Cover image for American bison : a natural history
American bison : a natural history
Lott, Dale F.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xvi, 229 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Reading Level:
1170 Lexile.
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QL737.U53 L68 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
QL737.U53 L68 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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American Bison combines the latest scientific information and one man's personal experience in an homage to one of the most magnificent animals to have roamed America's vast, vanished grasslands. Dale F. Lott, a distinguished behavioral ecologist who was born on the National Bison Range and has studied the buffalo for many years, relates what is known about this iconic animal's life in the wild and its troubled history with humans. Written with unusual grace and verve, American Bison takes us on a journey into the bison's past and shares a compelling vision for its future, offering along the way a valuable introduction to North American prairie ecology.

We become Lott's companions in the field as he acquaints us with the social life and physiology of the bison, sharing stories about its impressive physical prowess and fascinating relationships. Describing the entire grassland community in which the bison live, he writes about the wolves, pronghorn, prairie dogs, grizzly bears, and other animals and plants, detailing the interdependent relationships among these inhabitants of a lost landscape. Lott also traces the long and dramatic relationship between the bison and Native Americans, and gives a surprising look at the history of the hide hunts that delivered the coup de gr#65533;ce to the already dwindling bison population in a few short years.

This book gives us a peek at the rich and unique ways of life that evolved in the heart of America. Lott also dismantles many of the myths we have created about these ways of life, and about the bison in particular, to reveal the animal itself: ruminating, reproducing, and rutting in its full glory. His portrait of the bison ultimately becomes a plea to conserve its wildness and an eloquent meditation on the importance of the wild in our lives.

Author Notes

Dale F. Lott is Professor Emeritus of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology at the University of California, Davis.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The American bison--known almost universally, if inaccurately, as buffalo--was the dominant species of the Great Plains. These enormous (2,000 pounds for a mature bull) bovines once covered the grasslands of the American West, roughly 30 million strong, until the "pacification" of the Native Americans and the concurrent slaughter of the bison reduced the great herds to mere thousands in the late 1800s. Lott, a retired wildlife professor who has written numerous scientific papers on bison, has produced a wonderful introduction to this most American mammal. Drawing on his research, the studies of other scientists, and some of the historic writings on the species, the author has put together a marvelous state-of-the-art examination of what is known about the bison. Lott writes of bison with immediacy and fondness--he grew up on the National Bison Range in Montana--tempered with a scientist's careful winnowing of the facts and mixed into a narrative form that invites the reader to explore. --Nancy Bent

Library Journal Review

This rare jewel of a book is the most extensive description of bison natural history ever published. It will be of value to the scholar as a synthesis and state-of-the-art review, but at the same time it is fun, witty, intriguing, often fascinating, and targeted to the educated lay reader. Not only does behavioral ecologist Lott (Intraspecific Variation in the Social Systems of Wild Vertebrates) have the academic chops to write such a book-he is a biology professor emeritus of the University of California, Davis-but he also literally grew up among the buffalo (his father was superintendent of the National Bison Range). Here he details the history of the American bison, bison physiology, conservation efforts past and present, and the relationships buffalo have with other buffalo as well as such grasslands cohorts as wolves, badgers, prairie dogs, coyotes, and grizzlies. While the text has no citation numbers, a notes section at the end directs the scholar to the sources used. Highly recommended for all academic and public libraries.-Lynn C. Badger, Univ. of Florida Lib., Gainesville (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Reading this gem of a monograph is like leaning on a Montana fence rail listening to an old buffalo hand spill a lifetime of knowledge. Lott (emer., Univ. of California, Davis) was born and raised on a bison refuge and spent his long academic career studying this species. Without a single graph or table (but with 32 pages of photographs) he paints a clear picture of the animal--its behavior, physiology, evolution, and interactions with the major features of its ecosystem. Separate chapters are devoted to each animal species that associated with the bison. Every aspect of the study is peppered with personal observations and earthy humor. The aim of the work is to be not just a reference on this keystone species of the prairies but to assess the estimates of its maximum populations (too high by 50 percent) and its future prospects (genetic threats are greater than habitat loss). In the final chapters, Lott makes a convincing case for the establishment of a mammoth Great Plains National Park. The informal presentation will appeal to all readers; graduate-level readers will find Lott thin on data compared with Joel Berger and Carol Cunningham's Bison: Mating and Conservation in Small Populations (CH, Jan'95); both should be consulted. All levels. T. C. Williams emeritus, Swarthmore College

Table of Contents

Harry W. Greene
Forewordp. ix
Prefacep. xiii
Part 1 Relationships, Relationships
1. Bull to Bull and Cow to Bullp. 5
2. Cow to Cowp. 23
3. Cow to Calfp. 28
Part 2 The Machinery of a Bison's Life
4. Bison Athleticsp. 41
5. Digestion: Grass to Gas and Chipsp. 47
6. Temperature Controlp. 53
Part 3 Whence They Came Forth, and How Much They Multiplied
7. Ancestors and Relativesp. 61
8. How Many? The Bison Population in Primitive Americap. 69
Part 4 The Bison's Neighborhood
9. The Central Grassland: Where Buffalo Roam When They're at Homep. 81
Part 5 The Bison's Neighbors
10. Wolves and Bison: Myths and Realitiesp. 99
11. Buffalo Birdsp. 105
12. Diseases and Parasitesp. 108
13. Pronghornp. 120
14. Prairie Dogsp. 127
15. Badgersp. 133
16. Coyotesp. 138
17. Grizzliesp. 141
18. Ferretsp. 145
Part 6 Human and Buffalo
19. Close Encounters of the Buffalo Kindp. 151
20. To Kill a Bisonp. 158
21. Bison Numbers Before the Great Slaughterp. 167
22. Where Have All the Bison Gone?p. 170
23. Attitudesp. 180
24. Conservation: Then and Nowp. 185
25. A Great Plains Parkp. 202
Notesp. 205
Bibliographyp. 213
Indexp. 223