American bison

(Bison bison)




Facts about this animal

The Bison is the largest land animal of North America. It has a massive, low slung head, a hump on its shoulders and relatively slender hindquarters. Head-body length is 2.2 to 3 m, hight at shoulder about 1.5 to 2 m. They weigh from 500 to 1000 kg, with females being about one fourth to one third smaler than males. Long, shaggy dark brown hair covers the head and shoulders, and a beard grows form the chin. The fur on the hind quarters is much shorter. Both sexes have horns, which are smooth, black, and curved upwards. Juvenile coat is orangy brown.

Did you know?
that independent ranchers and entrepreneurial marketers have played a significant role in restoring bison to the North American ecosystem? Even more important, the American consumer today is providing a major incentive for the continued growth in the bison population. The rapid growing in demand for bison meat over the past year is providing a strong incentive for ranchers to continue to work to bring back the American Bison (NBA).


Name (Scientific) Bison bison
Name (English) American bison
Name (French) Bison d'Amérique
Name (German) Bison
Name (Spanish) Bisonte americano
Local names USA: Buffalo
CITES Status Appendix II (subspecies athabascae only)
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Javk Dykinga



Range North America (see historic range map on the left)
Habitat Prairies, plains and forests
Wild population The American bison nearly got extinct after the arrival of thousands of white settlers. Due to uncontrolled hunting in the 19th century numbers decreased dramatically until just a few hundred animals were left at the and of the century. With adequate protection the herds have steadily increased till then, and it numbers around 300'000 animals today in North America. However, most bison are found in national and state parks, wildlife refuges, in private collections and on a large number of commercial ranches (meat production) (Red List IUCN 2011).
Zoo population 974 reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

American bison


How this animal should be transported

For road transport, in general, a trailer is used. Because of the large size of wild cattle, the use of a crate is generally not recommended except for transport of juvenile or sub-adult animals or for air transport. When transporting wild cattle in a trailer, animals should be singly-stalled and stalls should be partitioned in such a way that the animal has enough room to lie down and stand up, but not turn around. Too much space allows the animal to jump up, potentially injuring itself.

For air transport, Container Note 73 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations, should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


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Why do zoos keep this animal

The American bison is no longer a threateend species. Zoos keep them primarily for educational reasons, because of their importance for American history and indigenous people in North America, and as an ambassador species for the conservation of the prairie biome.