Badlands National Park – American Bison Part 2


Have you ever heard of bison wallowing?  Or maybe you’ve seen bison rolling from side to side in the dirt?  Yep, that ‘dust bath’ is called wallowing.

There are actually several explanations on why bison do wallowing.  Not only does it give relief to biting insects, it helps bison shed their heavy winter fur.

Wallowing is also sometimes seen as a social behavior associated with play, group cohesion, and male-male conflict.

During mating season, sexually mature males will urinate in the wallow before rolling on the ground to advertise their scent and strength.

Here’s a series of close-up shots of a bison wallowing, shot from my car window.


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“Are you ready?”


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American bison wallowing


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American bison wallowing


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American bison wallowing


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American bison wallowing


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American bison wallowing


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“A little dirt doesn’t hurt!”


More wildlife to come from Badlands NP…..prairie dogs next!



46 thoughts on “Badlands National Park – American Bison Part 2

  1. Wow! I’ve never seen pictures of bison doing this before. Great photos! I love the way he seems to be looking right at you in the last one. Thanks for the explanation of the behavior. (For some reason the word wallowing always brings to mind the phrase “wallowing in self pity.”)

    • Thank you, Barbara! How lucky for this to happen right alongside the road and on my side of the car to boot! 🤗 I took a couple other series’ of this behavior, but the bison were out in the distance.

  2. Wow! That’s a lot of weight to be rolling around. Reminds me of views of elephants taking dirt baths. I’m curious – with all the insects no doubt hovering on and around these animals, did you see any cattle egrets following them? It’s my understanding that cattle egrets are worldwide, so I’m wondering if there were any there?

    • Thank you, Susan! I did not see any Cattle Egret at the Badlands nor anywhere else in South Dakota since we’ve been here (we’re in western SD now), and I’ve seen lots of fields filled with cattle! Cattle Egret do not reside or breed in the top 1/4-1/3 of the U.S. or Canada. However, there is a ‘scarce’ breeding area in eastern ND and SD that Cattle Egret do reach and breed. That puzzles me!

  3. Fantastic bison sequence, Donna. Your photos capture well the robustness of the movement as he kicks up the dust, and also the half-molting coat. Interesting that they wallow for several reasons. Thanks for sharing your Badlands adventure with us.

    • Thank you, Jet! It was awesome for this bison to have done it right there alongside the road, as if it were putting on a show for the three car spectators. It really shows the strength they have to roll around like that, and then stand up. Heck, I couldn’t do it! lol

  4. Great shots Donna! That would have been awesome to see! They are such huge creatures, do people ever have to worry about them while driving around the national parks?

    • Thank you, Sue! Just like with other wildlife, vehicles work great as ‘blinds’ to watch bison. They do not feel threatened and will casually walk past your vehicle. On foot, you’re more vulnerable as they are quick to change their mind if they chose. If they are going to cross the road, you got to let them. They aren’t stopping! lol

  5. Great action sequence, Donna. He does seem to be gazing right at you… a little unnerving! I remember as a girl reading the Little House on the Prairie books where she and her sister find a huge buffalo wallow filled with wildflowers. 🙂

  6. Pingback: Badlands National Park – Bighorn Sheep | Photos by Donna

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