OGDEN -- Men walk over mounds of sawdust holding large wooden crooks. They maneuver around massive grunting bison, corralled in steel pens lined with grass-hay.
Bison calfs wrestle each other, while a massive bull nods his head to show that he feels uncomfortable and that anyone nearby needs to give him space.
Man and beast are both in town for the Western Bison Association's 11th annual Wild West Stampede Show and Sale that started Thursday and concludes today. The event takes place at the Golden Spike Event Center, 1000 N. 1200 West.
There are about 81 animals representing 12 to 14 ranches from all over the West, including California, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado.
Animals are judged the first two days of the event and sold at the auction, which is held every year on the first Saturday in December. It moved from Reno, Nev., to Ogden about five years ago to have a more central location for its members.
"It's really growing," association member and bison rancher Rex Snyder said. "The market, the demand for the bison has outstripped the supply."
Members showed up on Monday and set up the $90,000 worth of corral equipment, capable of holding up to 300 animals. Throughout the event, organizers often restraighten the pens, which are easily pushed about by the up to one-ton animals.
Garret Michael Brown, from Brown's Buffalo Ranch in Nyssa, Ore., is a third-generation bison rancher. He did not bring any animals for competition this year. Instead, he is serving as one of the judges.
As a judge, he looks at each animal's thickness, length, bone structure, shoulders and, in the case of females, the pelvis.
"It's a very good event," Brown said. "It's very put together. The quality is unbelievable -- it makes it really hard on me."
The winner was announced at an awards banquet Friday evening.
Snyder said people are learning the benefits of bison meat. It is a lean alternative to beef that is finding a place on more and more restaurant menus. The only problem is that there is more demand than there are bison.
While the beef industry renders about 129,000 cows a day, there are only about 500,000 bison in the United States and Canada. Snyder said if bison were slaughtered at the same rate, the animals would become extinct in a matter of days.
"We're just a little spot on the radar," Snyder said, "but there is a big demand out there."
Ogden-area bison owner Tony Kershaw plans to attend the event today. He has two bison at the moment but has had up to four. He is currently cordoning off land and putting up a seven-foot tall fence to raise more bison.
There are other places in the state a person can get a bison, such as classified ads or the annual sale at Antelope Island, but Kershaw said the association's event is the place to get better blood lines.
"If you have a big herd," Kershaw said, "this would be the place to get a nice sire."
Kershaw is one of the people increasing interest in bison. He became interested in bison when he went looking for healthier meat. He saw that it was expensive to buy retail, so he and a friend decided it might be less expensive to get it straight from the source. They bought and raised a bison from the annual sale at Antelope Island.
"I continued because I like them," Kershaw said. "I like the meat and I think it's better to eat than beef."
Snyder, who brought a few 3-year-old bulls from his ranch in Wyoming, spent many years as a beef rancher. He switched to raising bison after his wife bought a few to try out. He still remembers the day the beat-up old trailer showed up at his home to deliver the animals.
"They came out at 800 miles an hour," Snyder said, and with a snap of his fingers, "my whole life changed and I've never regretted it since."