AMERICAN BISON

QUICK FACTS

Scientific Name

Bison bison

Species Survival Plan

No

Habitat

Open grasslands and prairies

Predators

Wolf, grizzly bear, coyote and man

Food

Grasses and weeds

Originally Native To

North America

Height

78 inches at hump

Weight

Male 2,200 lb.
Female 1,100 lb.

Characteristics

Distinct hump over shoulders; short, curved and black horns

Gestation Period

9 - 9.5 months

Offspring

1 calf

Lifespan

Wild 15 - 20 years
Captivity 30 years

Social Behavior

Mixed-sex herds

iucn_badge_near_threatened

ABOUT THE AMERICAN BISON

Bison or Buffalo?

“Buffalo” is the term used by most people to describe the American bison. The term buffalo is believed to be derived from a name given to bison by early French explorers.

Bison and buffalo are members of the cattle family. True buffaloes are the Cape buffalo in Africa and the Asian water buffalo. Bison are found only in North America and Europe. Bison are currently located only on private ranches, in public parks or zoos in the United States.

Historically, population estimates ranged from 30-60 million. Bison were hunted extensively for their meat and skins, plus they were shot to protect livestock interests and to help subdue the Indians of the plains.

By 1890, only several hundred bison survived. As a result of private and governmental conservation efforts, more than 100,000 existed in 2015.

On May 9, 2016, President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act, making the bison our National Mammal. This was achieved through the efforts of the American Bison Coalition.

Bison are large, cow-like mammals with a distinct hump above their shoulders. The head, neck, shoulders and front legs are covered with shaggy hair, while the hind part of the body has short hair.

The head is heavy with short, curved and black horns. The tail is short, ending in a tuft of hair. The color of adults varies from light brown in summer to brownish-black in winter.

Bison calves average 35-50 pounds at birth and are normally reddish-brown, but some are black. Bison are unpredictable and can be very dangerous. While appearing slow and docile, they are agile and can run as fast as a horse.

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ANYTHING YOU GIVE HELPS THE ANIMALS

As a private nonprofit corporation, Fossil Rim does not receive national or state government support. Every cent spent or donated here goes in some way, directly or indirectly, toward the care of our animals.