He's as strong as an ox, is "Sparky" the bison. 

Back in the summer of 2013, this unlucky male buffalo was taking some time out on the grassy plains of Iowa's Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge when he was struck by lightning. That nasty-looking injury you see is the result. The electric jolt burned its way across a large part of the bison's hump before exiting through the hind leg.

When wildlife biologists at the reserve spotted the bloody wound some time later, they feared Sparky's days were numbered. "Since a lightning strike is something that could easily occur in wild bison anywhere, the refuge let nature take its course," explains the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

And Sparky defied the odds. Wildlife biologist Karen Viste-Sparkman saw steady improvement each time she checked up on the wounded bull. The injury healed and Sparky stayed on his feet, with just a telltale limp hinting at the injury to his hind leg. 

Almost three years later, he roams the reserve and hangs with his herd just like any other bison. Before disaster struck, Sparky had fathered three calves, and biologists now hope that genetic testing will tell them whether he's passed on those hardy genes again since then. 


Top header image: Neal Herbert, Flickr