Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

bison the name applied to two species of large animal in the family Bovidae, whose fate, broadly speaking, has been to be eaten up already and thus no longer available:

  • Bison bison, the American bison (or N. American buffalo, or just buffalo), dark brown and bearded, once existing in enormous populations, reduced by 1890 to near-extinction, now surviving in a population of viable size under rigorous protection measures. During the relatively brief period that it provided game meat, the bison was liked particularly for its tongue, hump, and marrow. Hooker (1981) cites Susan Magoffin, who travelled the Santa Fe Trail in 1846–7 and kept a diary of what she ate, as saying that buffalo hump soup was ‘superior to any soup served in the “best” hotels of New York and Philadelphia and the buffalo marrow superior to the best butter or most delicate oil’.

  • B. bonasus, the European bison (sometimes called aurochs, but see cattle) survives only in zoos and parks, and forest reserves in Poland.