The bison is the largest mammal in the world. It is the symbolic animal of the Great Plains and is a formidable beast, the heaviest land animal in North America.
Fact 1 – Description
The bison is often called a buffalo, and they are distantly related to the buffalo of Africa or water buffalo found in Asia. It is also referred to as an American bison. The bison has a shaggy, dark brown mane; its shoulders are humped, and the short legs are covered with hair. It has a long tail with a tuft at the end. A bison has a huge stature; and when it stands, it is about 5- to 6.5-feet tall at the shoulder. Short, black, curved horns stick out from its massive head just above the two ears. They grow to be 2-feet long. The bison has poor eyesight but has a very powerful hearing sense and a keen ability to smell. It can smell an animal standing at a distance of 3 kilometers. The coat of the bison is insulated, and snow easily settles on its back without even melting. The male bison is referred to as the “bull” and can be distinguished from the female, called a “cow,” by the large, square-shaped neck in comparison to the female’s smaller and rounder neck.
Fact 2 – Behavior of Bison
The bison is an herbivore and feeds on grasses, herbs, twigs, and shrubs. It first regurgitates the food and then chews it as cud before the final digestion. It requires nearly thirty acres of land for it to roam and feed. It does not stand stationary in one place but moves continuously as it consumes the grasses and wastes. This prevents overgrazing of the lands.
The females and male adults (bulls) usually live in small bands; and when the mating season arrives in the summer months, they come together in large herds. The males often fight for mating primacy, but such combats are not very dangerous. After nine months, a calf is born to the cow (bison).
The bison is active mostly at night and also at dusk. Although it is a huge creature, it is fast on its feet and can run 55 km an hour when required. It is an excellent swimmer, too. When swimming, the head, hump, and tail stay above the surface of the water.
Fact 3 – Specialties of the Bison
The bison has an amazing ability to shed its coat during the summer season. The coat is extremely thick, for it is made of coarse outer guard hairs and a soft undercoat to protect the creature from the extreme cold in winter. While in summer, the coat is reduced naturally to stay cool; and the animal grows a new coat annually.
It uses its horns to protect itself from predators like wolves, cougars, and bears. Humans have hunted this animal for its meat, skin, and for sport.
The presence of bison in the lands where it thrives helps to maintain a balance in the ecosystem of the prairies and allows other species to exist.
Fact 4 – Range
The bison is the largest animal to exist in North America. Before the areas of Canada and Mexico were inhabited by humans, there were nearly 60-100 million bison. But as settlers invaded these areas and population increased, people began hunting them for various reasons; and gradually the number began to deteriorate to a large extent, sometimes as low as merely 1,000. Today the bison is found in large herds only in remote areas and farmlands. However, in Northern Canada it roams about freely in protected areas. Today small herds are found also in the northeastern part of British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, and Northwest Saskatchewan.