Where Our Bison Came From

A chart shows the lineage of TRNP bison

NPS / Hazel Galloway


The bison which founded Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s herd in 1956 included descendants of each of the five “founding herds” which survived the species’ near-extinction in the late 1800s. The Charles Goodnight herd (Texas), the Pablo and Allard herd (Montana), and the C.J. Jones herd (Kansas) all contributed to the 1909 founding of the National Bison Range in Montana. Part of that herd, along with representatives from the Dupree herd (South Dakota), Yellowstone National Park, and bison of unknown origins, were contributed at different times to the herd at Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge. In 1956, 20 individuals from Fort Niobrara were transported to Theodore Roosevelt.

The Charles Goodnight herd, the McKay and Alloway herd (which later contributed to the C.J. Jones herd), the C.J. Jones herd, and the Dupree herd each is known to have experimented with bison/cattle hybridization. As a result, all of the founding herds either have documented hybridization, or obtained possibly hybridized bison from a rancher that did. The only non-hybridized source of DNA in the park’s gene pool comes from Yellowstone National Park, via two males brought to Fort Niobrara in 1913.

Last updated: March 6, 2018

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