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Buffalo herd a head-turner for I-70 motorists

Kara Williams
Special to the Post Independent

The 11 buffalo who make their home on Levy and Jacque Burris’ property between Silt and Rifle have generated a lot of interest from drivers on Interstate 70.

“We’ve had semis pulling over,” said Levy Burris, who is breeding the buffalo to sell their meat, hides and heads. “They’re a unique animal. They’re fun to watch.”

The large animals ” Burris’ bull weighs close to 1,800 pounds ” are also agile.



“People think they’re slow and cumbersome,” he said. “But it’s surprising how fast and how athletic they are. They’ll outrun you. They’ll outrun a horse.”

These “wild and unpredictable” bison have another surprising side, said Burris. “When they get going, they’ll prance. You’ve seen Pepe Le Pew? It’s funnier than heck to watch.”



But the buffalo also have a distinct docile side to their demeanor.

There was no “Dances With Wolves”-style stampede Thursday when they were photographed close-up for this article. It did take a while for them to warm up to visitors.

“I’m hoping Bo will come over here,” said Burris of his big bull, which rested quietly by himself away from the rest of the herd. “But he’s just waking up.”

Eventually curiosity got the better of the herd, which lives in a fenced-in pasture just feet from Burris’ log-cabin home. Most of them slowly made their way to where Burris stood. Even Big Daddy Bo.

“He likes to have his nose scratched,” said Burris, obliging Bo by giving him a rub through the fence.

Burris, whose property lies on the south side of I-70 about a mile and a quarter east of the Garfield County Airport exit, started his herd two years ago with seven heifers and a bull.

He lost one heifer, probably to pneumonia, but Bo, short for Bojangles, has since fathered four calves.

Burris previously bred miniature schnauzers, and his wife Jacque’s family, the Cooeys, have raised cattle for years. He considered raising domestic elk, but feared losing an elk herd to chronic wasting disease.

“Buffalo are hearty animals, and they live long,” he said. Buffalo live 20 to 25 years, while the life of a beef or dairy cow is six to seven years, according to Burris.

The first buffalo to go to the slaughterhouse will be a heifer who is unusually “rank,” said Burris. While all buffalo are unpredictable creatures, this particular one is even more so.

“She’s constantly challenging me, following me along the fence line. You just can’t trust her,” said Burris, who only enters the buffalo pasture on a four-wheeler or tractor. “She’ll be hamburger in a couple months.”

The calves, one of whom at six months is nearly as tall as its mother, will likely be slaughtered when they’re between 18 months and three years. That’s when the meat is at its prime, commanding the highest price.

Burris plans to market his meat to area restaurants.

“It’s lower in fat, cholesterol and calories than pork, beef and chicken,” said Burris. “People say it tastes dry, but that’s because they cook it too long. You only cook buffalo about half as long as beef.”

Burris will sell the hides to people who will make them into robes and rugs, and the skulls will likely end up in homes and businesses decorated in a western style.


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