B. b. athabascae
B. b. bison
Bison bison montanae
The AMERICAN BISON (
Bison bison), also commonly known as the AMERICAN
BUFFALO or simply BUFFALO, is a North American species of bison that
once roamed the grasslands of
North America in massive herds . They
became nearly extinct by a combination of commercial hunting and
slaughter in the 19th century and introduction of bovine diseases from
domestic cattle, and have made a recent resurgence largely restricted
to a few national parks and reserves. Their historical range roughly
comprised a triangle between the
Great Bear Lake
Great Bear Lake in Canada's far
northwest, south to the Mexican states of
Nuevo León ,
and east to the
Atlantic Seaboard of the
United States (nearly to the
Atlantic tidewater in some areas) from New York to Georgia and per
some sources down to
Bison were seen in
North Carolina near
Buffalo Ford on the
Catawba River as late as 1750.
Two subspecies or ecotypes have been described: the plains bison (B.
b. bison), smaller in size and with a more rounded hump, and the wood
bison (B. b. athabascae)—the larger of the two and having a taller,
square hump. Furthermore, the plains bison has been suggested to
consist of a northern (B. b. montanae) and a southern subspecies,
bringing the total to three. However, this is generally not
supported. The wood bison is one of the largest wild species of bovid
in the world, surpassed by only the Asian gaur and wild water buffalo
. It is the largest extant land animal in the
American bison is the national mammal of the
United States .
Male plains bison in the
Wichita Mountains of
* 1 Etymology
* 2 Description
* 2.1 Differences from
* 3 Evolution
* 4 Range and population
* 5 Habitat
* 6 As livestock
* 7 Behavior and ecology
* 7.1 Social behavior and reproduction
* 7.2 Horning
* 7.3 Wallowing behavior
* 7.4 Predation
* 7.5 Dangers to humans
* 8 Hunting
* 9 Genetics
* 11 As a symbol
* 11.1 Native Americans
United States and Canada
* 12 See also
* 13 References
* 14 Further reading
* 15 External links
The term buffalo is sometimes considered to be a misnomer for this
animal, and could be confused with "true" buffalos, the Asian water
buffalo and the
African buffalo . However, bison is a Greek word
meaning ox -like animal, while buffalo originated with the French fur
trappers who called these massive beasts bœufs, meaning ox or
bullock—so both names, bison and buffalo, have a similar meaning.
The name buffalo is listed in many dictionaries as an acceptable name
for American buffalo or bison. In reference to this animal, the term
buffalo dates to 1625 in North American usage when the term was first
recorded for the American mammal. It thus has a much longer history
than the term bison, which was first recorded in 1774. The American
bison is very closely related to the wisent or
European bison .
Plains Indian languages in general, male and female buffaloes are
distinguished, with each having a different designation rather than
there being a single generic word covering both sexes. Thus:
* in Arapaho : bii (buffalo cow), henéécee (buffalo bull)
* in Lakota : pté (buffalo cow), tȟatȟáŋka (buffalo bull)
Such a distinction is not a general feature of the language (for
example, Arapaho possesses gender-neutral terms for other large
mammals such as elk, mule deer, etc.), and so presumably is due to the
special significance of the buffalo in
Plains Indian life and culture.
Adult male (farther) and adult female (closer) with a background
of rich autumn colors, in
Yellowstone National Park
A bison has a shaggy, long, dark-brown winter coat, and a
lighter-weight, lighter-brown summer coat. As is typical in ungulates
, the male bison is slightly larger than the female and, in some
cases, can be considerably heavier.
Plains bison are often in the
smaller range of sizes, and wood bison in the larger range.
Head-and-body lengths range from 2 to 3.5 m (6.6 to 11.5 ft) long, the
tail adding 30 to 91 cm (12 to 36 in). Shoulder heights in the species
can range from 152 to 186 cm (60 to 73 in). Weights can range from 318
to 1,000 kg (701 to 2,205 lb) Typical weight ranges in the species
were reported as 460 to 988 kg (1,014 to 2,178 lb) in males and 360 to
544 kg (794 to 1,199 lb) in females, the lowest weights probably
representing typical weight around the age of sexual maturity at 2 to
3 years of age. Mature bulls tend to be considerably larger than
cows. Cow weights have had reported medians of 450 to 495 kg (992 to
1,091 lb), with one small sample averaging 479 kg (1,056 lb), whereas
bulls may reportedly weigh a median of 730 kg (1,610 lb) with an
average from a small sample of 765 kg (1,687 lb). The heaviest
wild bull ever recorded weighed 1,270 kg (2,800 lb). When raised in
captivity and farmed for meat, the bison can grow unnaturally heavy
and the largest semidomestic bison weighed 1,724 kg (3,801 lb). The
heads and forequarters are massive, and both sexes have short, curved
horns that can grow up to 2 ft (61 cm) long, which they use in
fighting for status within the herd and for defense.
Bison are herbivores , grazing on the grasses and sedges of the North
American prairies . Their daily schedule involves two-hour periods of
grazing, resting, and cud chewing, then moving to a new location to
Bison bulls of that age may try to mate with cows, but if
more mature bulls are present, they may not be able to compete until
they reach five years of age.
For the first two months of life, calves are lighter in color than
mature bison. One very rare condition is the white buffalo , in which
the calf turns entirely white.
DIFFERENCES FROM EUROPEAN BISON
Although they are superficially similar, the American and European
bison exhibit a number of physical and behavioral differences. Adult
American bison are slightly heavier on average because of their less
rangy build, and have shorter legs, which render them slightly shorter
at the shoulder.
American bison tend to graze more, and browse less
than their European relatives, because their necks are set
differently. Compared to the nose of the American bison, that of the
European species is set farther forward than the forehead when the
neck is in a neutral position. The body of the
American bison is
hairier, though its tail has less hair than that of the European
bison. The horns of the
European bison point forward through the plane
of its face, making it more adept at fighting through the interlocking
of horns in the same manner as domestic cattle, unlike the American
bison which favors charging.
