Beefalo are a fertile variety of Cattalo. Cattalo (or catalo), as defined by United States law, are the hybrid offspring of domestic cattle, Bos taurus, and the American Bison, Bison bison (generally called buffalo).
Cattle and buffalo were first crossbred during the mid 1800s. Charles Goodnight, one of the first to succeed, called his hybrid cattalo. It was found early on that crossing a male buffalo with a domestic cow would produce few offspring but that crossing a domestic bull with a buffalo cow apparently solved the problem. The female offspring proved fertile but not so for the males. Although the cattalo performed well, the mating problems meant that the breeder had to maintain a herd of wild and difficult to handle buffalo cows.
In 1965, Jim Barnett of Montana finally produced a hybrid bull that was fertile. Soon after, Bud Basolo of California formed the American Beefalo Association and began marketing the hybrids as a new breed. The new name, beefalo, was meant to separate this hybrid from the problems associated with the old cattalo hybrids. The breed was eventually set at being genetically at least 5/8 Bos taurus and 3/8 Bison bison. The association made many claims—buffalo meat, like bison meat, is lower in fat and cholesterol and higher in fiber than beef; beefalo are better able to tolerate cold and need less assistance calving than cattle while having domestic cattle's docile nature and fast growth rate; they are also thought to produce less damage to rangeland than cattle.
In 1983, the three main beefalo registration groups reorganized under the American Beefalo World Registry. Beefalo raising has, so far, not fulfilled many of the promises of the speculators and, unfortunately, the high price of this meat had done little to generate popularity. It remains a menu item for only a select few consumers.
Last updated: 09-03-2005 18:37:12