Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Home Sweet Home, where Bailey the Buffalo Roams:

For thousands of years, the majestic North American buffalo roamed freely over the wide-open Canadian prairies.

Today, most of these brown, woolly beasts spend their time grazing on ranches - or in the case of Bailey, watching TV in the living room of an Alberta family's home.

Jim and Linda Sautner are the proud owners of Bailey, a nearly four-year-old bison, who has a penchant for spending his time inside the couple's home, about 20 kilometres west of the provincial capital of Edmonton.

"My wife wouldn't let me bring my German shepherd puppy in the house one day, so I got even with her by bringing Bailey in," Mr Sautner said on Wednesday. "He's made a mess on the carpet a couple of times, so now we bring out an ice-cream pail whenever he gives us that look."

The Sautners, who own 270 head of buffalo, have become used to having the 725-kilogram beast watching television in their lounge room. "He prefers to watch The Nature of Things," Mr Sautner said, referring to a Canadian nature series.

The couple rescued Bailey as a baby, after the calf was abandoned by his mother. Along with farm hands, they bottle-fed Bailey with milk daily and their affinity for one another grew rapidly.

Christmas was especially memorable at the Sautners with 21 wide-eyed guests sitting down to a dinner of mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables, and buffalo meat balls - with the furry giant snorting behind them.

Although the Sautners have lost more than $CAN1.6 million ($A1.5 million) this year on their buffalo meat business, the indirect result of a mad cow disease case that shut down much of Canada's beef industry, they have no plans to sell Bailey.

"He knows he'll never be buffalo burgers because he's an ambassador for the bison industry," Mrs Sautner said.

The laid-back Bailey, who has been neutered, has been involved in some unusual promotional stunts, including showing up in the lobby of three-star hotels and climbing with Mr Sautner to the top of a grandstand at the Calgary Stampede rodeo.

- Reuters

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