Bison or Buffalo…what’s the difference? by Marin Thomas

 Marin Thomas
Marin Thomas – Website

I write westerns for Harlequin Books and sometimes it’s a challenge to make each setting unique when my stories evolve around cowboys and ranchers. When I brainstormed the second book in my Cowboys of the Rio Grande series set in New Mexico, I thought why not a bison ranch instead of cattle?
Bison or Buffalo…what’s the difference?


The National Bison Association would like everyone to use the name “bison” when they talk about the American version of “buffalo” so as not to get it confused with the Asian Water “buffalo” and African Cape “buffalo”. The American bison belongs to the bovine family along with domestic cattle.

If you’re like me, you grew up calling bison…buffalo. Even my hometown newspaper in Janesville, Wisconsin, wrote an article on Miracle, the sacred white “buffalo” that was born August 20, 1994 on a nearby farm.

Have you eaten bison meat before?

Marin bison 1

Have you eaten bison meat before? Years ago I tried a bison burger in South Dakota when we were on vacation in the Black HilMarin coverls and once again in Colorado when we dined at a fancy restaurant near Glenwood Springs. I remember the meat was denser than beef and a little sweeter but other than that it tasted similar to beef. There are lots of benefits to eating bison meat. Less fat. Less cholesterol. Fewer calories. More protein. And the meat fills you up faster, so you eat less.

I was hoping for a bison in the background of the cover for The Surgeon’s Christmas Baby, but instead I got a bull mastiff puppy.
The books for series romance are on the shorter side so I didn’t have the word count to go into detailed descriptions of raising bison, but I did manage to sneak in a scene where the heroine convinces the hero to try bison nachos.
If you’re adventurous here’s a recipe from A Girl’s Kitchen Image by Kristin Nicole

Marin bison meatSo tell me…have you ever tried bison or other exotic meats?

Marin will gift a signed paperback of The Surgeon’s Christmas Baby to one lucky commenter!


Marin Thomas has written over thirty western stories, including the Cash Brothers series for Harlequin American Romance. Her first women’s fiction novel, The Promise Of Forgiveness (Penguin/NAL) will be released March 2016. Marin and her husband are recent empty nesters, living in Houston, Texas. Marin loves to connect with her readers and invites you to stop by her hangouts on the web. Blog Website FB Twitter Pinterest Tall Poppy Writers

Tall Poppy Writers
Bison nachos
The Surgeon’s Christmas Baby

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59 thoughts on “Bison or Buffalo…what’s the difference? by Marin Thomas”

  1. Hi Marin,

    Yes! I have eaten Bison Burgers and Buffalo steak before. The Buffalo steak was in California when I lived there and the Bison Burgers were here in Indiana. My husband actually bought the burgers and fixed them. You’re right, they taste a lot like beef but with a lot less fat.

    I would love to win a copy of your book. Thank you for the chance.

    Cindy W.
    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

    • Hi Cindy-I should try a Buffalo steak the next time I end up in a restaurant that serves the meat. Thanks for stopping by the blog and leaving a comment!

  2. Interesting, the difference between Bison & Buffalo.. Yes, I’ve eaten Bison burgers at Cabela’s in Nebraska.. I would enjoy reading your book, thanks for gifting someone a copy..
    dkstevensne AToutlookDoT COm

    • DK, thanks for stopping by the blog! I’ve heard of Cabela’s before and I’m trying to think where–maybe a relative ate there once and mentioned it 🙂 Enjoy your weekend!

  3. Good morning, Marin! Welcome back to our neck of the woods. Great seeing you again. Thank you for coming. You’ve been a busy girl. The second book of a new series AND a women’s fiction novel coming in March! Yippee! I love your books and genuine feel of the west that you give your stories.

    Though I once ate a buffalo burger while in South Dakota, I find it a difficult mental challenge. My brain puts these animals in the category with horses and dogs. But I do remember when I was able to swallow, it was very tasty. That it was so lean enticed me to try it.

    Good luck with your new book and with the upcoming one also!

    • LOL, Linda! I totally get that it would be “tough” to swallow buffalo meat 🙂 Thanks for the warm welcome it’s great to be back at Petticoats and Pistols!

  4. Hi Marin,

    I’ve never tried bison or any other exotic food. I remember seeing buffalo for the first time 38 years ago when we went to Yellowstone National Park. They are huge animals!

