• Kathy Winkler Studio

When Buffalo Fly

Updated: Aug 27, 2019



A 24x30 giclee of this painting, named Airborne 1, was donated to the National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown, ND for their fund raising auction this month, with proceeds supporting the museum’s mission to educate the public on the cultural and historical significance of the American bison.


The executive director of the museum, Ilana Xinos, gave me a photo of Dakota Legend, who is the basis for this painting. The difference is Dakota Legend was jumping from a standing position out of grass, rather than in the snow. I just thought what a great snow scene this would make so here it is.

No matter the color, a bison can run as fast as a horse (up to 38 mph), amazingly fast, and can do a standing jump of over 6 feet straight up, which is the height of the average bison.


Unfortunately, white bison are leucistic. Leucism is a genetic condition that results in lack of pigmentation. The effect of this condition is poor eyesight, and of course, they are very sensitive to light. The former executive of the museum said that when White Cloud, the first white bison came to the museum and mother of Dakota Miracle, the museum had sunglasses made for her on two occasions, but the other bison tore them off, so it was futile to continue to try sunglasses on her. Even though albino animals look absolutely breathtaking, they face various conditions caused by this congenital disorder. Those who are affected with this condition can have complete absence of pigmentation in their skin, eyes, and hair. Albinism often is a social issue in herds, because the normal animals in the herd will often ban albinos from the herd. This happened to White Cloud when she arrived at the museum. It is believed that one reason for the banning is herd self-preservation since a white buffalo would be highly visible to potential predators, standing out in the high prairie grasses. In addition, they often cannot find a mate.


Dakota Legend is an albino bison, who’s sire is Dakota Thunder, a normal brown bison, who is also the 2005 son of White Cloud, the famous white bison who resided at the museum until a few years ago. She was returned to her birth home at the Shirek Buffalo Ranch near Michigan, North Dakota. There are no more albino bisons residing at the museum. White Cloud’s final albino offspring, Dakota Miracle, an albino bull, passed away recently at the age of 13.


The odds of an albino bison occurring cannot really be calculated, which makes them both a phenomenon and legendary. They are also considered to be a sacred creature, symbolizing peace, unity and hope by many Native American people. And, for others, the white bison portends great changes in the world.

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