An American Bison.
The Bison is a genus from the Bovidae family. There are two extant and four extinct species recognized. Of the four extinct species, three were North American; Bison antiquus, B. latifrons, and B. occidentalis. The fourth; the Bison priscus ranged across steppe environments from Western Europe, through Central Asia, and onto North America.
There are two surviving species; the American bison, Bison bison, also known as the American buffalo, found only in North America, is the most numerous. (It is only distantly related to the true buffalo.) The North American species is composed of two subspecies, the plains bison, Bison bison bison, and the wood bison, Bison bison athabascae, which is the namesake of Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada. The European bison Bison bonasus, or wisent is found in Europe and the Caucasus, re-introduced after being extinct in the wild.
While all bison species are usually grouped into their own genus, they are sometimes included in the closely related genus Bos, together with cattle, gaur, kouprey and yaks, with which bison have a limited ability to interbreed.
Although superficially similar, there are a number of physical and behavioural differences between the American and European bison. The American species has 15 ribs, while the European bison has 14. The American bison has four lumbar vertebrae, while the European has five.
Wallowing is a common behavior of bison. A bison wallow is a shallow depression in the soil, either wet or dry. Bison roll in these depressions, covering themselves with mud or dust. Possible explanations suggested for wallowing behavior include grooming behavior associated with moulting, male-male interaction (typically rutting behavior), social behavior for group cohesion, play behavior, relief from skin irritation due to biting insects, reduction of ectoparasite load (ticks and lice), and thermoregulation.
American bison live in river valleys, and on prairies and plains. Typical habitat is open or semi-open grasslands, as well as sagebrush, semi-arid lands and scrublands. Some lightly wooded areas are also known historically to have supported bison. 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 Bison Herd are frequently found at elevations above 8,000 feet 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.
European bison (Wisent) tend to live in lightly wooded to fully wooded areas and areas with increased shrubs and bushes, though they can also live on grasslands and plains.
Throughout most of their historical range free-ranging bison are not tolerated by landowners or state governments. Herds on private land must be fenced in. In the United States state of Montana, free-ranging bison on public land may be shot; citing concerns of spreading disease and damage to public property. Legislation surrounding the bison continue to be proposed and vetoed by the governor of Montana; which remains a contested issue amongst Native American tribes and the American government.
American Bison, Bison bison European bison, Bison bonasus †Steppe Wisent, Bison priscus †Ancient Bison, Bison antiquus †Long-horned Bison, Bison latifrons Holocene Bison†, Bison occidentalis
- In the United States, the American Bison is a popular symbol in the Great Plains states.