They are the largest land mammal in North America. Mammals are warm-blooded animals with hair and they nurse their young.
In the 1800’s, it is estimated there were 60 million bison in North America. The arrival of European settlers changed these numbers drastically. During the late 1800s, commercial hide hunters, settlers, and thrill seekers shot millions of bison, leaving less than 1,000 by 1900. Conservation over the last 100 years has brought the numbers back up to more than 350,000 animals.
Bison are sometimes misnamed Buffalo. The first settlers thought they resembled the Asian Water Buffalo.
They can run 65 km/h; weigh 900 to 2,000 lbs. They can distinguish smells up to 3 km away.
The massive head, the humped shoulders and slumping back hips is their characteristic outline. The muscles in a bison’s neck and hump help support its huge head. In winter, these muscles help it push away snow to eat the buried grass. Long woolly hair on their head, hump and shoulders, contrast sharply in texture with the short hair on the rest of their body.
Another distinctive feature is the 8 to 10 inch beard of rough stringy fur. Every spring bison shed their heavy winter coats by rubbing their bodies against any object they can find -fence posts and trees.
They are ruminants. This means they chew their cud (regurgitated food), and swallow it into one of their four stomachs.