CUSTER, South Dakota — A record crowd watched a herd of about 1,300 bison thunder across the prairie during the 50th annual Buffalo Roundup in Custer State Park.
Fred Kush, of Lacrosse, Wisconsin, said the Friday event made him think about what a sight it must have been in the 1800s before so many buffalo were killed off.
"The spectacle of it, to see this huge, majestic things in the meadows by themselves, or to see them charging, it just makes you go, 'wow,'" the former history teacher told the Rapid City Journal.
The roundup featured horseback riders joined by all-terrain vehicles and pickup trucks gathering some 1,300 bison into corrals. The buffalo are branded and given vaccinations, and then the herd is culled, or reduced, to about 900 that will be released back onto the park to roam free for another year. The rest are sold at auction.
This year's event drew about 21,000 visitors, which was about 50 percent larger than it typically draws.
Craig Pugsley, Custer State Park's visitor service coordinator, told KEVN-TV that the park has played a pivotal role in helping to bring back the numbers of bison throughout the United States. Pugsley said the buffalo is kind of the iconic image of the west, and the dust flies "in a spiritual way" as the animals rumble across the park during the roundup.
Dennis Harlow and Lois Halvorsen, of Minnesota, traveled to the event with friends of theirs from Denmark. They wanted to see the buffalo after they watched "Dances with Wolves," a movie filmed mainly in the Black Hills area.
"We went on a Jeep ride and got to see them up close," Harlow told the Journal. "They're huge, but calm, majestic animals."
Added Halvorsen, "Seeing them kick up all of that dust and hearing the sound of the ground, like thunder, it's well worth it."