    My 3 sons attended the University of Florida. For a few years they went to Beast Feast where you can eat a variety of exotic foods like: quail, ostrich, rattle snake, alligator, bugs in breads and cakes, python, squirrel, elk, venison, water buffalo, wild boar… They are served as chili, spaghetti or stew. The meat is donated. Some of them sound disgusting to me.

  5. Duck and cabrito are the most exotic meats I’ve eaten.Bison is on my food wish list. Growing up in Texas, we ate a lot of beef of course. My parents are from Pennsylvania so we ate a lot of lamb, too. Daddy would cook beef tongue and slice it for sandwiches which grossed out my friends!on my first visit to Mexico after getting married, I ate fresh killed meats that my husband helped kill and butcher. I remember having a mini freak out in my mind when I saw my sister-in-law eating chicken feet…….I still shudder at that memory all these years later. My hubby says “try it, you might like it!”

    • Michelle, I can’t believe I’m going to admit this but I’ve never had duck–and I’m from Wisconsin! And ummm,no thanks on the duck feet, lol! Enjoy your weekend 🙂

  6. I’ve never tried bison or any other exotic food.I am looking forward to reading The Surgeon’s Christmas Baby.I would absolutely love to win a copy of your book.Thank you for the opportunity to win.I enjoy reading your books.

    • Hi Emma, thanks for stopping by the blog and leaving a comment! I’m not into fancy foods myself, I’m a pasta queen and a cheese head with a spinach salad once in a while 🙂

  7. Welcome an no ive never ate bison before,,but i have tried bear meat and Moose meat,,the bear meat took a long time for them to prepare,,it had to soak so long then slow bake for a long time,,i didnt care for it,,now the moose meat was okay,,i had it in a stew and it was good,,

    • Hi vickie! I didn’t know bear meat took that long to cook-interesting. I’ve never eaten Moose but had friends growing up whose fathers hunted and they loved deer and moose. Enjoy your weekend!

  8. I have never eaten buffalo meat before! The buffalo is my favorite animal – and I have learned over the years that it really is the bison, but I love the word buffalo more. 😉

  9. Susan, I grew up saying buffalo, too then we visited South Dakota and people corrected us every time we said Buffalo 🙂 Thanks for stopping by the blog!

  10. Never tried bison meat. As there are a 6 here fenced in at a local park I don’t think I could even try it.

  11. I like the idea of a bison ranch. When I was in college I was part of a traveling drama group that would go to churches all over the United States to the word out about our schools and minister to young kinds. Anyway our traveling led us to South Dakota and it was defiantly an experience. We stayed on an Indian reservation and they fed us bison sausage for breakfast. It was a little different but I liked it.

    • Coir-What a neat story! And a great experience to be able to stay on the reservation. I loved our trip to South Dakota-of course it was in the summer, the winter would be pretty rough there I imagine. But beautiful, beautiful country. Thanks for stopping by the blog!

    • Yeah, Teresa, great to see you here! I wish I could drive by a buffalo ranch every day! Lucky you 🙂 Thanks for leaving a comment-enjoy your weekend!

  12. I have not tried Bison… I know my father has though and said it was good… he has also eaten rabbit and deer… I have not been that adventurous yet.

  13. I have tried bison and I loved it, so good!! I would love to win a copy of your new book. I love all your books they are a true joy to read. Thank you for the chance.

  14. I have eaten bison before and I believe I was in Colorado. I also had a confrontation with another tourist in Yellowstone when while watching a herd of bison what that animal was. When I said buffalo he immediately started yelling at me that I was an idiot American who did not know the difference between a bison and a buffalo. As I walked away from him several others applauded me. I guess now I know that I was wrong.

  15. I have not tried bison but our next door neighbor raises bison so I enjoy seeing them grazing and running in their pastures.

    • Melanie, lucky you to be able to see bison out your windows! I’m jealous 🙂 Thanks for stopping by the blog and enjoy your weekend.

  16. I have had a buffalo burger (I’m sorry I LOVE the word buffalo, don’t make me change!!)
    The whole time I ate I kept forgetting it was a bison burger and chomped away. I’d say to myself…BE in the moment. taste the buffalo meat. don’t daydream through this.

    And then I’d catch myself day dreaming again.

  17. Our local small town bar has a wild game feed once a year and I’ve been brave and tasted a few things. Pheasant, squirrel, deer, maybe raccoon and I think elk and even mountain lion once. I don’t care for wild game much, it just sort of gives me the willies. It’s not about taste. But I forced myself to taste a few of these.

    I won’t be roasting wild cat for Thanksgiving dinner anytime soon!

