Flashback Friday: The 1981 Buffalo Round Up

Local News

CUSTER STATE PARK, S.D. (KELO) — The 56th Buffalo Round Up is happening at Custer State Park later this morning. This annual event keeps the park’s herd from getting too big. The bison that are rounded up today will later be sold to ranchers who are raising herds of their own. In this week’s Flashback Friday, we take you back to 1981 to see what that auction looked like.

Custer State Park is one of the refuges that helped bring the buffalo back from near extinction at the turn of the century. Now the park has to sell surplus animals every year to keep the park herd at manageable levels.

This year, 475 of the shaggy beasts were run through the sale ring. And while cattlemen are losing their shirts, buffalo ranchers have got the bull by the horns. Some of the two-year-old bulls at the sale went for $900 a head. A good buy on top-rate breeding stock according to the experts in the crowd.

One rancher from Phillip has been in the buffalo business for 25 years. And he’s convinced bison are the king of the prairie.

“Buffalo…you can put them out on the range and they’re much easier to take care of than cattle actually. You don’t have to take bulls away from the cows or anything. They run a pretty natural cycle.”

And while some buyers diligently took down every detail at the auction, others just enjoyed watching the activities and guessing how big a full grown buffalo really is.

“How much do you think they weight?”

“About 50!”

“50 what?”

“I don’t know.”

“Where do you think these buffalo came from?”

“Africa!”

And if a burly buffalo isn’t your idea of a good pet, the park had other options. Eight burros that roam the park and beg for goodies from tourists were also up for grabs.

Kevin Jensen, KELOLAND News, Custer State Park.

Park gates open at 6:15 a.m. and the round-up begins at 9:30 a.m. MST Friday. The event is free of charge.

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