- Genus/Species: Bison bison.
- Conservation Status: Conservation dependent on species.
- Location: National Parks, ranches and preserves in North America.
Symbol of the American Frontier
Bison once roamed across much of North America. Today bison are extinct throughout most of their former range, except for a few national parks and other small wildlife areas. They are the heaviest land animals in North America. They have a shaggy dark brown mane, humped shoulders and short legs that are covered with hair. Bison have a long tail with a furry end called a tuft, and their curved, sharp horns may grow to be two feet long. They have poor eyesight, but have acute hearing and an excellent sense of smell. In fact, a bison can smell an animal that is miles away. Their coat is extremely thick in order to keep them warm in winter. In the summer months they shed their coats to keep cool.
Bison are huge. They are tall as a grown man- around 6 feet- and weigh as much as an average sized car- around a ton. Bison feed mainly on grass, plants and sometimes berries. Finding food in the winter isn't a problem for the bison. They swing their large heads from side to side and push the snow away in order to find grass. They bring up their food after swallowing it, and chew it as cud before final digestion.
The bison, symbol of the American frontier, was nearly destroyed due to over-hunting by the settlers of the 19th century. Conservation efforts saved the bison from the brink of extinction. The bison was declared the National Mammal in the US in 2016. Many of the remaining bison are preserved in National Parks.
Did You Know?
- Bison are also excellent swimmers. When they swim, their heads, humps and tails stay above the surface of the water.
- A bison has very thick winter coat that is well insulated. It is so thick that during winter months, snow will not melt even when it is covering the bison’s back.
- The bison's hump is a mass of muscles that support its heavy head.
- Despite their massive size, bison are quick on their feet. When the need arises they can run at speeds up to 40 miles an hour - as fast as a car.