Beer-Drinking Bison Rides a Convertible to the Bar
"He just loves riding in the car," Jim Sautner tells PEOPLEPets.com. "He sticks his nose in the wind, loves the breeze in the summertime when it's warm."
Bailey Jr. belongs to Sautner, a 63-year-old former bison producer from Edmonton, Canada, and they often head into town to grab a beer or two at the bar, creating traffic jams filled with gawking drivers along the way. And yes, you read that correctly: Bailey Jr. likes to drink beer –and he likes Coca-Cola, too.
The rancher adopted Bailey Jr. after his first pet bison, 8-year-old Bailey Sr. (no relation), died two years ago. Sautner got into the bison industry in 1995, and at one point had 350 head in his herd. When he sold out four years ago, Sautner kept Bailey Sr.: "He was my buddy." It was the start of a partnership that would bring the elder Bailey lots of fame –from appearances on Inside Edition and the Montel Williams Show, to meeting the Queen of England, and even to being featured in the pages of PEOPLE magazine.
"One day, he was a little buffalo sitting in the back yard, and the next thing I knew, he was in the media around the world," Sautner says of the bison he nurtured from 600 lbs. to 1,800 lbs.
When Bailey Sr. died, Sautner was devastated. He and his wife Linda wrapped the his pal's body in a canvas tarp, and when they buried him, they put yellow flowers in his grave.
"It was like losing a kid," says the father of six. "He was 8 years old. Normally, they live to 30. But, things change."
Sautner was surprised two weeks later by a phone call from a friend who owned a buffalo ranch. She called to say one of her bison had died during childbirth – would Sautner like to take the baby?
For the past two years, Bailey Jr. has been just as integral a part of Sautner's life that Bailey Sr. once was. He walks in through the door to the kitchen, goes into the dining room and eventually ends up in the living room ("They're very agile"), where he likes to lie down on Sautner's back.
"He'll follow me anyplace, basically," Sautner says. "I'm his mentor and soother and everything else. He sucks on my hand when he gets nervous. I talk to him and reassure him that I'm still in love with him."
In spite of Bailey Jr.'s gentle demeanor, Sautner says that he has the instincts of a wild animal, and he wants the public to know that bison are very dangerous. But, Sautner says it helps that he understands Bailey's first instinct: survival.
"With that in mind, whenever we go into a situation that's different for him, I talk to him a bit, and when he starts to get afraid, I'll lay down on the floor in front of him," Sautner says. "He senses that there's no panic and settles down."
Settling down is getting harder for Bailey Jr. – when it comes to sitting in the old Pontiac. The still-growing bison stands at 5 ft. 8 in. right now, but at his full height, will be taller than 6 feet and will weigh more than 2,100 lbs. So, Sautner is working on a new Baileymobile. He recently purchased a Cadillac limousine and will be reinforcing the whole frame this winter –which means that come spring, Bailey Jr. will have a brand new ride, the better for viewing his fans.
"He loves people," Sautner says. "The bigger the crowd, the better."
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