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White Bufffalo Hair Through the Microscope

White Bison Guard Hair

This is a sample collected from a white buffalo headdress. The hair lacks the ovaloid bodies and pigment. The scale count is 8 per 100 micrometers. The reddish dark contaminant is ochre in a polymerized fat.

Transmitted Oblique and Reflected Darkfield Illumination


KINGDOM: Animalia PHYLUM: Chordata CLASS: Mammalia ORDER: Artiodactyla FAMILY: Bovidae SUBFAMILY: Bovinae TRIBE: Bovini GENUS: Bison SPECIES: bison

This hair is from a white buffalo headress. A mature bison may have white hair under two rather rare conditions. One is a true albino with pink eyes. The other is a leucistic animal with blue eyes.

Significance in the Environment:

Characteristic Features:

Bison guard hair is flattened with a maximum width of about 110 micrometer. In cross-section the major axis is about 110 and the minor axis is about 40 micrometers. It has a fragmented medulla near the terminations but is generally of uniserial ladder structure with about 14 rungs per 100 micrometers. The cuticle pattern is imbricate flattened and has a scale count of about 10-12 per 100 micrometers. It has a refractive index along its length of about 1.56 and perpendicular to its length of about 1.55. It has a birefringence of about 0.01 and a positive sign of elongation.

Albino bison hair lacks the ability to produce melanin though the melanocyte is still present. The hair may take on a yellowish color if xanthophores are present. Leucism is the result of the of the failure of precusor cells to form properly. Since melanophores and xanthophores come from the same precursor cells, both are defective and tend to be absent.

Associated Particles:


References with Photographs and/or Drawings

Hausman, Leon Augustus, "Structural charactreistics of the hair of mammals", THE AMERICAN NATURALIST, vol. 54, no. 635, pp.496-523,

Hausman, Leon Augustus, "Recent studies of hair structure relationships", THE SCIENTIFIC MONTHLY, pp. 258-277,

Glaister, John, A STUDY OF HAIRS AND WOOLS, Misr Press, Cairo, 1931.

(Click here for FBI site for Animal Hair Identification.)

Keys Only

Mayer, William V., "The hair of California mammals with keys to the dorsal guard hairs of California mammals", THE AMERICAN MIDLAND NATURALIST, vol. 48, no. 2, pp. 480-512, 1952.

Stains, Howard J., "Field key to guard hair of middle western furbearers", JOURNAL OF WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT, vol. 22, no.1, pp. 95-97, January, 1958.

Mathiak, Harold A., "A key to hairs of the mammals of southern Michigan", JOURNAL OF WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 251-268, October, 1938.