American bison are more easily tamed
than the European, and breed more readily with domestic cattle.
The bovine family (taurids and bisonids) diverged from the common
ancestral line with water buffalo and
African buffalo about 5 to 10
million years ago. Thereafter, the family lineage of bison and
taurine cattle does not appear to be a straightforward "tree"
structure as is often depicted in much evolution, because evidence
exists of interbreeding and crossbreeding between different species
and members within this family, even many millions of years after
their ancestors separated into different species. This cross breeding
was not sufficient to conflate the different species back together,
but it has resulted in unexpected relationships between many members
of this group, such as yak being related to American bison, when such
relationships would otherwise not be apparent.
A 2003 study of mitochondrial DNA indicated four distinct maternal
lineages in tribe
* Taurine cattle and zebu
* Wisent (
European bison )
American bison and yak
Banteng , gaur , and gayal
Y chromosome analysis associated wisent and American bison.
An earlier study using amplified fragment length polymorphism
fingerprinting showed a close association of wisent and American bison
and probably with yak, but noted that the interbreeding of Bovini
species made determining relationships problematic. It is shown,
however, the wisent may have emerged by species divergence initiated
by the introgression of bison bulls in a separate ancestral species,
the aurochs . Last of the Canadian Bisons, 1902, photograph:
Steele and Company
The steppe bison (
Bison priscus ) diverged from the lineage that led
to cattle (
Bos taurus) about 2 to 5 million years ago. The bison genus
is clearly in the fossil record by 2 million years ago. The steppe
bison spread across Eurasia and was the bison that was pictured in the
ancient cave paintings of Spain and Southern France.
European bison arose from the steppe bison, without fossil
evidence of other ancestral species between the steppe bison and the
European bison, though the
European bison might have arisen from the
lineage that led to
American bison if that lineage backcrossed with
the steppe bison. Again, the web of relationships is confusing, but
some evidence shows the
European bison is descended from bison that
had migrated from Asia to North America, and then back to Europe,
where they crossbred with existing steppe bison.
At one point, some steppe bison crossbred with the ancestors of the
modern yak. After that cross, a population of steppe bison (Bison
priscus) crossed the
Bering Land Bridge
Bering Land Bridge to
North America . Evidence
has been found of multiple crossings of bison to and from Asia
starting before 500,000 years ago and continuing until at least
220,000 years ago. The steppe bison spread through the northern parts
North America and lived in Eurasia until roughly 11,000 years ago
North America until 4,000 to 8,000 years ago.
Bison latifrons (giant bison or longhorn bison) is thought to have
evolved in midcontinent
North America from B. priscus, after the
steppe bison crossed into North America. Giant bison (B. latifrons)
appeared in the fossil record around 500,000 years ago. B. latifrons
was one of many species of North American megafauna which became
extinct during the
Quaternary extinction event . It is thought to have
disappeared some 21,000–30,000 years ago, during the late Wisconsin
The B. latifrons species was replaced by the smaller
Bison antiquus .
B. antiquus appeared in the North American fossil record approximately
250,000 years ago. B. antiquus, in turn, evolved into B. occidentalis
, then into the yet smaller B. bison—the modern American
bison—some 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. Some researchers consider B.
occidentalis to be a subspecies of B. antiquus. Pile of American
bison skulls to be used for fertilizer in the mid-1870s
During the population bottleneck, after the great slaughter of
American bison during the 1800s, the number of bison remaining alive
North America declined to as low as 541. During that period, a
handful of ranchers gathered remnants of the existing herds to save
the species from extinction. These ranchers bred some of the bison
with cattle in an effort to produce "cattlo". Accidental crossings
were also known to occur. Generally, male domestic bulls were crossed
with buffalo cows, producing offspring of which only the females were
fertile. The crossbred animals did not demonstrate any form of hybrid
vigor, so the practice was abandoned. The proportion of cattle DNA
that has been measured in introgressed individuals and bison herds
today is typically quite low, ranging from 0.56 to 1.8%. In the
United States, many ranchers are now using DNA testing to cull the
residual cattle genetics from their bison herds. The U.S. National
Bison Association has adopted a code of ethics which prohibits its
members from deliberately crossbreeding bison with any other species.
RANGE AND POPULATION
Bison herd grazing at the National
Bison Range in Montana
Despite being the closest relatives of domestic cattle native to
North America, bison were never domesticated by Native Americans.
Later attempts of domestication by Europeans prior to the 20th century
met with limited success.
Bison were described as having a "wild and
ungovernable temper"; they can jump close to 6 ft (1.8 m) vertically,
and run 35–40 mph (56–64 km/h) when agitated. This agility and
speed, combined with their great size and weight, makes bison herds
difficult to confine, as they can easily escape or destroy most
fencing systems, including most razor wire .
About 500,000 bison currently exist on private lands and around
30,000 on public lands which includes environmental and government
preserves. According to the
IUCN , roughly 15,000 bison are
considered wild, free-range bison not primarily confined by fencing.
In 2009, bison were reintroduced to the
Janos Biosphere Reserve in
northern Chihuahua ; this is the only free-roaming herd on Mexican
federal land. Efforts to bring back the bison population have recently
reintroduced bison to
Indiana , which included the introduction of a
herd consisting of 23 bison. In 2014, U.S Tribes and Canadian First
Nations signed a treaty to help with the restoration of bison, the
first to be signed in nearly 150 years.
A group of bison trudge across the landscape at the National Elk
Refuge . See also:
Great bison belt
American bison live in river valleys, and on prairies and plains.
Typical habitat is open or semiopen grasslands, as well as sagebrush,
semiarid lands, and scrublands. Some lightly wooded areas are also
known historically to have supported bison.
Bison 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 bison herd are frequently found at elevations above 8,000 feet
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.
