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  • Writer's pictureKathy Winkler Studio

A Song about a Bison Cow and Her Calf

I love donating giclees and sometimes originals to worthy causes. I just wanted to share with you in this blog the reason I donate to worthy organizations. I chose to donate a giclee of “I Love You Because”, to the National Bison Association (NBA) for their July 2019 auction because of their dedication to preserving the bison, a true American icon. The proceeds go toward preserving not only the history of the bison, but opportunities for the future for bison, preserving the heritage and legacy of the American buffalo, and by educating the public and those who serve their communities. It is a tall order for nonprofit organizations to exist without donations to help further these causes. I admire those people who push through what seems like insurmountable hurdles to share with the public the opportunities that would not happen without the Association’s efforts, and I try to help by “paying it forward" with my art.

But, this is also the story about a a Bison cow and her calf. I have found bison so fascinating because through the many environments they have inhabited, there have been and continue to be many challenges and accidents that can be fatal to them, but they survived the Plains for maybe twenty-five million years, and successfully outlived every serious calamity (including the Ice Age) except for European settlers.

I saw this cow and calf at a bison farm in Culpepper, VA a few years ago. The farm had about 100 or so bison in this one pasture and I was mesmerized by the mom and her calf. I loved the way she nuzzled him and when he tried to groom her face.

A bison cow will usually produce her first calf at about the age of three or four, and produce until she is in her twenties, given the norm. Cows stand about five feet tall at the shoulder, seven feet long from the tip of the nose to root of the tail, and weigh somewhere between 700 to 1,200 lbs. Bulls, on the other hand, usually are a foot taller and twelve feet ‘long’, from nose to tail. Bulls generally weigh a ton, give or take a couple of hundred pounds.

Calves usually are born in the April time frame and are a very beautiful orange-reddish color, but are brown by wintertime. The tall golden prairie grasses are still golden in April, and I have read that because of the calves’ newborn color, they blend very well in these tall grasses and can hide more readily from their normal predators, such as wolves and bears. Several weeks after birth, the calf will remain close to his/her mom. When they are approximately 1 to 2 months of age, they gravitate with other calves to form play groups, spending more and more time away from their moms. At around 2 months of age, they develop their very distinctive shoulders, humps and horns, which are very useful to engage in play fights. They nurse for about 8 to 12 months. But, along about the mid-winter time frame, the cow and calf bond begins to weaken. A calf shares the same status as its mom until this cow/calf bond is broken, then the calves become the most subordinate members of the herd.

The bond between cow and calf reminded me of a song named “I Love You Because.” The song ends with “I love you for a hundred thousand reasons, but most of all I love you cause you’re you.” That spoke volumes when I saw this bison cow with her precious 1-2 month old calf. When I saw them, I was overwhelmed with the intimacy exhibited and neither of them caring that I was a witness to their world. The cow rested her chin gently on the calf’s forehead. The love they both had for each other was obvious. Bison cows are, incidentally, very good moms! The name of the painting became “I Love You Because.”

The song, “I Love You Because,” seems to be about any “bond” between humans or animals, or humans and animals. It was written in 1963 by Leon Payne, and sung by many famous vocal artists, such as Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves, and others.


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