Photo of Painted bison sculpture in Cody, Wyoming

Weekly Gem 201 It's not a buffalo, and it's not roaming

Published 6/23/2019

Location: This Weekly Gem is located at the intersection of Goodturn Drive and Hwy 14, in Cody, WY (see the Clue Me! Map). 

Nomenclature experts will tell you that the words "buffalo" and "bison" are not interchangeable! The animal that is native to the Great Plains is a Bison! Technically they're right, but consider ...

People have called the plains bison "buffalo" for hundreds of years. In 1616, a French explorer used the word "buffles" (meaning "ox") to describe them, and the word "bison" is a Greek word meaning "ox-like animal." The term "buffalo" was used long before "bison" to describe these animals.

Because it is so ingrained in our history, we may never learn to call the bison by their "correct" name. "Bison Bill!" ... It just doesn't have the same ring as "Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show!" And you'd have to sing, "Oh give me a home where the the bison-n roam," to get the correct number of syllables.

If you want to get technical, however:

Buffalo live in Africa and Asia, they have large horns, no hump on their back, not much hair (relatively), and are related to cattle.

Bison live in North America, they have shorter horns, a hump on their back, huge heads, lots of hair (including a beard), and are related to woolly mammoths!

Oh, and another difference between them is that bison don't have spicy wings!!!


Here's the hidden gem entry from our Clue Me! map.


It's not a buffalo, and it's not roaming.


Painted bison sculpture

Why It's Interesting

This is 1 of a herd of 30 fiberglass bison sculptures painted by local artists. Cody, WY was named for "Buffalo Bill" Cody, who got his nickname from killing thousands of bison, contributing to the slaughter of millions. Later, his "Wild West" shows made the bison well-known to the public and popularized the romantic notion of actually seeing them roaming the wild west. Thanks to his shows, people demanded action to save them - it seems Buffalo Bill inadvertently helped save the bison after contributing to their near extinction!

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