White buffalo

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A white buffalo at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Safari in Ashland, Nebraska. This animal is not a true white buffalo, being 1/16 Charolais cattle. It is expected that its coat will darken as it matures.

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.

Spiritual significance[edit]

The white buffalo is a sacred sign in Lakota and other Plains Indians religions. Chief Arvol Looking Horse is the current keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe.

The story of the pipe is that,

"Nineteen generations ago the beautiful spirit we now refer to as White Buffalo Calf Woman brought the Sacred C’anupa (Sacred Pipe) to our People. She taught the People the Seven Sacred Rites and how to walk on Mother Earth in a sacred manner. Pte-san win-yan. As she left, she turned into a young beautiful white buffalo and then she walked over the hill and out of sight. This is where she received her name, White Buffalo Calf Woman. She gifted us with the Seven Sacred Rites that still sustain our People today. The person who smokes the sacred pipe achieves union with all Beings. By smoking this C’anupa, you will make direct personal contact with the Great Mystery. . . Following the Way of this Sacred C’anupa, you will walk in a sacred way upon the earth, for the Earth is your grandmother and your mother and she is sacred. . .″

— Chief Arvol Looking Horse


The story is also a prophecy. White Buffalo Calf Woman told the people that she would return in the form of a white buffalo calf and that it would be both a blessing and a warning. When the white animal shows its sacred color there will be great changes upon the earth. Arvol and many others interpret those changes to mean the current ecological crises taking place. If humanity continues to live without harmony with the earth it will be cursed, but if spiritual unity and harmony with the earth is achieved humanity will be blessed.[2]

Individual white buffalo[edit]

  • 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.[3]
  • 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.[citation needed]
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.[3][4]
  • 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.[citation needed]
  • 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.[3] Kathleen Buerer wrote a memoir about her 1994 visits to Miracle, "By the Side of the Buffalo Pasture".[5]
  • 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.
  • Mahpiya Ska (Sioux language) or White Cloud was an albino female buffalo born on July 10, 1996 at Shirek Buffalo Ranch. After her birth, she was loaned to the City of Jamestown, North Dakota where she lived out the most of her life. Through genetic testing, she was certified a true Albino American Bison. She died on November 14, 2016, shortly after being returned to her birthplace. [6][7]
    • White Cloud had a white calf on August 31, 2007 which was named Dakota Miracle. While Dakota Miracle was white like his mother, he was not a true albino. He lived out his entire life at the National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown before dying on June 28, 2019 due to complications from leucism.
  • Spirit Mountain Ranch donated a herd of white buffalo to the Sacred World Peace Church and Alliance,[8] 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)[3]
  • Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo in Tupelo, Mississippi, owns a white buffalo bull named Tukota ("Too-ko-ta")[9]
  • 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.[3]
  • 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.[10]
  • 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.[3]
  • 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.[11]
  • 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.[12]
  • 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.[13] 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.[14] A necropsy determined that they died of natural causes, from a bacterial infection called blackleg.[15] In April 2012, Lightning Medicine Cloud's father was killed by a lightning strike.[16]
  • 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).[17] 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.[18] Fay plans to care for the buffalo rather than sell it for meat.[19][20]
  • 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.[21]
  • On May 7, 2016, a white buffalo mother gave birth to a white male buffalo calf at Sioux Valley Dakota Nation in Manitoba.[22] As of 2019, there are five white buffalo in Sioux Valley.[23]
  • White buffalo can be found in the village of Questa, New Mexico.
  • Ghostbuster, a white female buffalo, was donated to the City of Hays, KS in the summer of 2017 by a local rancher (http://www.visithays.com/193/Bison-Herd)
  • On March 29, 2018, a white female buffalo calf named "Dušanka" was born at the Belgrade Zoo, Serbia. She was named after the Christian holiday of Pentecost.[24]
  • On October 30, 2018 a white buffalo calf was born on Lakota Territorial land. [25]
  • In June 2020, a white buffalo named ‘Faith’ was born at Bitterroot Bison in Lolo, Montana.She was moved to a sanctuary to be kept safe after discovering that she was blind.

