Bison: Habits, Diet and Other Facts


The American bison, American bison or American buffalo (Bison bison) is a species of bison (bison) that inhabits North America. They graze on the prairies, in large herds, migrating south during the winter, and it was once extremely abundant. Before the European colonization of America, they were hunted by Native Americans, but the settlers nearly wiped them out. It became nearly extinct by a combination of commercial hunting and slaughter in the 19th century and the introduction of cattle diseases from domestic livestock, and has made a recent resurgence largely restricted to a few national parks and reserves. Its historical range more or less formed a triangle between the Great Lake of the Bear in the extreme northwest of Canada, south of the Mexican states of Durango and Nuevo León, and on the eastern Atlantic coast of the United States from New York to Georgia and some shares to Florida.

Two subspecies have been described: Plains bison (Bison bison bison), smaller in size and with a more rounded hump, and forest bison (Bison bison athabascae), the larger of the two and having a taller hump and square. Furthermore, it has been suggested that the northern plain bison consists of one (Bison bison montanae) and one southern subspecies, bringing the total to three. However, this is generally not supported. The forest bison is one of the largest wild Bovine species in the world, surpassed only by the Gauro and wild Asian buffalo. It is the largest land animal in North America.

A bison is long-haired, a heavy dark brown coat in winter that is lighter in summer. As is typical with ungulates, male bison are slightly larger than female bison and, in some cases, can be considerably larger. heavy. Plains bison are often in a smaller range of sizes, and forest bison in a larger scale. Head and body length ranges from 2 to 3.5m in length, the tail adding 30–91 cm. Shoulder height in the species can range from 152–186 cm. Weight can range from 318 to 1,000 kg, Heaviest bison on record weighed 1,270 kg When bred in captivity and bred for meat, bison can grow abnormally the largest and heaviest semi-domestic bison weighed 1,724 kg Heads and Forequarters are huge, and both sexes have horns, curved horns that can grow to two feet in length, which they use for status struggles within the herd and for defense.

Bison are herbivores, grazing on grasses and sedges in North American prairies. Your daily schedule involves two-hour periods of grazing, resting and ruminating, then moving to a new location to graze again. Breeding period is in August and September, gestation is 285 days. A single reddish-brown calf until the next calf is born. If the bison is not pregnant, a calf will nurse for 18 months. By age three, bison are mature enough to breed. bison of this age may attempt to mate with others, but if adult bison are present, they may not be able to compete until they reach five years of age. Bison have a life expectancy of approximately 15 years in the wild and up to 25 years in captivity.

For the first two months of life, calves are lighter in color than the adult bison. A very rare condition is white bison, in which the calf turns entirely white. White bison are considered sacred by many Native Americans.

Range and population

Despite being the closest relatives of North American native domestic cattle, bison have never been domesticated by Native Americans. Later domestication attempts by Europeans before the 20th century met with limited success. bison have been described as having "wild and uncontrollable temperament"; they can jump 1.8m vertically and run at 56 – 64 km/h when shaken. This agility and speed, combined with their large size and weight, makes bison herds difficult to limit as they can easily escape or destroy most fence systems, including most barbed wire.

There are around 500,000 commercially captive bison (mostly plain bison) on around 4,000 privately owned farms. Under IUCN Red List guidelines, commercial herds are not eligible for consideration in determining a Red List designation, therefore the total bison population estimated in conservation herds is approximately 30,000 adults and consists of approximately 20,000 individuals. Of the total presented, only 15,000 total individuals are considered wild bison in the natural range of North America (free-ranging, not limited mainly by fences).



American bison live in river valleys, and on grasslands and plains. Typical habitat is open or semi-open fields, as well as mugwort, semi-arid lands and scrublands. Some lightly wooded areas are also known historically to have bison. bison also grazes in rugged or mountainous areas where slopes are not steep. While not particularly known as high-altitude animals, bison in Yellowstone National Park herds of bison are often found at altitudes above 2,400 meters Herds are also found in the plains around the Henry Mountains, Utah, as well as the mountainous valleys of the Henry Mountains at an altitude of 3000 meters.


Most of the American bison in the world are bred for human consumption. Bison meat is lower in fat and cholesterol, even more protein than beef, a fact that has led to the development of beefalo, a fertile hybrid of bison and domestic cattle. In 2005, nearly 35,000 bison were slaughtered for meat in the United States, with the National Bison Association and USDA offering a "Certified American Buffalo" program with born-to-consumer tracking of bison via RFID ear tags. There is even a market for Kasprut bison meat, these bison are slaughtered in one of the few Kagrut mammal slaughterhouses in the United States, and the meat is distributed throughout the country.

