Scientific name: Bison bison
Other common names: American Bison; American Buffalo; American Plains Buffalo
The American Bison is the largest land mammal in North America, and used to be the largest herd of wild mammals on earth, roaming between Canada’s Great Bear Lake in the north, the Appalachian Mountains in the east, and the Mexican states of Durango and Nuevo Leon in the south. The American Bison is more closely related to the European Bison or Wisent than to the true buffaloes, the Asian Water Buffalo and the African Buffalo.
Almost driven to extinction in the 19th century, the Bison population eventually recovered through the diligent care and attention of concerned breeders and conservationists. They are now protected in several national parks and wildlife areas. Bison is also currently raised for meat and hide, and for crossbreeding with domestic cattle for their desirable low-fat and low-cholesterol beef. The resultant breed from this crossing is called the Beefalo (3/8 Bison, 5/8 local beef breed).
Appearance / health:
Bison are large animals maturing up to 6 ft. tall, 12 ft. long, and 2000 lbs in weight. Both sexes are horned (short and curved with blunt tips). The head, carried low, is large and formidable, with a wooly, curly, mop-like mass of hair between the horns. A beard grows under the chin. The tail is up to 3 ft. long. In the winter, the coat is long (averaging 15 inches on the forehead) and shaggy and dark brown to black in color. In the summer, the coat is thinner and the color is light brown. Calves are light brown in color for the first three months.
Behavior / temperament:
Bison are known to be temperamental. They may seem lazy and peaceful but when provoked or agitated, can be a fast (run up to speeds of 35mph), strong, agile, and dangerously savage animal. When ready to attack, a Bison will lower its head to point its horns, raise its tail, snort, and paw the ground.
Bison are known to wallow in dry or wet ground to cover themselves with dust or mud. The activity is said to help them thermoregulate, remove parasites from their skin, display social interaction, or simply play.
Bison have poor eyesight but have an excellent sense of smell and acute hearing.
Housing / diet:
Bison thrive on wild grass, shrubs, flowers, and other grassland plants. In the winter, they forage on lichens and moss.
magnificent animals, bison meat, Bison Burger, good herd species, steaks, game meat choice
handling bison, solid wooden fences, bison bull
high ranking females, large herd, big personalities, grass fed
Bison are pretty unique animals with big personalities. I had the opportunity to work with a large herd in a zoo setting for a few years. While I do not disagree with people keeping herds of bison at all - in fact there is a large push in the U.S. to re-establish bison on the American Prairie which I think is fantastic - I do disagree with keeping "a" bison as a pet.
We had a rescue bison come into our facility who's owner thought it would be fun to have a bison for a pet. She had the best of intentions and kept it housed with her horses. She saddle trained it and halter trained it when it was very young. However, unlike horses or cows, bison are still very wild. They can become very aggressive when scared. When you're thinking of small bison calf, that might be okay. But a full grown bison bull can weigh as much as 2000 lbs (females usually around 1200 lbs). You don't want to be close to those animals when they're scared or angry! In the case of our "pet" bison. She eventually became more than the owner could handle. She would chase the horses and she eventually turned on the owner, aggressively knocking her down several times by the time she reached adolescence.
With that being said, keeping a herd of bison is a different story if maintained properly. As another mentioned, if kept alone they can become very stressed. Like many species of hoofstock, when faced with something that scares them they run, often blindly. That instinct is even more apparent in a bison that has been separated from the herd. They will run blindly into anything. I've seen them crash into solid wooden fences for no other reason than they were spooked when left alone.
We maintained one herd with two adult males (one vasectomized and one castrated) and 11 or so females. They had a very established hierarchy, led by our matriarch (who was creatively named Mama). It was easy to tell them all apart, they have very distinct looks and personalities. We only worked them from a truck, and only the previous "pet" ever approached the truck on a regular basis (poor thing also thought she was a horse and would throw her head and prance sometimes...). We were always cautious of their position in the exhibit when we serviced, if they approached - we left. They would challenge the truck if we got too close, especially the high ranking females and the bulls.
Ours were contained with chain-link fence and we never had an issue with them knocking it down, although they were certainly capable of it. Our prairie enclosure was 11 acres in a field surrounded by woods so we believe that the trees acted as a visual barrier and kept them from taking down the fences. We even had a few trees go down over the years and no one left. We did see evidence where they used the fallen tree as a scratching post!
Overall, they would make a good herd species if you have the space to maintain a group of them. At the zoo, we obviously didn't participate in any of the commercial benefits of maintaining bison but I know they are plentiful..
From DanaMK Nov 15 2014 4:40PM
Bison - the better meat
We have been raising Bison for 6 years now and we have grown from owning 7 to owning 50 animals. We haven't been able to keep up with the demand for the meat for the past few years, due to growing interest in bison meat. Because it is lower in fat and cholesterol then beef, pork, and even chicken, it is fast becoming the choice of meat for people with a family history of heart disease, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.
Our bison are handled as little as possible and spend all of their day grazing on grass. We only feed organic hay and they do have free choice minerals and salt. They are NOT given any drugs, chemicals, or hormones. This makes bison the ideal meat for anyone concerned about what is going into their meant and into their mouths.
The most important thing to remember when handling bison is that they are not cows. We do not go in with them and they are unpredictable and do not like being alone. Unless you have at least 3 -5 bison together they will stress themselves until they die.
Bison are extremely easy to raise due to the fact that they do not need human intervention for birthing, they rarely get sick, and are tolerable to most climates.
From buffalo394 Oct 7 2010 1:40PM