Recently, a herd of bison have been walking--single file--down from the hills in the morning to forage in my neighborhood. I don't think I'll ever tire of watching these magnificent animals. I took the photograph at right this afternoon from my front yard, ready to dash back inside if they got frisky.
I bought a delightful book today from the Yellowstone Association store: The Buffalo Story-The Full Saga of the American Animal by David Dary. It's 400 pages of everything you ever wanted to know about the buffalo--from prehistoric origins to modern day buffalo ranching. And before you cry, it's called bison, not buffalo, read what the author of the book has to say on the nomenclature issue:
"What we call the American buffalo is, of course, not a buffalo at all. It is a Bison, which is related to the European Wisent. The scientific world insists that the word "buffalo" should be used only to describe the African buffalo or the water buffalo of Asia. But for more than 150 years this animal, the bison, has been called a "buffalo." To millions of people he is a buffalo, and on these pages this is what I call him."
As for the origin of the word buffalo, the author provides a few clues. It appears that the early French and Spanish explorers knew their species, since they referred to the animal as Bison d'Amerique and bisonte respectively. Boeuf, the Canadian term, along with buffelo, a word used by later French explorers, gets phoenitically closer to the modern term of buffalo.