Bison are increasingly raised for meat and hides; the majority of
American bison in the world are raised for human consumption. Bison
meat is generally considered to taste very similar to beef, but is
lower in fat and cholesterol , yet higher in protein than beef,
which has led to the development of beefalo , a fertile hybrid of
bison and domestic cattle. In 2005, about 35,000 bison were processed
for meat in the U.S., with the National
Bison Association and USDA
providing a "Certified American Buffalo" program with
birth-to-consumer tracking of bison via RFID ear tags. A market even
exists for kosher bison meat; these bison are slaughtered at one of
the few kosher mammal slaughterhouses in the U.S., and the meat is
then distributed nationwide. Canned
Bison meat for sale
Bison are found in publicly and privately held herds. Custer State
South Dakota is home to 1,500 bison, one of the largest
publicly held herds in the world, but some question the genetic purity
of the animals. Wildlife officials believe that free roaming and
genetically pure herds on public lands in
North America can be found
only in the
Yellowstone Park bison herd , the
Henry Mountains bison
herd at the
Book Cliffs and
Henry Mountains in Utah, at Wind Cave
National Park in South Dakota,
Fort Peck Indian Reservation in
Bison Sanctuary in the
Northwest Territories , Elk
Island National Park and
Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, and
Prince Albert National Park
Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan. Another population, the
Antelope Island bison herd on
Antelope Island in Utah, consisting of
550 to 700 bison, is also one of the largest and oldest public herds
in the United States, but the bison in that herd are considered to be
only semifree roaming, since they are confined to the Antelope Island.
In addition, recent genetic studies indicate that, like most bison
Antelope Island bison herd has a small number of genes from
domestic cattle. In 2002, the
United States government donated some
bison calves from
South Dakota and Colorado to the Mexican government.
Their descendants live in the Mexican nature reserves El Uno Ranch at
Janos and Santa Elena Canyon, Chihuahua , and Boquillas del Carmen,
Coahuila , located near the southern banks of the
Rio Grande , and
around the grassland state line with
Texas and New
Recent genetic studies of privately owned herds of bison show that
many of them include animals with genes from domestic cattle. For
example, the herd on Santa Catalina Island, California , isolated
since 1924 after being brought there for a movie shoot, were found to
have cattle introgression. As few as 12,000 to 15,000 pure bison are
estimated to remain in the world. The numbers are uncertain because
the tests used to date—mitochondrial DNA analysis—indicate only if
the maternal line (back from mother to mother) ever included
domesticated bovines, thus say nothing about possible male input in
the process. Most hybrids were found to look exactly like purebred
bison; therefore, appearance is not a good indicator of genetics.
The size of the Canadian domesticated herd (genetic questions aside)
grew dramatically through the 1990s and 2000s. The 2006 Census of
Agriculture reported the Canadian herd at 195,728 head, a 34.9%
increase since 2001. Of this total, over 95% was located in Western
Canada , and less than 5% in
Eastern Canada .
Alberta was the province
with the largest herd, accounting for 49.7% of the herd and 45.8% of
the farms. The next-largest herds were in Saskatchewan (23.9%),
Manitoba (10%), and British Columbia (6%). The main producing regions
were in the northern parts of the
Canadian prairies , specifically in
the parkland belt , with the
Peace River region
Peace River region (shared between
Alberta and British Columbia) being the most important cluster,
accounting for 14.4% of the national herd. Canada also exports bison
meat, totaling 2,075,253 kilograms (4,575,150 lb) in 2006.
A proposal known as
Buffalo Commons has been suggested by a handful
of academics and policymakers to restore large parts of the drier
portion of the
Great Plains to native prairie grazed by bison.
Proponents argue that current agricultural use of the shortgrass
prairie is not sustainable , pointing to periodic disasters, including
Dust Bowl , and continuing significant human population loss over
the last 60 years. However, this plan is opposed by some who live in
the areas in question.
BEHAVIOR AND ECOLOGY
Herd of bison in
Yellowstone National Park Play media
Grazing in winter, Yellowstone National Park:
Bison use their heads to
clear out snow for the grass.
American bison galloping, photos
Eadweard Muybridge , first published in 1887 in
Bison are migratory and herd migrations can be directional as well as
altitudinal in some areas.
Bison have usual daily movements between
foraging sites during the summer. In a montane valley, bison have been
recorded traveling, on average, 3.2 km a day. The summer ranges of
bison appear to be influenced by seasonal vegetation changes,
interspersion and size of foraging sites, the rut, and the number of
biting insects. The size of preserve and availability of water may
also be a factor.
Bison are largely grazers, eating primarily grasses
and sedges. On shortgrass pasture, bison predominately consume
warm-season grasses. On mixed prairie, cool-season grasses, including
some sedges, apparently compose 79–96% of their diet. In montane
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 fighting in
Grand Teton National Park in
Female bison live in maternal herds which include other females and
their offspring. Male offspring leave their maternal herd when around
three years old and either live alone or join other males in bachelor
herds. Male and female herds usually do not mingle until the breeding
season, which can occur from July through September. However, female
herds may also contain a few older males. During the breeding season,
dominant bulls maintain a small harem of females for mating.
Individual bulls "tend" cows until allowed to mate, by following them
around and chasing away rival males. The tending bull shields the
female's vision with his body so she will not see any other
challenging males. A challenging bull may bellow or roar to get a
female's attention and the tending bull has to bellow/roar back. The
most dominant bulls mate in the first 2–3 weeks of the season. More
subordinate bulls mate with any remaining estrous cow that has not
mated yet. Male bison play no part in raising the young.
Bison herds have dominance hierarchies that exist for both males and
females. A bison's dominance is related to its birth date.
earlier in the breeding season are more likely to be larger and more
dominant as adults. Thus, bison are able to pass on their dominance
to their offspring as dominant bison breed earlier in the season. In
addition to dominance, the older bison of a generation also have a
higher fertility rate than the younger ones. Calf
Bison mate in August and September; gestation is 285 days. A single
reddish-brown calf nurses until the next calf is born. If the cow is
not pregnant, a calf will nurse for 18 months. Cows nurse their calves
for at least 7 or 8 months, but most calves seem to be weaned before
the end of their first year. At three years of age, bison cows are
mature enough to produce a calf.