Bison are found both in public and in private herds. Custer State Park in South Dakota is home to 1,500 bison, one of the largest publicly traded herds in the world, but there are doubts[vague] about the purity of the animals' genetics. Wildlife officials[who?] believe that genetically pure herds on public lands in North America can only be found in Yellowstone National Park, the Book Cliffs and Henry Mountains in Utah, in Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota , Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana, Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary in the Northwest Territories, Elk Island National Park and Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta and Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan. Another herd on Antelope Island in Utah, consisting of 550 - 700 bison, is also one of the oldest and largest public herds in the United States, but the bison in this herd are considered only semi-free as they are confined to the Island. of the antelope. Furthermore, recent genetic studies indicate that, like most bison herds, those on Antelope Island have a small number of hybrid domestic cattle genes. In 2002, the US government donated some South Dakota and Colorado bison calves to the Mexican government. Their descendants live in Mexico's El Uno Ranch nature reserves in Janos and Santa Elena Canyon, Chihuahua, and Boquillas del Carmen, Coahuila, located near the southern banks of the Rio Grande and the Texas-New Mexico border pastures.

Recent genetic studies of privately owned bison cattle show that many of them include animals with domestic cattle genes. For example, herds on Santa Catalina Island, California, isolated since 1924 after being taken there for a movie scene, were found to have cattle introgression. It is estimated that there are as few as 12,000 to 15,000 pure bison in the world. The numbers are uncertain because the tests used for mitochondrial DNA data-analysis only indicate whether the maternal line (back from mother to mother) has already included domesticated cattle and therefore say nothing about possible human input into the process. Most hybrids were found to look exactly like purebred bison and therefore appearance is not a good indicator of genetics.

The size of the Canadian domesticated herd (genetic issues aside) grew dramatically through 1990 and 2000. The 2006 Census of Agriculture reported that the Canadian herd had 195,728 head, an increase of 34.9% since 2001. Of that total, more than 95 % was located in Western Canada, and less than 5% in Eastern Canada. In Alberta, specifically, it was the province with the largest herd, corresponding to 49.7% of the herd and 45.8% of the holdings. The next highest were effective in Saskatchewan (23.9%), Manitoba (10%), and British Columbia (6%). The main producing regions were in northern parts of the Canadian prairies, especially in Aspen Park, with the Peace River region (shared between Alberta and British Columbia) starting the most important group, accounting for 14.4% of the national herd. Canada also exports bison meat, totaling 2,075,253 kg in 2006.

Behavior and ecology


Bison are migratory herd migrations can be directional as well as altitude in some areas. Bison roam daily between foraging sites during the summer. In a mountain valley, bison were recorded traveling an average of 3.2 km per day. Bison summer ranges appear to be influenced by seasonal changes in vegetation, intercalation and size of foraging sites, routine and number of biting insects. Canned size and water availability can also be a factor. Bison are basically herbivores, eating mainly grasses and sedges. In short for pasture, bison predominantly consume warm season grasses. In mixed grasslands, it appears that cool season grasses, including some sedges, may make up 79 - 96% of their diet. In mountainous and northern areas, sedges are selected throughout the year. Bison also drink water or consume snow on a daily basis.

Social behavior and reproduction

Bison reproduction

Female bison live in maternal herds, which include other females and their young. Male offspring leave their maternal herd at about 3 years old to live alone or participate in other male herds. Herds of males and females typically do not mix until breeding season. However effective females may also contain some older males. During the breeding season, dominant bison maintain a small harem of females for mating. Individual bison "tend" even to be allowed to mate, by following them and chasing away rival males. The tending bison will protect the female's vision with her body so she won't see any other defiant males. A defiant bison can crouch or roar to get a female's attention and the tending bison has to bellow/roar back. The most dominant bison mate in the first 2-3 weeks of the season. Most subordinate bison will mate with any females who are left that haven't mated yet. Male bison play no role in the offspring's development.

Bison herds have dominance hierarchies that exist for both males and females. A bison's dominance is related to its birth date. Bison born early in the breeding season are more likely to be larger and more dominant as adults. Thus bison are able to pass on their domain to their offspring as a dominant bison breed early in the season. In addition to dominance, the oldest bison in a generation also have a higher fertility rate than younger ones. Females nurse their calves for at least 7 or 8 months, but most calves appear to be weaned before the end of their first year.

Bisons have been observed to exhibit homosexual behaviors, males far more than females. In the case of males, it is unlikely to be related to dominance, but rather to social bonding or gaining sexual experience.

Insect repellent

Bison couples in late spring and summer, in more open flat areas. During the fall and winter, bison tend to gather in more wooded areas. During this time. They will rub their horns against trees and even poles. Aromatic trees such as cedars and pines seem to be preferred. It appears to be associated with insect defense as it occurs most often in autumn when the insect population is at its highest. Cedars and pine trees give off a scent after the bison rubs the horns and this appears to be used as an insect repellent.


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