The white buffalo is particularly sacred to the Cheyenne, Sioux and other nomadic tribes of the Northern Plains that once relied on the buffalo for subsistence.
According to a version of the legend, a white buffalo, disguised as a woman wearing white hides, appeared to two men. One treated her with respect, and the other didn't. She turned the disrespectful man into a pile of bones, and gave the respectful one a pipe and taught his people 7 sacred rituals and music. She transformed into a female white buffalo calf and disappeared, and promised to return again.
She taught them the sighting of a white buffalo was a sign that it was near the time she would return again to purify the world to bring back harmony and balance.
A white buffalo can result from one of several physical conditions:
• They may be leucistic, with white fur but blue eyes, instead of the pink seen in albinos.
• They may have a rare genetic condition which causes a buffalo to be born white, but to become brown within a year or two as it matures.
• They may be albinos, in which case they will remain unpigmented throughout their lives, and may also have hearing and vision problems.
• They may be beefalo, a bison-cattle crossbreed, and thus have inherited the white coloration from their cattle ancestry.
White buffalo are extremely rare; The National Bison Association has estimated that they only occur in approximately one out of every 10 million births.