The Elusive White Bison
As a naturally brown animal, it seems weird that white bison actually exist! According to the National Bison Association, 1 out of every 10,000,000 bison is white. This reason is one of many that people, such as Native Americans, consider the white bison sacred.
The Genetic Breakdown
At JJ Bison, we’re farmers, not geneticists, so we’re turning to National Geographic for the genetic answers. There are many different animals that have been spotted in the wild that appear pale, or albino including giraffes, bears, eagles, etc. There are three different ways this can appear:
Albinism - This means the animal is void of any pigment. Albinism is a recessive trait and must be present in both parents to pass to their offspring.
Leucism - These animals are mostly white and contain some pigment, such as their eye color.
Isabellinism - This is a genetic mutation that sucks the colors out of feathers and is displayed in birds,
By the definitions above, we can then assume that bison will most likely either have albinism or leucism. Other than the key differences above, at this time, there is no concrete evidence to say that white bison provide any additional medical benefits over that of normal bison.
Brief History of White Bison
There are a few instances of white bison that were found in the United States, and probably many more which have never been heard of!
On June 21, 1864, the Baltimore Sun described seeing a white bison, “One large cow, with long horns, with a stripe on her back, and a white beast; a White Buffalo Cow, with a black head, white-spot on her forehead; her forelegs and feet black. The other a small, Dark Red Buffalo, with a white spot in her forehead; white under her belly, and four white feet; also the end of her white tail…”
In 1863 there was a man who killed a white buffalo on North Fork of the Red River in Oklahoma, however, he was unable to persuade any Native Americans to help him obtain the skin until a local Chief finally took the skin.
On July 7, 1993, an albino buffalo calf was born in Moise Montana.
In the 2000s, there were about 6 white bison born around the United States.