Exploring the American Bison

How much do you know about the American bison? Find out even more today on Light Future Art!

MAle Bison1. Male bison (bulls) are larger than females (cows), but both are huge. Cows are usually about 1,000 pounds, but bulls can easily be double that size. They stand about as tall as an average adult human at the shoulder but are over 10 feet long from nose to tail.
2. Bison are herbivores and during the winter, most of their food is buried under snow. They use the strong muscles in their distinctive shoulder hump to swing their head from side to side and clear snow off of the vegetation underneath.
3. The American bison is the national mammal of the United States but only recently. The bison was given this title only five years ago!


Adult Bison Side Profile4. Several languages of Plains tribes distinguish between cows and bulls, which is not typical for these languages. Most animals have a single word to describe both males and females, and the fact that a special case is made for bison goes to show how important bison were to the people who speak these languages.
5. The bison who live in Yellowstone National Park are “pure descendants”. This means that they are the direct descendants of the bison who lived in prehistory without any hybridization with domesticated cattle. The same cannot be said about any other bison population.
6. Bison are capable of running at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour and are strong swimmers. They can also jump over high fences and turn on a dime while running.


Mother Bison with Calf7. Bison can survive and stay warm in sub-zero temperatures thanks to their thick coat of fur. Their fur is ten times more dense than that of a domestic cattle.
8. When interested in a cow, a bull will chase away other bulls from her or follow her around, but most often he will stand in front of her so that his body blocks her view of any competition, making him appear to be the only candidate for her.
9. Bison calves who haven’t had any hybridization with cattle have red coats when they are born and gradually develop their dark brown coat over time. However, those who are hybrids may be born already with dark fur or even with white fur.
10. Both bulls and cows have horns. The horns begin to grow when the bison is about two years old. They start out being black in color but fade to gray as the bison ages.


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