Beefalo in Escalante, Utah

When someone asked me if I’d seen Escalante’s Beefalo, I waited expectantly for the punchline of the joke.

Even as I drove out to where I could supposedly catch a glimpse of this thing, I still figured I was being played. And then, right off of the road, behind a fence in an Escalantan’s yard, was this giant, horned, lumbering, sorta-but-not-quite-cow-like thing.

Beefalo, cross-breed of buffalo and cattle. Apparently, it’s a real thing.

Bison (also called buffalo) and cows were first cross-bred in the late 1800s, with the idea that a cross-breed would be tougher, and able to survive harsh winters that had killed off herds of cattle in the mid-west.

Initially, they were called cattalo. Cattalo had more bison genetics, and tended to be a bit unruly, not to mention having some problems with fertility in their offspring. So, in 1965, a new breed that solved these problems took to the market. It was dubbed the Beffalo, and defined as being at least 5/8 cattle and at most 3/8 bison genetics.


Beefalo Herd. Photo courtesy of “S” via Flickr

Beefalo, it seems, are the best of both worlds: the fast-growing, docile edibility of cattle, mixed with the bison’s hardiness and lower impact on the land. Plus, Beefalo meat, like Bison meat, is lower in fat and cholesterol than normal cow meat, according to the USDA.

And now I’ve gone from wondering whether Beefalo actually exist to wondering why there don’t seem to be more of them.