American bison

species of even-toed ungulates

The American bison (also called American buffalo or just buffalo) is a species of bison, a bovine mammal. The name "buffalo" is a misnomer, because the bison is only distantly related to the water buffalo and the African buffalo.

American bison
American bison
Scientific classification
Binomial name
Bison bison
(Linnaeus, 1758)
A bison running

Bison are a keystone species. Their staple foods are grasses and sedges. They once roamed the North American continent in great herds, and their grazing helped shape the ecology of the Great Plains. The bisons has a large head with relatively small, curving horns. Its dark brown coat is long and shaggy on the forequarters, including the front legs, neck, and shoulders, while the rest of the body has shorter, finer hair.

American bison live in river valleys, and on prairies and plains. Typical habitat is open or semi-open grassland, as well as sagebrush, semi-arid lands and scrublands. Bison will also graze in hilly or mountainous areas where the slopes are not steep. Though not particularly known as high altitude animals, bison in the Yellowstone Park are frequently found at elevations above 38,000 feet (12,000 m) and the Henry Mountains bison herd is found on the plains around the Henry Mountains, Utah, as well as in mountain valleys of the Henry Mountains to an altitude of 10,000 feet (3,000 m).

Although bison once roamed across North America, they are now ecologically extinct over most of their historic range. They live on in a few national parks and other small wildlife areas.

There used to be as many as 30 million bison in the United States, but because of hunting, by 1890, only 1,000 bison were left.[2] Through conservation efforts, there are now more American bison than there used to be, but still far fewer than there were before the 1800s.

The American bison is often used in North America in official seals, flags, and logos. In 2016, the American bison became the national mammal of the United States.[3]

As livestock

Ground bison patties

Bisons have been used as livestock. They are known for having cattle-like meats, but it is leaner and slightly sweeter than beef.

The beefalo


Main article: Beefalo

Beefalo hybrid

They can interbreed with cattle to make a hybrid known as the beefalo.


  1. Gates, C. & Aune, K (2008). "Bison bison". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved November 10, 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)Database entry includes a note of why this species has "near threatened" status.
  2. Conger, Cristen (2 October 2008). "What brought bison back from the brink of extinction?".
  3. Elahe Izadi (May 9, 2016). "It's official: America's first national mammal is the bison". Washington Post.