Strong, powerful, imposing, significant, and majestic are just a few of the adjectives typically used to describe the bison. The largest and heaviest land animal in Canada, the bison is sometimes referred to as “buffalo,” but this is a misnomer as true buffalo species only live in Asia and Africa. The bison plays a vital role in Canadian geography, history, and culture. The Royal Canadian Mint has acknowledged its contribution in the past with multiple commemorative coins featuring its likeness. In 2022, it honours the bison further with a new $30 coin made of pure silver.
A Keystone Species
A keystone species is an animal or plant that helps hold an ecosystem together. The loss of a keystone species would mean irrevocable changes that could be so dramatic that the entire ecosystem could collapse.
Bison is a keystone species in the grassland regions of Canada and the United States. Here are a few of the ways that bison alter their ecosystem for the better:
- Provide paths through the snow for pronghorn antelope
- Clear patches of grass where prairie dogs build dens, which later provide homes for other animals
- Compact soil for better water retention by rolling around in the dirt
- Fertilize the soil with their urine and excrement
- Sow plants by distributing seeds caught in their fur
- Aerate the soil with their hooves
The bison also has significant cultural significance to First Nations who originated on the plains. Nomadic tribes hunted the bison for food and clothing, and it traditionally holds great spiritual significance for them as well.
At one point, the North American plains were populated by an estimated 50 million bison, but overhunting in the mid-to-late 19th century reduced their numbers to less than 400. In 1884, conservation efforts were undertaken to protect the bison and increase their numbers. The efforts paid off; there are 1,000 times more bison roaming the prairies today than there were when conservation efforts first began.
A New Commemorative Coin
The Royal Canadian Mint recently released a new commemorative coin for 2022 called “The Mighty Bison.” The reverse design by Canadian artist Claudio D’Angelo depicts a winter scene of two bison bulls (male bison). One stands on top of a knoll while the other stands in front of it, and they face opposite directions while standing in profile to show their physical features to the greatest effect.
This is a simple coin with no special technology or hidden features. Instead, it features classic engraving and multiple frostings to bring out the details and provide a sense of realism and depth to the scene.
Previous Canadian Coins Featuring Bison
“The Mighty Bison” is not the first commemorative coin from the Royal Canadian Mint to feature the majestic creatures:
- Bison Stampede (2013): This $100 silver coin depicts three bison galloping across the prairie. Beyond the mountain in the distance, storm clouds gather on the horizon, suggesting that the bison may have been spooked by thunder.
- The Bull and His Mate (2014): Bison are social creatures that live in large herds. This coin is intended to show the difference in size and shagginess between the male bison (bull) and the female (cow) as they stand next to one another.
- Extraordinarily High-Relief Bold Bison (2021): This coin features an extremely detailed portrait of a bison’s head, but what makes it really remarkable is the extraordinary high relief. Thanks to modern minting technology, the portrait extends out from the surface of the coin approximately six millimetres, giving it an extra dimension.
Find “The Mighty Bison” From the Royal Canadian Mint at Colonial Acres Coins
The bison is one of the most iconic animals in North America, so it makes sense that the Royal Canadian Mint would feature it on not one but several commemorative Canadian coins. You can find the latest bison coin, as well as those from previous years, for sale at Colonial Acres.