Bison have a life expectancy around 15 years in the wild and up to 25
years in captivity.
Bison have been observed to display homosexual behaviors , males much
more so than females. In the case of males, it is unlikely to be
related to dominance , but rather to social bonding or gaining sexual
Bison mate in late spring and summer in more open plain areas. During
fall and winter, bison tend to gather in more wooded areas. During
this time, bison partake in horning behaviors. They rub their horns
against trees, young saplings, and even utility poles. Aromatic trees
like cedars and pine seem to be preferred. Horning appears to be
associated with insect defense, as it occurs most often in the fall
when the insect population is at its highest. Cedar and pines emit an
aroma after bison horn them and this seems to be used as a deterrent
A bison wallow is a shallow depression in the soil, which bison use
either wet or dry.
Bison roll in these depressions, covering
themselves with dust or mud. Past and current hypotheses to explain
the purpose of wallowing include grooming associated with shedding,
male-male interaction (typically rutting), social behavior for group
cohesion, play, relief from skin irritation due to biting insects,
reduction of ectoparasite (tick and lice ) load, and thermoregulation
American bison standing its ground against a wolf pack.
Bison Demonstration at
Wolf Park , Indiana.
While often secure from predation because of their size and strength,
in some areas, bison are regularly preyed upon by wolves . Wolf
predation typically peaks in late spring and early summer, with
attacks usually being concentrated on cows and calves. Wolves more
actively target herds with calves than those without. The length of a
predation episode varies, ranging from a few minutes to over nine
Bison display five apparent defense strategies in protecting
calves from wolves: running to a cow, running to a herd, running to
the nearest bull, running in the front or center of a stampeding herd,
and entering water bodies such as lakes or rivers. When fleeing wolves
in open areas, cows with young calves take the lead, while bulls take
to the rear of the herds, to guard the cows' escape.
ignore wolves not displaying hunting behavior. Wolf packs
specializing in bison tend to have more males, because their larger
size than females allows them to wrestle prey to the ground more
effectively. Healthy, mature bulls in herds rarely fall prey. Grizzly
bears can also pose a threat to calves and sometimes old, injured, or
sick adult bison.
DANGERS TO HUMANS
Bison are among the most dangerous animals encountered by visitors to
the various U.S. and Canadian national parks and will attack humans if
provoked. They appear slow because of their lethargic movements, but
can easily outrun humans; bison have been observed running as fast as
40 mph (64 km/h).
Between 1980 and 1999, more than three times as many people in
Yellowstone National Park were injured by bison than by bears. During
this period, bison charged and injured 79 people, with injuries
ranging from goring puncture wounds and broken bones to bruises and
abrasions. Bears injured 24 people during the same time. Three people
died from the injuries inflicted—one person by bison in 1983, and
two people by bears in 1984 and 1986.
Bison hunting Map from 1889 by William T.
Hornaday, illustrating the Extermination of the American
Bison hunt under the wolf-skin mask, 1832–33
chased off a cliff as “seen” and painted by
Alfred Jacob Miller
Alfred Jacob Miller
Buffalo hunting (hunting of the American bison) was an activity
fundamental to the Midwestern Native Americans , which was later
adopted by American professional hunters, leading to the
near-extinction of the species around 1890. It has since begun to
Range history of bison in
Original distribution of plains bison and wood bison in
North America along the "
Great bison belt ".
Holocene bison (Bison
occidentalis) is an earlier form at the origin of plains bison and
Map of the extermination of the bison to 1889. This map
William Temple Hornaday 's late-19th century research.
Original range Range as of 1870 Range as of 1889
Distribution of public herds of plains bison and of
free-ranging or captive breeding wood bison in
North America as of
A major problem that bison face today is a lack of genetic diversity
due to the population bottleneck the species experienced during its
near-extinction event. Another genetic issue is the entry of genes
from domestic cattle into the bison population, through hybridization.
Officially, the "American buffalo" is classified by the United States
government as a type of cattle, and the government allows private
herds to be managed as such. This is a reflection of the
characteristics that bison share with cattle. Though the American
bison is not only a separate species, but also is usually regarded as
being in a separate genus from domestic cattle (
Bos taurus), they
clearly have a lot of genetic compatibility and
American bison can
interbreed with cattle, although only the female offspring are fertile
in the first generation. These female hybrids can be bred back to
either bison or domestic bulls, resulting in either 1/4 or 3/4 bison
young. Female offspring from this cross are also fertile, but males
are not reliably fertile unless they are either 7⁄8 bison or
7⁄8 domestic. Moreover, when they do interbreed, crossbreed
animals in the first generation tend to look very much like purebred
bison, so appearance is completely unreliable as a means of
determining what is a purebred bison and what is a crossbred cow. Many
ranchers have deliberately crossbred their cattle with bison, and some
natural hybridization could be expected in areas where cattle and
bison occur in the same range. Since cattle and bison eat similar food
and tolerate similar conditions, they have often been in the same
range together in the past, and opportunity for crossbreeding may
sometimes have been common.
In recent decades, tests were developed to determine the source of
mitochondrial DNA in cattle and bison, and most private "buffalo"
herds were actually crossbred with cattle, and even most state and
federal buffalo herds had some cattle DNA. With the advent of nuclear
microsatellite DNA testing, the number of herds known to contain
cattle genes has increased. Though about 500,000 bison exist on
private ranches and in public herds, perhaps only 15,000 to 25,000 of
these bison are pure and not actually bison-cattle hybrids. "DNA from
domestic cattle (
Bos taurus) has been detected in nearly all bison
herds examined to date." Significant public bison herds that do not
appear to have hybridized domestic cattle genes are the Yellowstone
Park bison herd, the
Henry Mountains bison herd, which was started
with bison taken from Yellowstone Park, the Wind Cave bison herd, and
Wood Buffalo National Park bison herd and subsidiary herds started
from it, in Canada.
