To me a heritage breed means an animal that is associated with a human group's heritage, defined by geography. There is no animal that comes to mind more distinctly when reminiscing about Iowa's geographic history than the mighty buffalo.
The American Buffalo or Bison once numbered in the millions, were hunted almost to extinction by the European invaders of America. This herd animal along with prairie fires can be thanked for the gold mine of soil that makes up Iowa's billion dollar agricultural industry.
One might believe that the buffalo was undomesticated, untouched by man, but we now know that the Native People managed the buffalo herds using fire and selective hunting. In my mind, their management of these impressive beasts was the ideal relationship man should have with animals that are primarily food. The buffalo was allowed to have its freedom and in having its freedom it became adapted to the biosphere from genetics to feeding itself efficiently. It was perfectly adapted to the Iowa Biosphere. It is a low maintenance animal and an efficient grazer.
Today Iowa is getting back into this heritage breed which is now used as a domesticated low fat, low cholesterol, high protein, meat source. It is interesting that it took something trendy to back the heritage of Iowa and a fine animal back to our land. The best place to see how this effort is moving forward is the Iowa Bison Association. There are currently 12 farms in Iowa who raise buffalo and their meat can be found in all our local grocery and health stores. Once slaughtered by the millions, banned from killing on the prairie, now a heritage that Iowans are embracing and demanding at their table.