Bison look very docile when you see them from your car. Nine-month-old bison (who only weigh about 550 pounds or so) look cute, even cuddly -- that is, until one of them is racing around a corner at you at forty miles an hour. That's when you check the protective fence in front of you for the tenth time to make sure it is solid. Yesterday and today, the National Western Stock Show and the National Bison Association, which is based in Westminster, will welcome more than 120 of the shaggy beasts -- symbols of both America's greatness and its folly -- big ones, little ones and just plain ornery ones.
They'll come in on trucks from as close as Fort Collins and as far away as Canada or Kentucky to be examined by buyers, eaters and the public.
But unloading the bison from their trucks is an adventure all its own -- something that has to be done carefully (very carefully), because bison are a little skittish, and while the little ones are 550 pounds, the big ones are three times that...with horns. When trailers from around the country show up at the Stock Show complex hauling bison, they unload in a special bison pen built to handle them. Once the trailers are opened, the bison are herded into a stall where they are separated and weighed, as the following couple of pictures show. A suspicious bison. What are you looking at? Once they are weighed, the bison are released into a fenced area and then corralled in separate pens. They run very fast. The first twelve bison arrived around 1:45 p.m. yesterday from a ranch in Fort Collins. These little guys will all turn a year old in May or June. They can be frisky. The bison ranching industry has taken off in recent years as demand has grown. As a result, many ranchers are holding back animals from the meat market and using them for breeding instead. The number of bison sent to slaughter was down by 16 percent last year, causing prices to rise. Eventually, says National Bison Association director Dave Carter, the number will even out.
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