American Bison

Bison bison

Scientific Name

American Bison:  
Bison bison

Distribution and Habitat

Geographic Range

Once found over most of the U.S. from the west coast to east coast, Canada to Texas. It is now restricted to Zoos and National State Parks.

Natural Habitat

The American Bison prefers the large open spaces of the plains.

Physical Characteristics

  • The bison has a massive head, short neck, short curved horns (both sexes), and a high hump on its shoulder. The average height is 5-6 feet at the shoulder, and adults can weigh between 800 and 2,000 lbs. Their dark brown coat becomes almost black at the head and shoulders. Long shaggy hair envelops the head, neck, and forelimbs. A long tuft of hair hangs from the chin of adult males.

Quick Facts

  1. The Plains Indians depended on the bison for their livelihood, following the herds on their migration. In 1700, over 60,000,000 bison roamed the open plains from the U.S. to Canada. 

  2. The main slaughter of the bison came with the building of the Union Pacific Railroad. Sportsmen would shoot the bison from the club-car, and leave the majority of the carcass to rot. In 1989 only 835 bison remained.

  3. The bison is a very affectionate animal. A bond of deep affection always exists between the mother and its calf, even after they have parted ways.



Conservation Status

Near Threatened: The American Bison survival of the wildlife in the wild is affected to an extent that the wildlife is in danger of becoming vulnerable or endangered in the near future.

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In the wild, bison browse for grasses and shrubs. In captivity, Timothy or Clover hay.