American Bison, the North American species of bison, is one of the largest species of cattle in the world. The largest extant land animal in North America, it is often called an American buffalo as well (though this is not correct, since it has only distant relations with either of the two buffaloes - Asian buffalo and African buffalo). The term bison has been taken from a Greek word, which means an ox-like animal, and the animal is closely related to the Wisent or European Bison. American bison has been known to have two subspecies - Plains Bison (Bison bison bison) and Wood Bison (Bison bison athabascae). Of these two, the latter is larger and has a taller, square hump, while the former has a more rounded hump. American Bison’s are herbivores, nourishing on grasses, sedges and forbs. Let us explore some more interesting facts and amazing information on American bison.
Binomial Name: Bison bison
Species: B. bison
Height: Up to 2 meters (6.6 ft) tall
Length: Up to 3 meters (10 ft) long
Weight: 400 kg (882 lb) to 1,000 kg (2,205 lb)
Age: 15 years (in the wild)/ up to 25 years (in captivity)
Diet: Herbivorous (grasses and sedges of the North American prairies)
Age of Maturity: 3 years
Gestation Period: 285 days
Number of Offspring: One
Interesting & Fun Facts About American Bison
- In terms of appearance, the American bison stands adorned with a shaggy, long, dark brown winter coat. As for its summer coat, it is lighter in weight and has a light brown color.
- The biggest American bison recorded till date weighed as much as 1,133 kilograms (2,500 lbs.).
- An American bison has huge heads and forequarters, with horns that are short and curved.
- American bison are known to use their short horns either for defense purposes or to fight for status within the herd.
- August and September are the months in which American bison are known to go through the process of mating.
- American bison are known to be polygamous in nature. In fact, the dominant bulls usually maintain a small harem of females for mating.
- American bison originated in Eurasia and migrated over the Bering Strait, coming down to settle in North America.
- One can find homosexual behavior in American bison as well. In fact, courtship and mounting between bulls is quite common.
- American bison has been used as a symbol in many official seals, flags, and logos in North America.
- American bison is the official state mammal of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming, apart from the mascot of North Dakota State University.
- The province of Manitoba, in Canada, has adopted the American bison as its official animal and the animal also appears on Manitoba flag.
- American bison is used in the official coat of arms of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
- Though they appear lethargic, American bison can run as fast as 35 miles per hour (56.3 km/h) and easily outrun humans.
- They can jump as high as six feet off the ground.
- They lurch several times a day during summer. The dirt and mud they stir up on their bodies is to keep the insects away.
- Female bison are called cows and the males are called bulls.
- Usually, male and female bison live in separate herds until the mating season, when the herds mingle.
- Battle for mating primacy is usual, but these fights rarely become hazardous.
- Scientists have estimated that more than 30 million bison used to roam around the open grasslands of America and Canada for centuries, before the European settlers arrived.
- Bison are active early in the mornings and in late afternoons. They take rest in the midday heat, by chewing their cud and wallowing in the dust.
- The cows give birth to their young in spring. They are born with orangey-brown fur and the mothers are extremely protective of them.
- The calves can weigh up to 66 pounds at birth and are able to run after three hours. They nurse for a year and become adults at the age of six.
- American Bison are known to have helped in balancing the prairie ecosystem in a major way. Their exhaustive and patchy grazing creates a healthy landscape for many other American wildlife species.