    • LOL, Mary! You’re braver than I am…I don’t think I would have tried all the exotic meats you did. I like the word buffalo better than bison, too, so we’ll just keep on saying it….until the editors catch us ands “no”.

  18. I have eaten buffalo and love it. I have also eaten elk, moose, ostrich, and antelope. My dad was an avid hunter but always for meat, not trophy. We’ve thought about raising some but decided that we hate making fence as it is and 8 foot fences are a bigger pain.

    • LOL, Karen! I don’t blame you for not wanting to build a fence and maintain one that high 🙂 Sounds like buffalo isn;tall that adventurous for you after all the meats you’ve tried! Enjoy your weekend

  19. Hi Marin! I’ve had bison burgers and even bison lasagna and bison shepherd’s pie. My daughter won’t eat beef but she will eat bison. . .

  20. Thanks for the clarification, Marin. I am not a big red meat eater, but my husband really enjoys when restaurants offer bison on their menu. After the major decline of the bison population in the 1800’s, it’s odd to think some of the population are raised for consumption.

    • Terrill, I agree it seems odd after growing up learning Native American history and the slaughter of the buffalo, but they’re such a beautiful animal! Hope you have a great weekend.

  21. Hi Marin,
    I have never tried bison meat either and am now vegetarian but may be something that I try making for my husband and boys. I am from and still live in Janesville and see the buffaloes out my front window often…I love it! Can’t wait to read your book.
    Keep smiling,

    • Hi Darlene, thanks for stopping by the blog and leaving a comment! It was such a treat for me all those years ago to visit that white buffalo on the edge of town. I still remember all the excitement it caused 🙂 I would love to look out my window and see buffalo-what great writing inspiration that would make for my western books! I’m sending good thoughts back to you and other in WI hoping winter is kind to you this year. Stay warm!

  22. I have had Bison meat before where I lived before in New Hampshire, their is a farm near the University of New Hampshire that is raising and selling Bison meat. Bought some and it was great, also knowing it has less fat helps. It is becoming a new market now. Agatha P.Townsned

    • Agatha, I do think bison meat is growing in popularity, seems like the trend is slowly moving toward healthy foods, low fat, no antibiotics and hormones etc but it’s a slow change… Hope your weekend is off to a good start!

  23. Where we used to live a men’s group held an annual wild game dinner. One of the members had a meat refrigeration company and the club members would hunt during each of the hunting seasons and freeze the meat and then hold a dinner. The tickets were limited and expensive and the proceeds went to charity (I don’t remember which one it was, only that it had to do with children). The selection of meats were all announced before we ate each one. It was a while back so I don’t remember what they were. All I remember is that I loved moose and venison and hated squirrel–too stringy.

    • Whitney, neat story on the annual wild game dinner-I don’t think I could get myself to try squirrel-but I so many other shave eaten mouse that I’d probably at least take a bite 🙂

  24. I look forward reading your book, Marin!
    I raised bison for a dozen years and sold meat, most of by online going all over the U.S. ( is still up to promote the bison industry) Very wild animal, but I loved them. Had up to 150 at one time. Finally sold the last dozen bison last year.
    Their meat is clean, sweet tasting and it’s hard now to eat a beef burger in a restaurant because of the greasy, bland taste. My chest freezer will always be filled with bison meat from other bison producers we know.
    Ha! Can you tell I’ve promoted it for years?
    Thanks for your post. I really enjoyed it.

    • Linda, thanks for stopping by the blog-very cool that you raised bison-they are such a beautiful animal! I’m sure it’s hard for you to eat regular old hamburger after getting used to the leaner bison meat. And yeah for promoting bison meat–I think meat eaters who need to watch their fat intake should give it a serious try. Hope you had a nice weekend!

  25. Yes, I have tried bison. LIke you say, not too much different than beef. I’ve had alligator (tastes like chicken ha ha). We used to have a small local restaurant that offered a variety of unusual game meat. I have to admit I’m not that adventurous though to try everything.

    • Hi Quilt Lady, thank you for dropping by the bog and leaving a comment. Maybe one day bison meat will find its way onto the menu of some chain restaurants so more people can give a try.

  26. Ack, it’s too late but I’ve also had alligator. That was in a restaurant.
    After that mean, I used to say to my husband, “I’m hungry for alligator.”
    He’d roll his eyes.

    It always struck me as funny. No one else, though.
    It was cut in strips, breaded and fried and you know what? It tasted like salt and grease and crispyness. Which, let’s face it, is FANTASTIC. No sign of alligator, though.

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