Bison weigh up to 2,000 pounds, and they can grow over 6 feet tall; they are considered the largest mammal in North America. Just a little fun fact, but did you know that the scientific name of this magnificent species is Bison bison, and one of their subspecies, the plains bison, is Bison bison bison?
Among the two living species of bison, the American bison has been declared the national mammal of the United States. Compared to their European cousin, American bison are heavier despite them being shorter. Still, both species are indisputably large.
Indisputably large they may be, but they’re also very gentle creatures if not threatened. One particular bison, Helen, shows off how incredibly sweet she can be when she somehow became the matriarch of the animals on this farm sanctuary.
Helen, a blind bison, was rescued when she was just 4 days old, and Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary gave Helen a home. Despite being blind, Helen is able to thrive on the farm. Bison are originally near-sighted animals, and they rely mostly on their sense of smell and hearing, so Helen is able to navigate the farm without any problems. Helen is described as shy and standoffish at first, preferring to be alone in her 7-acre pasture.
The farm kept trying to put other animals in with Helen in hopes of giving her a companion, but she wasn’t really responsive. It all changed though, when the farm welcomed a newborn cow, Oliver, into their family.
“We let Oliver out into the field with her, and she just – it was just like this maternal instinct. She just immediately wanted to be with him, and she was grooming him, and her whole personality changed,” said Gwen, Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary’s owner.
Oliver was able to coax Helen out of her shell, and since then, Helen has bloomed into becoming a wonderful matriarch for all the other animals on the farm.
“She welcomes every single rescue we get here, and she sort of just lets them know it’s going to be okay, that they’re safe now. We call her the sanctuary matriarch,” said Gwen.
Helen’s most recent bestie is Italo, a victim of the dairy industry. Italo was taken from his mother just hours after being born, but the sanctuary was able to rescue him. Just like Oliver, Italo was introduced to Helen as a baby, and Helen immediately began to groom and take care of the cute calf. Truly the farm’s matriarch.
A year after being introduced, the duo is still inseparable.
Sadly, Helen the gentle giant passed away earlier this year. She left the world leaving her message of love and acceptance to all those who came across her path and know her story.
As the sanctuary said, “Her physical body is gone, but her spirit remains… Helen had a beautiful, long life filled with friendship and love — we never went ONE DAY without letting her know how loved she is. Not one single day.”Whizzco