There are few animals that are more iconic in North America than the American Bison. That doesn’t mean that most people have much knowledge of this creature. In fact, most people might be able to identify one if they saw it, but they might not know many of the interesting facts about this animal.
* A full-grown American bison bull can weigh over a ton and stand six and a half feet at the shoulder. They can be nearly 12 feet in length.
* Despite a rather clumsy appearance, bison can run about 40 miles per hour. That is roughly the same speed as an English Thoroughbred horse. Bison can also jump obstacles that are six feet high.
* At the time of the early American settlement, there were many tens of millions of these creatures. They ranged from what is now Alaska to Mexico and from Nevada to the Appalachian Mountains. When a sizable herd was on the move, the ground literally shook.
* By the late 1800s, there was only a few hundred American bison still alive. Many history books claim that the reason the bison were killed was because of dwindling habitat as people colonized America or competition with humans for the land, but that isn’t true. By the late 1800s, there was still a great deal of land that was unpopulated by people and unchanged by men. The real reason for the near destruction of the bison was an attempt to control the Native American population, many of whom relied on the bison for everything from food to clothing to blankets to thread. The US government at the time condoned the wholesale slaughter of the animals, which were often left where they dropped, to rot.
* There are currently over 20,000 bison living on public land and many are raised on private ranches. Although the population is nowhere close to what it was 200 years ago, the American bison is no longer in danger of imminent extinction.
* Yellowstone National Park is home for nearly 5,000 American bison. While bison might look cute to some people, they are still wild animals and must be treated with respect and caution. Every couple of years, someone at Yellowstone gets severely trampled when they try to get too close to one of these huge beasts.
* Although bison cows drop their calves in fairly secluded places, the babies are easy to spot. Both adult cows and bulls are dark brown in color. For the first few weeks, the calves are red to nearly orange in color. That has earned the young calves the nickname of “red dogs”.
* Bison cows start breeding at the age of two and may continue until nearly the age of 20, their natural lifespan. However, in years when there isn’t much food, the cows may not breed. This depends on how much weight she can gain during the year.
* There is now American bison living in all 50 US states, according to the National Park Service.
* Bison are near-sighted, but they make up for it by having superb senses of smell and hearing.
* Although bison are distinctly cow-like, they are actually more closely related to yaks than they are to cattle or buffaloes. Still, they’ve been called buffaloes for so long in the US that the term is usually recognized.
It is hoped that this information will help people to become better aquainted with this giant American mammal.