Hays’ first bison herd arrived courtesy of James “Scotty” Philips. Scotty knew Sitting Bull and was aware of the scarcity of bison after their extensive slaughter. By 1893, the 60 million pre-European herd had dwindled to around 100 total bison. In 1916, Philips shipped five bison from his ranch near Pierre, South Dakota, to the Experiment Station just south of Hays. In 1922, The Fort Hays Normal School took over care of the herd when the Experiment Station needed to reclaim the land where the herd resided.
The herd was established with a bull named Wild Bill and a cow named Calamity Jane in Frontier Park in 1953 and maintained by the Kansas State Historical Society. In the late 1970's the City of Hays took over maintenance of the herd. The herd has been in FrontierPark ever since and has grown to include a bull, Ace, and many cow. Each year the bison herd welcomes new calves to the delight of each person who stops in Frontier Park. Thanks to a local rancher a rare, white bison named Ghostbuster joined the herd in the summer of 2017.
This area was home to the largest herd of bison in North America, estimated in the millions at one time. The importance of the bison to the Native Americans of the area should not be overlooked. The natives depended upon the bison for food, shelter, clothing, and tools. They fought hard when millions of the animals were slaughtered as a result of the intrusion of the railroad and white settlers.
The Hays Parks Department maintains the bison herd and wants to remind people that although the animals appear domesticated, it should be remembered they are still wild animals and quite capable of moving very quickly and causing harm to anyone in the pen area.