Meet Our Founding Father


Dan O’Brien is an owner of the Cheyenne River Buffalo Ranch and the founding father of Wild Idea Buffalo Company. 

As a kid growing up in Findlay, Ohio, Dan could be found playing sports or playing outdoors, investigating nature. On a family vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota when he was twelve, he looked out the car window towards the prairie and said, “This is where I’m going to live someday.”

After earning a BA at Michigan Tech, he found his way to the University of South Dakota to study writing under Fredrick Manfred. He received his MFA and made the prairie his home. 

Dan sitting at desk with copy of Wild Idea

Dan has been described by the New York Times as one of the most powerful literary voices on the Plains, and “a writer with a keen and poetic eye.” His novels include, The Spirit of the Hills, In the Center of the Nation, Brendan Prairie, The Contract Surgeon, The Indian Agent and Stolen Horses. Dan’s memoirs on falconry, The Rites of Autumn and Equinox, are intimate and revealing explorations of his life-long search for wildness on the Great Plains. Dan’s non-fiction book, Buffalo for the Broken Heart explores the history of his ranch and the conversion from beef to buffalo. It was chosen for “One Book South Dakota” in 2009. Dan’s latest non-fiction books include, Wild Idea – Buffalo & Family in a Difficult Land (a sequel to Buffalo for the Broken Heart) and Great Plains Bison.

Dan is a two-time winner of the National Endowment for the Arts’ individual artist’s grant, a two-time winner of the Western Heritage Award, and a 2001 recipient of the Bush Creative Arts Fellowship.

Dan driving in a fencepost

In addition to writing, Dan is a wildlife biologist and has been a rancher for more than forty years. He is also a falconer (his golf), and was a player in the restoration of peregrine falcons in the Rocky Mountains in the 1970's and 80's.

Dan training a peregrine falcon

He made the conversion from beef cattle to bison on his ranch when he realized the largest native herbivore, the keystone species of the Great Plains, was missing. The bison would be the main tool in helping preserve and restore the prairie.

What he hadn’t planned on was the buffalo leading him to starting a meat company. He has stated many times, “I never thought in a million years that I would be a meat purveyor.” The connection of healthy food equaling healthy land or healthy land equaling healthy food was made, making his initial "wild idea" even more prevalent. 

In addition to writing, Dan divides his time between Wild Idea, working on the ranch, writing, teaching ecology and writing, and public speaking. For fun, you can still find him playing outside or enjoying his grand-kids. 



  • Posted on by Tom

    Wild Idea, what A history you have. Dreams coming true at that scale is a great thing, congrats Dan.
    Love the Pictures and Documentation, it’s always satisfying to feel involved with a successful dream like yours. Your Premium Ground is what’s always in my freezer last few yrs, there is none better.

  • Posted on by Kitterie SCHENCK-DAVID

    Hi, I am a Kitterie. I am living in south west of France, in a mountain area called the Pyrenees. Like many French people, I discovered the Wild Idea Buffalo Company with the writing “Wild Idea”. And like many, I feel so close to the way of ranching of the company and I share your interest in prairie restoration. I hope to come and see ypur ranch someday… and also to taste your meat (incomparable for sure!). For now literature is my way of traveling: Dan O’Brien (of course), Jim Harrison, Jim Fergus and Louise Erdrich are my traveling companions! Bye Kitterie

  • Posted on by John Duggan

    As a new customer I love your product it’s the bison I’ve had in long time I took some to deer camp this year and everyone the brats and the sausage I made thank you for all the hard work and having a Qualty product
    John Duggan

  • Posted on by Blake O'Quinn

    in your careful management of the land and the bison, knowing how you view the ecosystem, do you adhere to strict organic methods concerning the grasses and forbs? do you find it unnecessary to provide additives in whatever form for regeneration of the fields each year on a running basis? (thinking manure-based)
    from your writings and this blog page I feel I’ve already met you, gazed into your eyes on a long afternoon stroll about the place, happy to be learning about all that you present.
    a visit someday would be my honor.

  • Posted on by Eric L. Johnson Sr.

    Love your product and what you are doing to restore the prairie environment. Way Da Go Ehh! A fellow Husky Class of 82

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