The bison is a hoofed mammal and the largest land animal in North America.
There are two types of bison in North America - the Wood Bison and the Plains
Bison. Bison are not buffalo.
1. Where the bison are found
Bison are found in North America, mainly in parks and reserves.
Bison once lived on the prairies of western Canada and the United States.
Bison have shaggy brown hair around the head and neck.
Thick fur extends down the front legs. The bison's back and hind end
are covered with shorter hair. Bison have a long thick beard hanging
from the chin and short up-curved horns. (photo 1)
Bison spend most of their time feeding on grasses
(like wild oats, rye and wheat), lichens
(nonflowering plants that grows close to the ground ), vetches ( trailing plants )
, horsetails (grasslike weeds) and berries.
They begin grazing early
in the morning and swallow the unchewed food.
When the bison finds a place to rest the unchewed
food or cud is brought back into the mouth and chewed.
- Herds - Bison usually travel in small bands of twenty or more searching
for grass to eat. The leader is an older stronger male.
The small groups form herds when they are migrating.
- Horns - They rub the horns against trees
or even against rocks to keep the horns sharp and polished.
- Senses - Bison have excellent senses of hearing and smell
to alert them of dangers. It is difficult to sneak up on a bison.
The wide flat nose picks up the scent and the bison is always
listening for any unusual sounds. They have poor eyesight.
- Defence - When bison are alarmed, they run (stampede) or defend themselves
with their sharp horns. Instead of stampeding the bison might surround the
- Nose - Besides having a
keen sense of smell, the bison uses its nose for pushing away the snow
and uncovering the grass that lies underneath.
- Fur coat - Bison actually have two coats in one.
There is a layer of underfur close to the body for trapping warm air
next to the skin. The thick outer coat sheds water and keeps out the wind.
In spring the bison sheds the winter coat.
- Migration - For the winter bison migrate to valleys
and wooded areas to find shelter from the cold winter storms.
- Wallowing - The bison is bothered by insect pests
which bite or lay eggs on the fur. Wallowing (or rolling on the ground )
helps to get rid of the pests, and also helps to rub off the loose patches
- The tail looks like a rope. It makes
a great fly swatter.
The main enemies are the grizzly bear, mountain
lion, wolf and coyote.
Man was the bison's greatest enemy.
6. The young
In early summer the female (cow) leaves the herd
and goes off alone to give birth to one baby (calf).
(Twins are rare).
A young bison looks alot like a baby
cow. Its eyes and ears are open and it has a fuzzy
The calf stays close to its mother. They do
not return to the herd for two or three days.
The mother and the baby know each other by their
scent. (photo 3)
Young bison love to play. They kick up
their hind legs and dash across the fields. They
butt heads with each other. All this play helps to
strengthen their muscles.
The calf will drink its mother's milk for about
seven months. When it is a week old it will also start to nibble
go to BISON - page 2
go to INDEX of CANADIAN ANIMALS
IMAGES (bison1.jpg, bison2.jpg, calf.jpg)
Gerald and Buff Corsi © California Academy of Sciences
Canipe, Steve. bison4.jpg. 9/19/2001. Pics4Learning.com
2001 (updated 2011)
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