The mighty American bison, otherwise known as the buffalo, is an impressive and independent bovine mammal.
Despite its common misnomer to its distant relatives – the water buffalo and African buffalo – it has been a keystone species in North America for centuries.
With a large head topped with small curved horns, a shaggy dark brown coat, and strong legs to carry them across the grassy plains, their grazing habits have impacted the land of the Great Plains monumentally.
American bison live in the valleys of rivers and on prairies and plains specifically, often feeding on grasses and sedges. They do venture into mountain terrain but prefer hilly or mountainous areas with gentle enough slopes that they can climb.
And while they don’t make their homes in high altitudes there are still some herds like those found in Yellowstone Park that venture up to elevations of 8,000 feet!
For significant centuries until now, Native Americans have been spiritually connected to this animal – so much so that it was made the national mammal of the United States!
Although its population has seen a drastic decrease due to overhunting and habitat destruction worldwide, it still lives on today in several national parks and wildlife conservations across America – showcasing its mysterious vivacity through time-honored affinity!
American Bison Facts for Kids
- Bison are the largest mammals in N. America.
- Males are called bulls, females are cows.
- Baby bison are called calves.
- Bison eat grass, shrubs, and herbs.
- They can run up to 35 mph.
- Bison live in herds for protection.
- National Mammal of the U.S. since 2016.
|Up to 2 meters tall
|Up to 2,000 kg
|35 mph (56 km/h)
|Grasses, shrubs, herbs
|United States (since 2016)
North America’s Majestic Giants
Bison are truly astonishing creatures. They have an innate kind of majesty, brought to life by their shaggy winter coats and magnificent size – reaching up to two meters tall and a whopping two thousand kilos in weight!
These mighty beasts roam the North American prairies, nibbling at grasses and sedges with their large heads and forequarters, often engaging in disputes amongst individuals or defending themselves with their short curved horns.
And they can be seen mating during August and September, producing a single reddish-brown calf the following spring who will nurse for an entire year before growing into these formidable adult specimens.
At times one might even come across an incredibly rare white buffalo – an individual completely colored in snow white – which is considered sacred by many Native Americans.
These majestic creatures live up to 25 years in captivity and 15 years in the wild.
Bison Adventure: Explore America’s Mighty Herds
Every true adventurer out there knows the majestic bison, gracing our world with its presence. Found in both publicly and privately held herds, one of the biggest is housed by Custer State Park in South Dakota which is home to an astounding 1,500 bison – numbers that will leave adventurers mesmerized!
One of the most captivating traits of this fantastic animal is that it can be raised for meat and hides; thereby becoming a source of sustenance as well as a livelihood to its appreciative human counterparts.
Ingenuity tells us that from this resource came the beefalo, a cross-breed of bison and domestic cattle, famed for its low fat and cholesterol content.
The few remaining purebred bison can only be found free-roaming in Yellowstone National Park or the Henry Mountains in Utah plus some other places like Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota or Elk Island National Park / Wood Buffalo National Park – all situated on public lands.
Approximately 12K-15K specimens remain that have genes from neither domestic cattle nor other animals. So what are you waiting for? Set out adventuring and discover these beautiful creatures which deserve just as much respect as they do awe!
Bison Behavior: Migrating Herds & Playful Wallowing Unveiled
Bison are remarkable creatures, with both male and female herds migrating seasonally. They consume most of the grasses in an area in no time, which is why they need to keep moving in order to feed the entire herd.
Fascinatingly, the male and female bison do not intermingle until mating season approaches. The females form maternal societies while the boys venture out on their own or create bachelor groups.
The bison also have their own ways of keeping clean – wallowing! This is when they will dig a shallow depression and roll around in it, covering themselves with either mud or dust.
Researchers think that these wallows may serve a dual purpose — buffing themselves up during grooming sessions as well as providing entertainment during playtime!
Bison Defense Tactics: Protecting Calves from Cunning Predators
Bison herds have developed some amazing defenses to keep their calves safe from predators, especially wolves. In the late spring and early summer when wolf predation peaks, bison will quickly react and take action.
They’ll either run to a cow in the herd that’s defending its baby, go off to deeper parts of the herd with larger animals like bulls, or flee in a thundering stampede – trying not to fall behind; any straggler may get picked off by the wolves.
Sometimes even bears pose a risk and so this means that bison mothers need extra vigilance! But thankfully their defense strategies are incredibly effective and usually keep their babies safe.
These defensive tactics are an amazing example of how nature has equipped them with ingenious ways to stay alive in against these powerful predators!
Bison’s Path: From Near Extinction to Conservation
For centuries, Plains Indians hunted the American Bison in a variety of ways – by driving them into corals and over cliffs, and eventually, using horses to hunt.
But when Europeans began moving westward in the 19th century, they took full advantage of these majestic creatures.
Not only did they hunt the bison for skins and leave the meat to rot (sometimes even to keep food from Native Americans), but environmental changes such as a long period of extreme drought compounded this situation further.
Fortunately, the decline in population was not ignored. Conservationists came forward with bids to protect the remaining bison and even worked towards reintroducing them – James “Scotty” Philip being one such individual who kept buffalo on private lands for this purpose.
To this day, bison are considered both wildlife and domestic livestock in Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
Though their legal status cannot speak universally across states, great strides have been taken since the late 19th century to ensure their conservation.
American Bison: Guiding Early Explorers’ Journeys
Before explorers, travelers and pioneers followed the paths that were made by thousands of American bison.
They trod the dusty roads across North America, with many trails running north and south; but some key east-west routes cut through large mountainous areas.
The most extraordinary of these was the Cumberland Gap, connecting the Potomac River to Ohio River headwaters – running alongside the Allegheny divide and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Another trace that was heavily used wove its way across the Ohio River at the Falls of Ohio then ventured on Westward over Vincennes, Indiana.
By taking this long journey along ancient bison trails they paved their way to greater things – bringing us much closer to a railway that would reach the Pacific! It opens up a world of possibilities for Americans in discovering new lands or new frontiers beyond those talked about in stories.
Bison’s Legacy: A Symbol of Strength Across North America
Wielding the might of a truly noble animal, the American bison has been chosen to be featured in many places throughout North America.
It is proudly used as an official symbol for the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming, on their state flags, seals, and team mascots.
However, its might has spread further–to the official coat of arms of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Manitoba flag in Canada.
Even coins feature this majestic creature like the iconic buffalo nickel from 1913-1938 and the Kansas and North Dakota state quarters from 2005’s ‘Westward Journey’ series’.
This impressive creature has surely left an undeniable indelible mark upon history – recognized for its strength, power, and wildness across two countries that continue to embrace it into officialdom with distinction.
Bison Encounters: Respect Their Power & Agility in National Parks
Bison are awe-inspiring giants of the animal kingdom, and visitors to America and Canada’s many National Parks, especially Yellowstone, feel privileged to encounter them in the wild.
However, one should never forget that these unassuming creatures can be in danger when provoked.
Though their gait is stately and two paces seem sluggish, bison are actually lithe and powerful animals able to charge at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour!
Between 1978 – 1992 over five times as many people in Yellow National Park were injured or killed by bison than by bears – a startling reminder of their ferocity when threatened.
What’s remarkable though is not just their strength but also agility – able to move much more nimbly than one might expect from such an impressive creature!