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Quick Facts
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Genus: Bison
Species: bison
Subspecies: bison

Height: 60 - 78 inches
Length: 84 - 144 inches
Weight: 1760 - 2425 lbs
Gestation: 285 days
Offspring: 1
Life Span: 20 - 40 years
Top Speed (Ground): 35 mph

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American Bison

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Also Called: Plains Bison


The American Bison is the largest mammal on the North American continent. It is characterized by an overdeveloped front portion and tapered hindquarters. It has short horns that grow out of the side of its head. The hair on its front portion grows to 20 in. forming a hood that hangs down from its forehead to its muzzle, a thick mane, and cuffs on its front legs. The hair is primarily insulation for the colder seasons. It also serves as protection for the males during breeding season. The Plains Bison is very closely related to the Wood bison (Bison bison athabascae). The Wood bison lives farther north and is bigger than the Plains bison.


Adult bison need about 30 pounds of forageWhat does forage mean? a day. Bison prefer grass but when necessary will eat leaves from trees.


Bison thrive anywhere there is adequate forageWhat does forage mean?, water, and space. Grasslands and meadows are perfect places for bison to live. They will use forested areas for shade, protection from insects, and an additional food source when there is snow on the ground. However, bison are quite capable of surviving in the winter, even when the snowfall is several feet deep. Bison also tend to be seasonally migratory. These migrations are based on weather conditions, availability of food, and tradition.


The Grey wolf, coyote, and Grizzly bear are the primary predatorsWhat does predators mean? of the bison.


Bison are social creatures. Females usually travel in herds of related animals (up to 60 Bison) while mature males either roam alone or in small groups. SolitaryWhat does Solitary mean? males and groups of males will stay by themselves until breeding season (July through September) when they will join with a group of females. The females are very protective of their young and will become aggressive if they are threatened. Male bison do not take care of their young at all.


Female bison give birth to one calf after a 285-day gestationWhat does gestation mean? period. Bison calves can run after 3 hours and are weanedWhat does weaned mean? at 7 months. The calf will stay with its mother for about 3 years. Then it will join one of the mature male herds.

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