A landmark study of bison genetics performed by James Derr of Texas
A"> A wood bison around Coal River in Canada
In the study, cattle genes were also found in small amounts
throughout most national, state and private herds. "The hybridization
experiments conducted by some of the owners of the five foundation
herds of the late 1800s, have left a legacy of a small amount of
cattle genetics in many of our existing bison herds." He also said,
"All of the state owned bison herds tested (except for possibly one)
contain animals with domestic cattle mtDNA." It appears that the one
state herd that had no cattle genes was the
Henry Mountains bison
herd; the Henry Mountain herd was started initially with transplanted
animals from Yellowstone Park. However, the extension of this herd
Book Cliffs of central Utah involved mixing the founders with
additional bison from another source, so it is not known if the Book
Cliffs extension of the herd is also free of cattle hybridization.
A separate study by Wilson and Strobeck, published in Genome, was
done to define the relationships between different herds of bison in
United States and Canada, and to determine whether the bison at
Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada and the Yellowstone Park bison
herd were possibly separate subspecies. The Wood Buffalo Park bison
were determined to actually be crossbreeds between plains and wood
bison, but their predominant genetic makeup was that of the expected
"wood buffalo". However, the
Yellowstone Park bison herd was pure
plains bison, and not any of the other previously suggested
subspecies. Another finding was that the bison in the Antelope Island
herd in Utah appeared to be more distantly related to other plains
bison in general than any other plains bison group that was tested,
though this might be due to genetic drift caused by the small size of
only 12 individuals in the founder population. A side finding of this
was that the
Antelope Island bison herd appears to be most closely
related to the
Wood Buffalo National Park bison herd, though the
Antelope Island bison are actually plains bison.
The first thoroughfares of North America, except for the
time-obliterated paths of mastodon or muskox and the routes of the
mound builders , were the traces made by bison and deer in seasonal
migration and between feeding grounds and salt licks . Many of these
routes, hammered by countless hoofs instinctively following watersheds
and the crests of ridges in avoidance of lower places' summer muck and
winter snowdrifts, were followed by the aboriginal North Americans as
courses to hunting grounds and as warriors' paths. They were
invaluable to explorers and were adopted by pioneers .
Bison traces were characteristically north and south, but several key
east-west trails were used later as railways. Some of these include
Cumberland Gap through the
Blue Ridge Mountains to upper Kentucky
. A heavily used trace crossed the
Ohio River at the Falls of the Ohio
and ran west, crossing the
Wabash River near Vincennes,
Indiana . In
Senator Thomas Hart Benton 's phrase saluting these sagacious
path-makers, the bison paved the way for the railroads to the Pacific.
AS A SYMBOL
Among Native American tribes, especially the Plains Indians, the
bison is considered a sacred animal and religious symbol. According to
University of Montana anthropology and Native American studies
professor S. Neyooxet Greymorning, "The creation stories of where
buffalo came from put them in a very spiritual place among many
tribes. The buffalo crossed many different areas and functions, and it
was utilized in many ways. It was used in ceremonies, as well as to
make tipi covers that provided homes for people, utensils, shields,
weapons and parts were used for sewing with the sinew." The Sioux
consider the birth of a white buffalo to be the return of White
Buffalo Calf Woman , their primary cultural prophet and the bringer of
their "Seven Sacred Rites". Among the
Hidatsa , the White
Buffalo Cow Society was the most sacred of societies for women.
UNITED STATES AND CANADA
Wyoming uses a bison in its state flag. The 1935 Buffalo
nickel —this style of coin featuring an
American bison was produced
from 1913 to 1938. Series 1901 $10 legal tender depicting
Meriwether Lewis , William Clark , and an American
bison First postage stamp with image of bison was issued US in
1898—4¢ "Indian Hunting Buffalo", part of the Trans-Mississippi
Exposition commemorative series
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 . The bison is a popular symbol in the
Great Plains states: Kansas, Oklahoma, and
Wyoming have adopted the
animal as their official state mammal , and many sports teams have
chosen the bison as their mascot. In Canada, the bison is the official
animal of the province of
Manitoba and appears on the
It is also used in the official coat of arms of the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police .
Several American coins feature the bison, most famously on the
reverse side of the "buffalo nickel " from 1913 to 1938. In 2005, the
United States Mint coined a nickel with a new depiction of the bison
as part of its "Westward Journey" series. The Kansas and North Dakota
state quarters, part of the "50 State Quarter " series, each feature
bison. The Kansas state quarter has only the bison and does not
feature any writing, while the North Dakota state quarter has two
bison. The Montana state quarter prominently features a bison skull
over a landscape. The
Yellowstone National Park quarter also features
a bison standing next to a geyser.
Other institutions which have adopted the bison as a symbol or mascot
U.S. Department of the Interior
Bethany College (West Virginia)
Bucknell University and its athletic program, the Bucknell
Buffalo, New York
Buffalo, New York
Buffalo Grove High School
* University at Buffalo, The State University of New York and its
athletic program, the
* University of Colorado and its athletic program, the Colorado
Harding University and its athletic program, the
Howard University and its athletic program, the Howard
* Seal of the State of
Lipscomb University and its athletic program, the
* Coat of arms of
* Flag of
* University of
Manitoba and its athletic program, the Manitoba
Marshall University and its athletic program, the Marshall
Independence Party of Minnesota
Ralph Nader (mascot for his 2008 campaign for president)
North Dakota State University and its athletic program, the North
Oklahoma Baptist University and its athletic program, the Oklahoma
Point Park University
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
* Rumble the
Bison (the official mascot of the
Oklahoma City Thunder
Southwestern Law School
Texas A&M University and its athletic program, the West Texas
A -webkit-column-width: 30em; column-width: 30em;">
Buffalo Commons — proposed multistate nature preserve of Great
Plains habitat for American bison
Great Plains Ecoregion
* Buffalo Hunters\' War
Plains hide painting
* ^ Gates, C. & Aune, K (2008). "
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List of
Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation
of Nature . Retrieved November 10, 2008. Database entry includes a
brief justification of why this species is "Near Threatened".
