Small Minnesota town buffalo is a celebrity

Published 2:52 pm Saturday, August 31, 2013

By John Weiss

Rochester Post-Bulletin

HOUSTON — A Houston area celebrity is going big time.

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He was featured recently in a photo shoot with Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Hannah Davis, is registered with a talent agency, starred in a Subway TV ad and has a Facebook page.

He’s prime for bigger things, said Valerie Shannon, one of those marketing this celebrity. “We’ve thought regionally, but now nationally,” she said. “We are ready to market him aggressively.”

When she saw how well the shoot with Davis went, it “kind of opened my eyes to find out what we could do,” what other avenues are out there.

For his part, Cody II didn’t seem overly impressed, as only 2,000 pounds of buffalo can be unimpressed.

When they are ready to take him to a photo shoot or program, however, Cody is ready, said Mike Fogel, who trained Cody. “He likes it,” he said. “When we bring the trailer, he wants to get in.”

Cody is the second buffalo to make it big from Money Creek Buffalo Ranch, which is a few miles north of Houston. The first Cody was a star in the movie “Dances with Wolves” where he hobnobbed with Kevin Costner. That Cody died in 2006 of kidney failure, and now Cody II has taken over.

For years, Shannon and Fogel took their buffalo (technically, a bison but commonly referred to as a buffalo) to local parades, where she would ride him using a saddle or walk him down main streets. Cody became a fixture at grand openings of stores.

Cody now is featured in a national Buffalo Jeans ad with the swimsuit model and they think it’s time to broaden his star power.

Despite national exposure, they also want Cody to keep doing his usual work promoting Buffalo Gal products and telling the story of the buffalo.

When they take Cody to parades or grand openings, people are drawn to him.

That’s a great way for people to learn about the Buffalo Gal products, she said. The ranch raises and sells about 300 buffalo per year and also markets hides, bones, skulls and other parts of the animal. They also raise and sell pork and beef.

Making use of as much of the animals as possible also is part of a history lesson, she said. She and Fogel want people to know how tens of millions of buffalo once covered the Great Plains and were so critical to the survival of the plains tribes. They used buffalo for food, clothing, shelter, tools, medicine and decorations. They were a big-box store on four hooves, Fogel said.

While Cody is one of the few buffaloes tame enough to be ridden, people have to be aware he is a ton of muscle and power, Shannon said. They control who can touch him and where, she said.

“They (people) want to grab the horns,” she said. “That’s a threat, an aggressive move.”

They don’t want to overdo Cody’s schedule, because the photo shoots are stressful with so many people around, she said.

Though Cody is so many things — model, promoter and walking symbol of America’s past — he still is a very special buffalo to Fogel. He has been a great way to get to many places, including the White House.

“He has been like a lightning rod in my life,” he said. “He has changed my life.”