Young buffalo sighted in Rector

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Unbeknownst to many local residents, Rector has been home to one of the most important icons of the untamed western frontier. For the last 15 years, Darrel Dale has kept young buffalo in the field beside his and wife Shelia's Susan Circle home.

Dale works with the buffalo as part of training his quarterhorses for competition.

"The buffalo work better in working with the horses," Dale said. "I show and cut quarterhorses. It's sort of like when a shepherd uses a dog to move his sheep around to where he wants them."

Dale said he used to use cattle to train his horses, but learned there were advantages to working with buffalo instead. Unlike cattle, the young buffalo depend more upon social interaction. Whereas cattle will eventually become non-responsive to the presence of the horses and not group together or go where they are led, the young buffalo respond more naturally, always trying to get back to the others.

However, Dale says it's important to use young buffalo in the training process.

"The first couple of years, they're still scared of you and you can get them to move like you want," Dale said. "After that, they get used to the horses and that when you have to rotate them out for the younger ones."

Dale said he heard about using buffalos to train his horses from a friend. Now, he can't imagine a better method. Dale purchases his buffalo from an exotic animal sale held near Cape Girardeau. He currently has four buffalo, three of which are less than a year old and one that's been with him for nearly two years.

"They're very easy to keep. The main thing is you've got to let them run out there in the field. They don't like to be penned up. You've got to let them out where they can move around and graze, then put out a little feed near the pen to where you can keep them up here when you want."

Dale usually competes in two cut and show events per month.

"It's a hobby for me. I've been a cowboy all my life and I still like to get out there. I got to Ash Flat and Pleasant Plains just about every month and compete."

Caring for his buffalo has become a hobby in itself.

"I like to watch them graze when we're not working. They're something to see. We have people come by all the time who want to take a look and watch them. People are curious when they hear there are buffalo around here."

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