* ^ Project Gutenburg E Book – The Extermination of the American
* ^ "American Buffalo (
Bison bison) species page". U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service . Retrieved February 24, 2013.
* ^ William T. Hornaday, Superintendent of the National Zoological
Park (February 10, 2006) . The Extermination of the American Bison.
Smithsonian Institution . Retrieved on February 24, 2013.
* ^ Geist V. (1991). "Phantom subspecies: the wood bison, Bison
bison "athabascae" Rhoads 1897, is not a valid taxon, but an ecotype".
Arctic. 44 (4): 283–300. doi :10.14430/arctic1552 .
* ^ Kay, Charles E.; Clifford A. White (2001). "Reintroduction of
bison into the Rocky Mountain parks of Canada: historical and
archaeological evidence" (PDF). Crossing Boundaries in Park
Management: Proceedings of the 11th Conference on Research and
Resource Management in Parks and on Public Lands. Hancock, Michigan:
George Wright Soc. pp. 143–51. Retrieved December 2, 2009.
* ^ Bork, A. M.; C. M. Strobeck; F. C. Yeh; R. J. Hudson ">(PDF).
Can J Zool. 69 (1): 43–48. doi :10.1139/z91-007 .
* ^ A B Halbert, Natalie D.; Terje Raudsepp; Bhanu P. Chowdhary &
James N. Derr (2004). "Conservation Genetic Analysis of the Texas
Bison Herd". Journal of Mammalogy. 85 (5): 924–931. doi
* ^ A B Wilson, G. A. & C. Strobeck (1999). "Genetic variation
within and relatedness among wood and plains bison populations".
Genome. 42 (3): 483–96. PMID 10382295 . doi :10.1139/gen-42-3-483 .
* ^ Boyd, Delaney P. (April 2003). Conservation of North American
Bison: Status and Recommendations (PDF).
University of Calgary
University of Calgary . OCLC
232117310 . Archived from the original (MS thesis) on 2010-01-17.
Retrieved February 23, 2010.
* ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth
* ^ A B Meagher, M. (1986). "
Bison bison" (PDF). Mammalian Species
JSTOR 3504019 .
* ^ A B C D E McDonald, J., 1981. North American Bison: Their
classification and Evolution. University of California Press,
Berkeley, Los Angeles, London. 316 pp.
* ^ The
* ^ Castelló, J.R. (2016). Bovids of the World: Antelopes,
Gazelles, Cattle, Goats, Sheep, and Relatives. Princeton University
* ^ Berger, J., & Peacock, M. (1988). Variability in size-weight
Bison bison. Journal of Mammalogy, 69(3), 618-624.
* ^ Rutberg, A. T. (1984). Birth synchrony in
American bison (Bison
bison): response to predation or season? Journal of Mammalogy, 65(3),
* ^ Rutberg, A. T. (1986). Dominance and its fitness consequences
American bison cows. Behaviour, 96(1), 62-91.
* ^ Roden, C., Vervaecke, H., Carol Cunningham (June 1994). Bison:
mating and conservation in small populations. Columbia University
Press. p. 162. ISBN 978-0-231-08456-7 .
* ^ Trophy Bowhunting: Plan the Hunt of a Lifetime and Bag One for
the Record Books, by Rick Sapp, Edition: illustrated, published by
Stackpole Books, 2006, ISBN 0-8117-3315-7 , ISBN 978-0-8117-3315-1
* ^ American Bison: A Natural History, By Dale F. Lott, Harry W.
Greene, ebrary, Inc., Contributor Harry W. Greene, Edition:
illustrated, Published by University of California Press, 2003 ISBN
0-520-24062-6 , ISBN 978-0-520-24062-9
* ^ Newman, Edward and James Edmund Harting (1859). Zoologist: A
Monthly Journal of Natural History Published by J. Van Voorst.
* ^ "Maternal and Paternal Lineages in Cross-Breeding Bovine
Species. Has Wisent a Hybrid Origin?". Mbe.oxfordjournals.org.
2004-01-22. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
* ^ Guo, S.; et al. (2006). "Taxonomic placement and origin of
yaks: implications from analyses of mtDNA D-loop fragment sequences".
Acta Theriologica Sinica. 26 (4): 325–330. Archived from the
original on March 8, 2012.
* ^ Verkaar, EL; Nijman, IJ; Beeke, M; Hanekamp, E; Lenstra, JA
(2004). "Maternal and Paternal Lineages in Cross-Breeding Bovine
Species. Has Wisent a Hybrid Origin?". Molecular Biology and
Evolution. 21 (7): 1165–70. PMID 14739241 . doi
* ^ Buntjer, J B; Otsen, M; Nijman, I J; Kuiper, M T R; Lenstra, J
A (2002). "Phylogeny of bovine species based on AFLP fingerprinting".
Heredity. 88 (1): 46–51. PMID 11813106 . doi :10.1038/sj.hdy.6800007
* ^ Verkaar, EL; Nijman, IJ; Beeke, M; Hanekamp, E; Lenstra, JA
(2004). "Maternal and Paternal Lineages in Cross-Breeding Bovine
Species. Has Wisent a Hybrid Origin?". Molecular Biology and
Evolution. 21 (7): 1165–70. PMID 14739241 . doi
* ^ Soubrier, J.; Gower, G.; Chen, K.; Richards, S. M.; Llamas, B.;
Mitchell, K. J.; Ho, S. Y. W.; Kosintsev, P.; Lee, M. S. Y.;
Baryshnikov, G.; Bollongino, R.; Bover, P.; Burger, J.; Chivall, D.;
Crégut-Bonnoure, E.; Decker, J. E.; Doronichev, V. B.; Douka, K.;
Fordham, D. A.; Fontana, F.; Fritz, C.; Glimmerveen, J.; Golovanova,
L. V.; Groves, C.; Guerreschi, A.; Haak, W.; Higham, T.;
Hofman-Kamińska, E.; Immel, A.; Julien, M.-A.; Krause, J.; Krotova,
O.; Langbein, F.; Larson, G.; Rohrlach, A.; Scheu, A.; Schnabel, R.
