From five spared animals that in the late 1800s were nearly made extinct to a substantial herd of 1,300 head today, the collection of buffalo at Custer State Park in South Dakota has swelled to one of the largest publicly owned herds in the world.
The public can view the exciting spectacle of the 1,300 majestic beasts being rounded up at the 45th Annual Buffalo Roundup in Custer State Park on September 27.
Thousands of spectators gather each year for the weekend’s events, which include an organized stampede of buffalo and an arts festival. The roundup of the free-roaming herd for branding and vaccination begins at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, September 27. Parking begins at 6:15 a.m. and closes at 9 a.m.
An arts festival, featuring Western and Native American entertainment, artwork and South Dakota-made products, is being held from September 25 to September 27 near the State Game Lodge in Custer State Park.
“Watching buffalo in their native habitat is an unparalleled experience. From the arts festival to the roundup itself, visitors and spectators will enjoy the unique opportunity to celebrate a unique part of South Dakota’s heritage,” says Richard Benda, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tourism and State Development.
Benda says the Buffalo Roundup is an important reminder of South Dakota’s role in preserving buffalo.
Standing six feet tall, running at speeds of more than 40 miles an hour and weighing nearly 2,000 pounds, buffalo once filled the unsettled plains of South Dakota. In the early 1800s, an estimated 60 million bison roamed North America’s prairies, but only a handful remained by the close of the century.
Two South Dakota ranchers are credited with helping save the species. Fredrick Dupree spared five buffalo from a hunt in 1881; over the next decade, he built a small herd. Dupree sold the animals to Fort Pierre rancher “Scotty” Philip, and the herd grew to more than 1,000 head. Several of Philip’s buffalo became the foundation of the Custer State Park herd.
The Buffalo Roundup is not only an entertaining event for spectators, but is also important for the health of the buffalo and grasslands of Custer State Park.
“Testing, branding and vaccinating the herd each year is essential to maintaining a strong and healthy herd for the future,” says Craig Pugsley, visitor services coordinator at Custer State Park. “Managing the size of the herd also ensures that we do not overgraze the grasslands in the park.”
For hotel deals in South Dakota, click here.