More than a century ago, the prairie lands of Kansas were dotted with the massive bodies of buffalo.

There were herds of bison that provided sustenance and pelts to the Native American tribes of the plains. In 1886, the last North American buffalo were killed in Kansas. The great beasts that numbered in the millions were taken down to nothing in just a couple decades, according to the Kansas Historical Society.

In 2009, Jo and Shawn Rolph brought a little piece of history back to the heart of Solomon Valley in Delphos. They opened the Dry Creek Buffalo Ranch at 1052 Ute Road, with seven heifers and one bull.

"We were interested and always had been in livestock, so we came up with the idea to raise buffalo," Shawn Rolph said.

Today, that small herd is up to 50 head and still growing on more than 70 acres of land. They’ll be calfing soon and adding to their numbers.

While the herd was a dream of the couple, it hasn’t always been their lot in life. Shawn graduated from high school in Minneapolis, Kan. From there, he went on to college and met Jo. Both were pursuing futures in law enforcement. They spent several years in Manhattan before retiring from law enforcement, as well as mechanical contracting.

Eventually they decided going home might just be a good plan for their retirement. Although his father had died and his mom had moved, he still had aunts and uncles in the area.

"I’m a small-town boy, I got a hankering to come home," Shawn said.

So he spoke with one of his uncles who happened to own some ground that hadn’t been worked in more than 28 years.

"Talked to him and he pretty much gave us the green light and we were crazy enough to raise buffalo," Shawn said. "So we came back. The land was overgrown so we had to clear it and put a new fence up. Now we raise buffalo."

So what does raising bison entail? A lot of hard work and elbow grease. The animals and their surroundings are in constant need of maintenance. With their girth, they aren’t easily contained, so fences constantly need mending. They are always in need of clean water. In the winter, there isn’t grass to sustain them, so hay is necessary to feed them. Then there are mineral blocks to be put out. Not to mention if they get loose, a specific group of people is called upon to help round them up.

"The buffalo are a handful always," Shawn said. "They just gotta be babysat. They say you don’t have to do much with them but we usually have somebody with them most of the time."

Unlike cattle, these beasts aren’t very tame. They can’t be walked among and you can’t easily mingle with them.

"If you get too close to a calf, the mom will come after you." Shawn explained. "If she comes after you then everybody else comes after you too."

It’s not all hard work though, as there is something to be gained from the herd. Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the Dry Creek Buffalo Ranch and Chuckwagon food truck can be found in the surrounding communities. On Mondays they serve Delphos, Tuesdays they go to Glasco and Wednesdays they go to Minneapolis. They set up at fairs and festivals and eventually they hope to spend a day during the week in Salina.

"It’s been great," Jo said. "For fairs and festivals, we were booked up from the end of March to the last weekend in October."

At the Smoky Hill River Festival alone, the Chuckwagon is manned by a crew of at least five. They get the whole family involved. This crew serves up 500 pounds of meat. This is the weight of one full-sized animal.

That’s not all. The Rolphs offer the public some unique experiences on the ranch itself. Tours with the buffalo are an option. The herd can be observed from a hay ride tour or a hiking tour in the surrounding timber. After, visitors can enjoy a buffalo meal from the truck.

"We started giving tours this year," Jo said. "We had been planning on giving tours and it just finally worked out to be able to do it and iron things out to do it our way."

The ranch also sells meat. Buffalo meat can be purchased by the pound, or a half or whole animal can be bought.

According to American Gourmet, bison is one of the most nutritious meats available. With a low calorie count, a quarter pound of bison meat contains only 146 calories. By comparison, that size of serving of lean ground beef contains 176 calories. Pork contains 218 and turkey contains 149 calories. Not even venison can hold its own against bison, as it contains 158 calories.

Bison is exceptionally lean with one serving containing only 7.21 grams of fat and 55 milligrams of cholesterol. On the nutrient side, it contains higher amounts of protein, iron and Vitamin B-12. The meat is also used often as a dietary substitute for those with food allergies, as it contains fewer artificial antibiotics, hormones and steroids.

The Rolphs also offer a catering service that can be customized to accommodate any number of events. The meat comes from the animals on the ranch. They are put down, then transferred to a butcher in Riley for processing. A meat inspector is there to check out the meat and ensure its quality.

"It’s a great deal as we do not have a lot of choices around here, so this gives us another option to choose from," said Delphos resident Jim Klein.

The Rolphs’ piece of history continues to grow with the help of their family. The coming years will bring much as they plan to expand their services and show the beauty in bison to people everywhere.

For more information on the Dry Creek Buffalo Ranch and their services, visit or visit their page on Facebook.