In popular culture[edit]

  • 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.[26]
  • The U.S. National Park Service's Arrowhead Emblem, commonly worn as a patch on an employee's uniform, incorporates a white buffalo.
  • 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.
  • American hard rock musician Ted Nugent has a tune that he wrote and sings called "Great White Buffalo", alluding both to the creature and to the frequent conflicts between indigenous tribes and spreading pioneers. The track appears on albums such as 2009's Playlist: The Very Best of Ted Nugent.
  • The White Buffalo is a 1977 western film adapted from a novel of the same name, starring Charles Bronson as Wild Bill Hickock and Will Sampson as Crazy Horse, who hunt a rampaging white buffalo that haunts Hickock's dreams and killed Crazy Horse's child.
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 has a legendary animal quest where the player can hunt a white bison.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Eirich, Susan. "The White Buffalo". Earthfire Institute. Retrieved February 14, 2020.
  2. ^ "Chief Arvol Looking Horse Speaks of White Buffalo Prophecy". KnewWays. Retrieved February 14, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "What is the underlying significance of the birth of the white buffalo?". AAA Native Arts. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  4. ^ "Long-Term Exhibits: Big Medicine (1933–1959)". Montana Historical Society. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  5. ^ "Kathleen Buerer". White Magic Publishing. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  6. ^ http://www.buffalomuseum.com/passing-of-north-dakota-icon/
  7. ^ http://www.twincities.com/2016/11/15/white-cloud-north-dakotas-famed-albino-buffalo-dies-of-old-age/
  8. ^ "Tukota". Sacred World Peace Church. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  9. ^ "An American Legend: White Lions, White Bison and Spirit Bears". Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  10. ^ "White Bison Born in Kentucky". Wellbriety! Magazine. White Bison Online. 6 (10). July 18, 2005. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  11. ^ Panian, A.J. (December 24, 2006). "Thousands watch over naming of buffalo". Tribune Review. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  12. ^ Ogden, Eloise (October 8, 2008). "National Buffalo Museum's third white buffalo". Minot Daily News. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  13. ^ Chasing Hawk, Ernestine (June 14, 2011). "Sacred white buffalo calf born in Texas". The Buffalo Post. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  14. ^ "Rare White Buffalo Dies in Hunt County". CBS DFW. May 4, 2012. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  15. ^ Kellar, Brad (August 21, 2012). "Breaking: Sheriff says Lightning Medicine Cloud died of natural causes". Herald-Banner. Retrieved August 25, 2012.
  16. ^ "Update: Officials formally address death of sacred buffalo". KETR. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  17. ^ Kountz, Keith (June 27, 2012). "Rare white bison born after tribal dance & prayer". WTNH. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  18. ^ "White Bison Celebrated and Named". CBSLocal. Associated Press. July 29, 2012. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
  19. ^ "Rare white buffalo born on farm in Connecticut". Fox News. June 30, 2012. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  20. ^ Michael, Melia (July 20, 2012). "American Indians Hail Rare Birth of White Bison". Virginian Pilot. Associated Press. p. 8.
  21. ^ Ode, Kim. "* Rare white buffalo calf dies on Minnesota farm". Minneapolis Star Tribune. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  22. ^ http://www.brandonsun.com/local/white-buffalo-birth-becomes-a-reminder-of-tradition-379625721.html?thx=y
  23. ^ https://www.empireadvance.ca/news/local-news/new-arrival-of-sacred-white-bison-calf-in-sioux-valley-1.23809982
  24. ^ "Rare white buffalo calf born at the Belgrade Zoo". Tanjug, RTS. Retrieved March 29, 2018.
  25. ^ https://www.facebook.com/linda.sixfeathers/posts/10215610033141985
  26. ^ Keyes, Verna Keays (February 15, 1960). "Tukota". Natrona County Public Library. Retrieved July 20, 2012.

Further reading[edit]

  • Pickering, Robert B., Seeing the White Buffalo. Denver Museum of Natural History & Johnson Books. 146 pgs. (hb & pb)., 1997.

External links[edit]