D.; Taylor, J. F.; Tokarska, M.; Tosello, G.; van der Plicht, J.; van
Loenen, A.; Vigne, J.-D.; Wooley, O.; Orlando, L.; Kowalczyk, R.;
Shapiro, B.; Cooper, A. (2016). "Early cave art and ancient DNA record
the origin of European bison". Nature Communications. 7 (13158). doi
:10.1038/ncomms13158 . Retrieved 2016-11-26.
* ^ Guthrie, R. D. (1990). Frozen Fauna of the Mammoth Steppe: The
Story of Blue Babe. University of Chicago Press: Chicago.
* ^ Bell, C.J.; et al. (2004). "The Blancan, Irvingtonian, and
Rancholabrean mammal ages". In Woodburne, M.O. Late
Cenozoic Mammals of North America: Biostratigraphy and Geochronology.
New York: Columbia Univ. Press. pp. 232–314. ISBN 0-231-13040-6 .
* ^ Scott, E.; Cox, S.M. (2008). "Late Pleistocene distribution of
Bison (Mammalia; Artiodactyla) in the Mojave Desert of Southern
California and Nevada". In Wang, X.; Barnes, L.G. Geology and
Vertebrate Paleontology of Western and Southern North America. Los
Angeles: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. pp. 359–382.
* ^ Sanders, A.E.; R.E. Weems & L.B. Albright III (2009).
"Formalization of the mid-Pleistocene "Ten Mile Hill beds" in South
Carolina with evidence for placement of the
Irvingtonian–Rancholabrean boundary". In Albright III, L.B. Papers
on Geology, Vertebrate Paleontology, and Biostratigraphy in Honor of
Michael O. Woodburne. Flagstaff: Museum of Northern Arizona. pp.
* ^ Kurten, B; Anderson, E (1980). "Order Artiodactyla".
Pleistocene mammals of
North America (1st ed.). New York: Columbia
University Press. pp. 295–339. ISBN 0-231-03733-3 .
* ^ Jefferson, G. (2001). Rancho la Brea Bison. In: J. Harris (ed),
Rancho La Brea: Death Trap and Treasure Trove. Terra 30(2): 33. Los
Angeles Natural History Museum Foundation. p. 33.
* ^ Wilson, M.C.; L.V. Hills & B. Shapiro (2008). "Late Pleistocene
Bison antiquus from the Bighill Creek Formation,
Gallelli Gravel Pit, Alberta, Canada, and the fate of Bison
occidentalis". Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences. 45 (7): 827–59.
doi :10.1139/E08-027 .
* ^ Lott, Dale F. (2002). American Bison: A Natural History.
Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23338-7 .
* ^ "Ohio Archaeology Blog: Better Than a Pointed Stick in the Eye
– Not Really". Ohio-archaeology.blogspot.com. 2011-05-26. Retrieved
May 29, 2013.
* ^ A B Halbert, N; Gogan, P; Hiebert, R; Derr, J (2007). "Where
the buffalo roam: The role of history and genetics in the conservation
of bison on U.S. federal lands". Park Science. 24 (2): 22–29.
* ^ Polziehn, R; Strobeck, C; Sheraton, J; Beech, R (1995). "Bovine
mtDNA Discovered in North American
Bison Populations". Conservation
Biology. 9 (6): 1638–1643 (1642). doi
* ^ Illinois State Museum page. Museum.state.il.us (2011-09-01).
Retrieved on January 29, 2012.
* ^ "
Species Spotlight: American Bison".
* ^ staff (March 3, 2010). "Restoring North America\'s Wild Bison
to Their Home on the Range". Ens-newswire.com. Retrieved February 19,
* ^ The
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List of Threatened
Species (version 2009.1) –
* ^ "
Bison Come to Kankakee Sands". The Nature Conservancy.
* ^ "Historic Treaty Supports Restoration of Bison". TCA Regional
News. September 25, 2014.
* ^ " National
Bison Association". Bisoncentral.com. Archived from
the original on January 20, 2011. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
* ^ "
Bison from Farm to Table". USDA. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
* ^ A B C D Staff (November 15, 2011). "Restoring a
National Wildlife. National Wildlife Federation. 50 (1): 20–25.
* ^ Chang, Alicia (September 21, 2007). "Study: Catalina bison
aren\'t purebred". USA Today. Associated Press. Retrieved March 14,
* ^ A B "Canadian Agriculture at a Glance:
Bison on the comeback
trail". Statcan.gc.ca. 2009-04-09. Retrieved 2013-05-29.
* ^ "Table 1
Bison meat exports continue to climb, 2001 to 2006".
Statcan.gc.ca. 2009-04-03. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
* ^ A B C Meagher M (1973). "The bison of Yellowstone National
National Park Service
National Park Service Science Monographs. 1: 1–161. Archived
from the original on June 29, 2011.
* ^ Van Vuren, D. (1983). "Group dynamics and summer home range of
bison in southern Utah". Journal of Mammalogy. 64 (2): 329–332.
JSTOR 1380570 . doi :10.2307/1380570 .
* ^ A B C D E McHugh, T. (1958). "Social behavior of the American
Bison bison bison)". Zoologica. 43: 1–40.
* ^ Peden, D. G. Van Dyne; R. Rice; R. Hansen (1974). "The trophic
Bison bison L. on shortgrass plains". Journal of Applied
Ecology. 11 (2): 489–497.
JSTOR 2402203 . doi :10.2307/2402203 .
* ^ Popp, Jewel Kay. (1981). "Range Ecology of
Bison on Mixed Grass
Prairie at Wind Cave National Park". Unpubl. M.S. Thesis. Iowa State
University, Ames, Iowa. 59 p.
* ^ "American
Bison bison – NatureWorks". NatureWorks.
