Monday 3 September 2012
Where the Buffalo Roam
If the Essex police get tired of sightings of lions and tigers and bears, oh my, they can book a safari in North Yorkshire where they will see majestic herds of buffalo and deer sweeping down from the Hambleton Hills.
These magnificent specimen followed our trailer and began to run and jump just like in the Westerns. While the water buffalo and highland cattle are disinclined to break in to a trot and demand to have the carrots brought to them, the American buffalo - Bison bison, so good they named them twice - are wild animals and always remember that they are supposed to be on a long journey.
They've settled in well to Yorkshire; the hottest summer days are a trial to them but they are cheerful in the winter and their whole body is adapted to deal with snow on grassland. They appreciate some top-up hay and yummy carrots but, unlike the conventional cattle, they don't have to be brought indoors and coddled through to spring.
Up close it's easy to see why the Great Plains people deified the animals; they look at you quietly but with a wary curiosity. There is definitely Somebody Home. The shaggy fur at the front looks soft and clean; they don't smell. The flanks are much finer skin, almost felty by the look of it - but they won't let you touch them.
This could be tricky. The whole point of them is to find a source of meat which is yummy, lean and unmodified by modern animal husbandry such as antibiotics, but after five minutes they begin seem like huge quiet spirits; things you'd rather have around than not.
The meat is wonderful my co-tasters advise. But I ended up eating venison and orange burger and iron-age pig sausage. Those are animals which are either air-heads or are bred to be eaten.
These buffalo are spooky, as if they have raced off the cave wall and never changed in all the 20,000 years, still wondering about those annoying apes.
Northallerton, North Yorkshire, DL6 2PD