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 its death in 1959, its body was preserved and is now displayed at the Montana Historical Society in Helena.
- 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, 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. 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- "What is the underlying significance of the birth of the white buffalo?". AAA Native Arts. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- "Long-Term Exhibits: Big Medicine (1933–1959)". Montana Historical Society. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- "Kathleen Buerer". White Magic Publishing. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- "Tukota". Sacred World Peace Church. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- "An American Legend: White Lions, White Bison and Spirit Bears". Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- "White Bison Born in Kentucky". Wellbriety! Magazine (White Bison Online) 6 (10). July 18, 2005. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- Panian, A.J. (December 24, 2006). "Thousands watch over naming of buffalo". Tribune Review. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- Ogden, Eloise (October 8, 2008). "National Buffalo Museum’s third white buffalo". Minot Daily News. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- Chasing Hawk, Ernestine (June 14, 2011). "Sacred white buffalo calf born in Texas". The Buffalo Post. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- "Rare White Buffalo Dies in Hunt County". CBS DFW. May 4, 2012. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- Kellar, Brad (August 21, 2012). "Breaking: Sheriff says Lightning Medicine Cloud died of natural causes". Herald-Banner. Retrieved August 25, 2012.
- "Update: Officials formally address death of sacred buffalo". KETR. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- Kountz, Keith (June 27, 2012). "Rare white bison born after tribal dance & prayer". WTNH. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- "White Bison Celebrated and Named". CBSLocal. Associated Press. July 29, 2012. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
- "Rare white buffalo born on farm in Connecticut". Fox News. June 30, 2012. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- Michael, Melia (July 20, 2012). "American Indians Hail Rare Birth of White Bison". Virginian Pilot. Associated Press. p. 8.
- Ode, Kim. "* Rare white buffalo calf dies on Minnesota farm". Minneapolis Star Tribune. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- Keyes, Verna Keays (February 15, 1960). "Tukota". Natrona County Public Library. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- Pickering, Robert B., Seeing the White Buffalo. Denver Museum of Natural History & Johnson Books. 146 pgs. (hb & pb)., 1997.