Bison Pulling - a unique experience

Bison Pulling is an annual event at Mountain Meadow Wool

Yes, it is as odd as it sounds. 

Every year we are privileged with the opportunity to get up close and personal with several hundred of these 1,000 pound goliaths.  We call it “Bison Pulling” because we actually comb/pull the soft bison “down” off the animals.  Our goal is to collect this soft undercoat that the animals start to shed as the days begin to warm during late spring. 

The bison are brought through a series of hydraulic chutes made of very heavy-duty steel.  The chutes are specifically designed for this purpose and consist of a maze of gates that open and close slowly move the animals towards the final hydraulic unit.  The goal is to keep them moving slowly and to not get them excited. 

The final unit gently holds the animals stationary while we collect fiber from the shoulder area.  Meanwhile the veterinarian onsite is administering necessary shots and the rancher is putting in ear tags and the ear brand.  Each bison is only in the final unit for about 30 to 60 seconds.

Our goal is as much of this soft bison down as possible.  However, in the process we will be collecting some of the courser guard hairs as well.  It makes the final products very rustic in appearance and feel but what could be more appropriate when using fiber from this iconic animal. 

Over 2 days of collecting we are left with only about 30 pounds of this precious fiber.  We then scour the fiber to remove the dirt and blend it with longer staple fine wools and alpaca to create our final yarn.  Our “Tatanka” yarn (Lakota Sioux name for buffalo) and our “Mountain Down” yarn are both made using bison fiber.  Occasionally we also make small, finished products (beanies and home décor) that show off this great fiber. 

Only the 1 year old’s and 2 year old’s come through the chutes.  By the time they are 1 year old they are already 600-900 pounds and the 2 year old’s can weigh in at 900-1200 pounds.  After the bison leave the chutes they go back out to the corrals to get some fresh hay before moving back out onto the wide open prairie. 

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  • Tamara Decker

    Fascinating article!

  • Sophie

    This is fascinating!!! Thanks so much for the great article and pictures to go with it. You most definitely have a very different type of job than most people 😘

  • Devyn Tillman

    Thank you for sharing this! Did not know about this process!

  • Patricia

    I have been fascinated simply by the idea of using Buffalo fiber to make garments but even more so by the process of harvesting it.
    Thank you for the article. Would love to see more in the future.

  • Lynette Merrill

    In your article, you mentioned the guard hairs. Do you dehair the fiber you pull? I spent countless hours dehairing enough Qiviut to spin 3000 yards of cobweb weight on a Russian support spindle to design and knit an Orenburg square shawl. I would not want to purchase Qiviut with guard hair throughout.

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