Preserving an American Icon


Towards the end of the great slaughter, a handful of individuals concerned with the fate of the bison began the difficult task of saving them. These individuals took on the care of orphaned calves and started to increase the number of bison by forming their own herds.

Mary Ann Goodnight urged her husband Charles to capture some orphan calves from the southern herd in 1878. These bison calves were raised up on the JA Ranch to form the nucleus of the Goodnight Herd which soon grew to over 200 head.

The descendants of these animals now constitute the Texas State Bison Herd today. The Goodnight Herd, as well as four other herds started by other concerned individuals, provided the foundation stock for virtually all bison in North America today.


 Content and video courtesy Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.


The Texas State Bison Herd Following the death of the Goodnights, the herd eventually faded from public awareness until wildlife conservationist Wolfgang Frey learned about the remaining herd of 50 or so bison on the JA Ranch and contacted the state of Texas in 1994.

After genetic testing by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, a rare genetic marker was discovered within the herd revealing it to be perhaps the last remaining group of southern plains bison.

The JA Ranch donated the herd to Texas Parks and Wildlife, and in 1997 they were moved to Caprock Canyons State Park. Unique not only in its historical importance but also in its rare genetic makeup, the herd has been designated the Official Bison Herd of the state of Texas.

To this day, the herd remains in a portion of its natural home range on what was once a part of the JA Ranch in Caprock Canyons State Park.