Information about: Bison

Index | Bison

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Bison. The name applied to two species of ruminants closely related to the true ox. One of these, the European bison, Bison europaeus, is now found only in the forests of southern Russia and the Caucasus. The other, or American bison, improperly termed buffalo (Bison americanus) is now nearly extinct. In 1903 a herd of about six hundred inhabited the region southwest of Great Slave lake, and there were also thirty-four wild specimens in the Yellowstone park. In addition to these, about eleven hundred individuals were held in captivity in zoological collections in Europe, Canada, and the United States. These are all that are left of the millions which, as late as 1870, roamed the region between the Mississippi river and the Rocky mountains. The two species closely resemble each other, the American bison, however, being for the most part smaller, and with shorter and weaker hind quarters. The bison is remarkable for the great hump or projection over its fore shoulders, at which point the adult male is almost six feet in height, and for the long, shaggy, rust colored hair over the head, neck, and fore part of the body. In summer, from the shoulders backwards, the surface is covered with a very short fine hair, smooth and soft as velvet. The tail is short and tufted at the end. The flesh of the American bison can not be distinguished from beef, either in appearance or flavor. The American bison has been found to breed readily with common cattle, but the strain of buffalo blood thus introduced has not been permanent where the experiment has been made.