Bison, commonly known as buffalo, were originally found on the American prairie. At present, however, their range is very restricted. The bison is found in national parks of the United States and Canada. Earlier, when the population of this animal was larger, the herds traveled long distances in search of food.
Today, one can see paths left by millions of bison hooves. The bison has a large head and neck and humped shoulders. Also known as the “American bison,” the bison is brownish-black, except on the hind part of the body, which is brown.
Long, coarse hair covers the head, neck, and hump. The hair forms a beard on the throat and chin. The head has a pair of horns like those of domestic cattle. Some pairs of horns spread 35 inches at their widest point.
A full-grown bull (male) measures up to 12-1/2 feet long, from the tip of its nose to the end of its short, tufted tail. Its height at the shoulders measures 6 feet. Bulls usually weigh between 1,600 and 2,000 pounds. Buffalo are grazing animals; their feeding behavior is similar to that of domestic stock. They feed on grasses and other ground forage.
When bison were abundant, they influenced the ecosystem greatly. Their wallows served as temporary water resources for other animals. Through dung production they also contributed to creating the rich soils of the prairies.
Buffalo live in small groups arranged by sex, age, and habitat. Males that are older and have a higher rank and breed more often than the other group members. Bison groups may be seen during grazing and traveling. They travel in a line. These animals make good swimmers and runners. Bison are capable of reaching speeds of about 38 miles per hour.