Minnesota farm has exotic animals
HOUSTON, Minn. (AP) — When you arrive on the Buffalo Gal property in Houston, Minnesota, it’s hard to miss the one-ton bison standing on the left side of the road. However, on the right, on the side of the hill, just below the chapel, is a grave.
In that grave lies Cody, the namesake of the bison on the left side of the road named Cody Two.
Cody was almost 20 years old when he died, a death that devastated owner Mike Fogel, who had treated Cody like a pet, even raising him as a calf inside the house. Both Codys, he said, took on dog-like behaviors.
At Buffalo Gal, they sell a variety of unique meats — different bison cuts, Scottish highlander, elk, lamb, yak, and wild boar. Buffalo Gal is the last farm in Minnesota to raise wild boar.
Today, Buffalo Gal is also home to a camel and a muster of peacocks roam the grounds. But Fogel started the operation with a single bison in Wisconsin in 1976.
Slowly Fogel, and his business, previously named Fogel’s Buffalo Basin, gained a reputation, even being part of a Playboy magazine article about exotic meats.
Once while visiting Denver, Fogel saw a man riding a bison in a rodeo. After the rodeo, Fogel approached the man, hoping to learn more about how to tame bison enough to ride them.
The man’s advice: forget it.
“He said, ‘no, you can’t do it,'” Fogel told Agri News. But Fogel would not be deterred.
Not long after the Playboy article, Fogel met a wealthy man who was looking for someone who shared his enthusiasm for bison. He found Fogel, who went to Montana to oversee a herd of 650 bison on the man’s 60,000-acre farm.
After four years on the farm, and the death of the wealthy man, Fogel moved to his current home in Houston.
Soon, Cody was trained and ready, and Fogel began walking him in parades and attended the Minnesota State Fair, where a news channel featured him.
Fogel soon received a call from Tig Productions, a production company owned by actor Kevin Costner. The company wanted to know if Cody would be interested in being in “Dances with Wolves,” the eventual winner of seven Academy Awards in 1991.
In truth, Fogel had no idea if Cody could stay still on the set. But he decided to try it anyway. As it turns out, Cody was a natural.
From there, both Cody and Cody Two would be in movies and commercials, as well as walk in numerous parades.
While both Codys appear to be tame, Fogel said they should be treated as wild animals that could do serious harm.
“They’re very aggressive, especially when you get them in a corner,” Fogel said. “When you start pushing them and confining them, you gotta have good facilities. They can jump, they’re very powerful, they’re very fast. They look slow … they’re not.”
Between the Houston farm, and the Wisconsin farm run by one of his sons, the Fogels oversee 125 bison, including a herd of white bison in Wisconsin.
Lately, Fogel has been reflecting on his operation and the life he’s built.
Last year, a documentary crew from “Barcroft Animals,” a British TV show, interviewed people from around the world who raise potentially dangerous animals like bears, tigers and bison.
The crew filmed for four days and finally Fogel had an answer as to why he raises potentially lethal animals.
“I reflected on Cody over the years and all the experiences and what he did,” Fogel said with his voice cracking and tears welling in his eyes. “Around here, everything is Cody … because of him, that’s where I get where I am really.”
While the bison didn’t grow up around they family, they eventually became a part of it, he said.
“I could see why I do it. It’s brought the family and everyone closer together,” Fogel said.
Still, when asked if he would recommend raising bison in the way he has, Fogel repeated the words of the man in Denver: “Forget it.”