More than 30 Million of bison once thundered across North America. These bulky animals have long, shaggy brown coats. People mistakenly confuse them with buffalo but scientifically, they are not buffaloes. They are formidable beasts and the heaviest land animals in North America and Canada.Historically, the American bison played an essential role in shaping the ecology of the Great Plains. They graze heavily on native grasses and disturb the soil with their hooves, allowing many plant and animal species to flourish.
Bison are herbivore mammals, and have an average life span between 12 to 20 years. An adult can stand 5.5 to 6.5 ft. tall, and 9 to 12 ft. long. They weigh 1,800 to 2,400 pounds, and can reach up to speed of 30 to 40 miles an hour. The biggest bison have weighed up to 2,500 pounds. There are two types of American Bison – the Wood Bison (Bison athabascae) and the Plains Bison.The Wood Bison is darker, larger and heavier. The Plains Bison has thick wool between its horns, a thick beard and a mane around its throat. Its coat is also lighter in color.
Bison are ungulates, meaning they have hooves. Their hump is composed of muscles. They huge heads and shoulders, and both males and females have short, curved horns. They have poor eyesight but excellent senses of hearing and smell.Their diet include grasses and sedges. They can also swim across rivers. Bison mate between June and September, and have a gestation period of 270 to 285 days.
Massive hunting campaigns, loss of habitats, and severe drought are the main reasons why their species is Near Threatened level.