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South Dakota's Black Hills Buffalo Roundup

bison roundup south dakota

For generations the American cowboy has been an icon of manhood, and dude ranches are probably one of the greatest mancation destinations available. Instead of a typical cow roundup, the Buffalo Roundup features wranglers going after buffalo, huge animals that can grow almost 7 feet tall and nearly 1,000 pounds!

This is about real men and while you can't participate in the roundup unless you have been certified as an experienced wrangler, it is a great opportunity to celebrate the wild west in a way that you can't imagine anywhere else in the country. The Buffalo Round is held every year in Custer State Park, located in the middle of South Dakota's Black Hills. This year's event starts September 26, with the roundup itself on Monday, Sept. 28, and features events ranging from arts festivals and historic reenactments to chili cook-offs and old-time fiddlers, all centered around the annual roundup of the park’s nearly 1,500 bison.

The roundup is the first step in preparing the herd for the November Buffalo Auction. Custer State Park can typically support about 1,000 animals over the winter, so surplus buffalo are sold at a late-year auction. Bison, which once faced extinction, now number 500,000 strong across North America, and Custer State Park is home to one of the largest publicly-owned herds.

Buffalo Roundup Podcast with Emily Currey from South Dakota Tourism:


“The combination of watching the leaves change, the crisp autumn air and the Old West experience keep people coming back year after year,” said Melissa Bump, director of the South Dakota Office of Tourism. “Many people are finding that fall is a perfect time to experience all that South Dakota has to offer, and a family-friendly location like Custer State Park is the place to do it.”

If this sounds like your idea of the ultimate Wild West Mancation then head on over to South Dakota's tourism website.

Fast Facts about the Buffalo Roundup:

  • At the beginning of the 19th century, an estimated 60 million American bison roamed the prairies. By the late 1800s, there were only a few dozen buffalo left in the United States.
  • Two South Dakotans are credited with saving the species. Rancher Fredrick Dupree saved five calves from a buffalo hunt in 1881. Over the next decade, he grew the herd to over 70, which he sold to Fort. Pierre rancher James "Scotty" Philip. Philip increased the herd to more than 1,000 head. The free-roaming buffalo in Custer State Park are direct descendants of Philip’s herd.
  • In the 1940s, the Custer State Park herd numbered around 2,500, but the bison were over-grazing the land. That’s why every year, buffalo are rounded up and the herd size is adjusted for the available grassland that will support them. The animals are also sorted, branded and vaccinated.
  • Buyers from all over the United States and Canada have purchased bison from Custer State Park and have started herds of their own.
  • Bison have been clocked at speeds of 50 mph.The word “Tatanka,” made popular in the movie “Dances With Wolves,” which was filmed in South Dakota, means “big or large thing” in Lakota.

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