokee:ᎤᏁᎬ ᎤᎶᎩᎸ) is an albino white buffalo born July 10, 1996. She has resided since 1997 at the National Buffalo Museum and Cultural Center in Jamestown, North Dakota. Mahpiya Ska has been certified by the National Bison Association as an albino white bison; she is deaf and has impaired vision. She has had four brown calves. On August 31, 2007, she gave birth to a white calf. The calf has yet to be tested, but it is believed to be albino.
- 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 Kenahkihinén (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.
In popular culture
- A white silhouette of a bison is featured in the flag of the state of Wyoming. The bison is the state mammal; it is branded with the Great Seal of Wyoming. White represents purity, uprightness and one of the colors of the United States flag.
- A charging white buffalo over crossed swords is used as the logo for the NHL team, the Buffalo Sabres. A white buffalo head was used from 1996 to 2006.
- The US National Park Service's Arrowhead Emblem, commonly worn as a patch on the employee's uniform, incorporates a white buffalo.
- Great White Buffalo: The one that got away or one's first love - referenced/popularized by the film Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)
- Great White Buffalo: Los Angeles based Indie/Alternative Rock band consisting of Graham Bockmiller, Stephen Johnson, Paul Hiller, and Rich Carillo.
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- Pickering, Robert B., Seeing the White Buffalo. Denver Museum of Natural History & Johnson Books. 146 pgs. (hb & pb)., 1997.