Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Mammalia
Order – Artiodactyla
Family – Bovidae
Genus - Bison
Species – B.bison
Common Name – Bison, Buffalo, American Bison, American Buffalo
Bison typically travel in large herds. Some herds are composed of female bison and their children, while other herds (called “bachelor herds”) are composed of adult males. Males may also live alone until the breeding season.
Bison herds migrate, usually moving between feeding sites. They feed on grasses and other plants, including lichen and leaves.
An adult bison has very few predators due to its large size and powerful strength. Sick bison, older individuals or calves may fall prey to wolf packs, or sometimes grizzly bears. However, attacking a healthy adult bison can prove deadly for wolves and bears.
Bison can appear tame or slow, but they pose a very real danger to humans that get to get too close. They can run at speeds up to 45 miles per hour and frequently injure more people in national parks than other animals considered dangerous, such as bears. Though bison are plentiful in places like Yellowstone National Park, they should be regarded with respect and caution, as they are still wild animals and will defend themselves if they feel threatened.
Male bison do not assist with raising the calves. Bison mate in late summer, with a pregnancy that lasts 285 days. One calf is born per pregnancy.
Bison are large members of the cow family (Bovidae) that grow to nearly 12 feet in length, and can weigh over 2,500 pounds.
Their bodies are covered in brown fur, which is shaggier and thicker on the head and front portion of the body, and shorter on the rear half of the body.
Both male and female bison have short, curved horns on the head. Their heads and front portions of the body are very large, including a massive hump above their shoulders.
There are two subspecies of bison in North America, the wood bison and the plains bison. Plains bison are smaller, and their hump is more rounded than wood bison.
There is also a related species in Europe, the wisent or European bison (Bison bonasus). They are similar in appearance, but American bison are usually heavier and shaggier than their European cousins.
The American bison has been informally called “buffalo” since the early 1600s. In other countries, the word “buffalo” is usually reserved for the African cape buffalo or the Asian water buffalo.
The word “bison” originates from a Latin word for the Aurochs, an extinct species of cow believed to be the ancestor of domestic cattle.