Archived from the original on February 17, 2014. Retrieved February 5,
* ^ A B Wolff, J. O. (1998). "Breeding strategies, mate choice, and
reproductive success in American bison". Okios. 83 (2): 529–544.
JSTOR 3546680 . doi :10.2307/3546680 .
* ^ A B C Green W. C. H. R., Aron (1993). "Persistent influences of
birth date on dominance, growth and reproductive success in bison".
Journal of Zoology. 230 (2): 177–185. doi
* ^ Vervaecke H, Roden C. (2006). "Going with the herd: same-sex
interaction and competition in American bison". In: Sommer V, Vasey
PL, (editors). Homosexual behaviour in animals. Cambridge University
Press. pp. 131–53 ISBN 0-521-86446-1 .
* ^ A B Coppedge, B. R.; Carter, T.S.; Shaw, J.H.; Hamilton, R.G.
(1997). "Agonistic behavior associated with orphan bison (
claves released into a mixed resident population". Applied Animal
Behaviour Science. 55: 1–10. doi :10.1016/S0168-1591(97)00035-X .
* ^ McMillan, Brock R.; Cottam, Michael R.; Kaufman, Donald W.
(2000). "Wallowing Behavior of American
Bos Bison) in Tallgrass
Prairie: An Examination of Alternate Explanations". American Midland
Naturalist. 144 (1): 159–67. ISSN 0003-0031 .
JSTOR 3083019 . doi
* ^ Mary Ann Franke (2005). To save the wild bison: life on the
edge in Yellowstone. University of
Oklahoma Press. p. 199. ISBN
* ^ Douglas W. Smith; Gary Ferguson (November 1, 2006). Decade of
the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone. Globe Pequot. p. 68. ISBN
* ^ Carbyn LN ; Trottier T (1988). "Descriptions of Wolf Attacks on
Bison Calves in Wood Buffalo National Park" (pdf). Arctic. 41 (4):
297–302. doi :10.14430/arctic1736 .
* ^ Smith, Doug (March 1, 2009). "Bigger is better if you\'re a
Billings Gazette . Retrieved September 7, 2014.
* ^ Tom Olliff; Jim Caslick (2003). "Wildlife-
Human Conflicts in
Yellowstone: When Animals and People Get Too Close" (PDF). Yellowstone
Science. Artcraft Inc. 11 (1): 18–22. Archived (PDF) from the
original on October 28, 2011.
* ^ A B C D Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife (January 1965).
"The American Buffalo". Conservation Note. 12.
* ^ A B C Roe, Frank Gilbert (1951). The North American Buffalo.
Toronto Canada: University of Toronto Press.
* ^ Hornaday, William T. (1904). The American Natural History. New
York: C. Scribner's Sons.
* ^ Cahalane, Victor H. (1947). Mammals of North America. New York:
The McMillan Company.
* ^ Collins, Henry H. (1959). Complete Field Guide to American
Wildlife. New York: Harper & Row.
* ^ Liberty Hyde Bailey (1908). Cyclopedia of American Agriculture,
Volume III: Animals. The MacMillan Company. p. 291.
* ^ Remove Threats to Irreplaceable
Herd at Wind Cave
National Park Archived July 23, 2011, at the
Wayback Machine .. PDF.
FY 2006 Challenge Cost Share Program. Final Project Report. September
30, 2007. Retrieved on September 16, 2011.
* ^ A B Derr, James (October 24, 2006). American Bison: The
Ultimate Genetic Survivor (PDF). The Ecological Future of North
American Bison. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 25, 2011.
Retrieved July 27, 2011.
* ^ Adams, James Truslow (1940). Dictionary of American History.
New York: Charles Scribner\'s Sons . ISBN 0-8226-0349-7 .
* ^ Jawort, Adrian (May 9, 2011). "Genocide by Other Means: U.S.
Army Slaughtered Buffalo in
Plains Indian Wars". Indian Country Today.
Retrieved April 3, 2014.
* ^ Elahe Izadi (May 9, 2016). "It\'s official: America’s first
national mammal is the bison". Washington Post.
* ^ Nader, The (October 18, 2008). "Buffalo T-Shirt Sale – Ralph
Nader for President in 2008". Votenader.org. Retrieved February 19,
* Branch, E. Douglas. (1997) The Hunting of the Buffalo (1929, new
ed. University of Nebraska Press,), classic history
* Dary David A. The Buffalo Book. (Chicago: Swallow Press, 1974)
* Flores Dan Louie (1991). "
Bison Ecology and
Bison Diplomacy: The
Southern Plains from 1800 to 1850". Journal of American History. 78
JSTOR 2079530 . doi :10.2307/2079530 .
* Gard, Wayne. The Great Buffalo Hunt (University of Nebraska Press,
* Isenberg, Andrew C. The Destruction of the Bison: An Environmental
History, 1750–1920 (Cambridge University press, 2000)
* Lott, Dale F (2002). American Bison: A Natural History. University
of California Press. ISBN 0-520-24062-6 .
* McHugh, Tom. The Time of the Buffalo (University of Nebraska
* Meagher, Margaret Mary. The
Bison of Yellowstone National Park.
(Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1973)
* Rister Carl Coke (1929). "The Significance of the Destruction of
the Buffalo in the Southwest". Southwestern Historical Quarterly. 33:
* Roe, Frank Gilbert. The North American Buffalo: A Critical Study
Species in Its Wild State (University of Toronto Press, 1951).
* Shaw, James H. "How Many
Bison Originally Populated Western
Rangelands?" Rangelands, Vol. 17, No. 5 (Oct., 1995), pp. 148–150
* Smits, David D. "The Frontier Army and the Destruction of the
Buffalo, 1865–1883," Western Historical Quarterly 25 (1994):
313–38 and 26 (1995) 203-8.
* Zontek Ken (1995). "Hunt, Capture, Raise, Increase: The People Who
Saved the Bison".
Great Plains Quarterly. 15: 133–49.
Wikispecies has information related to: BISON BISON
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: BISON BISON (category)