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The American bison was declared the USA’s national mammal on May 9, 2016. Approximately 40 million bison, often known as buffalo, roamed North America freely in 1800.

Currently, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) classifies them as endangered species. Let’s learn some more interesting bison facts for kids.

Scientific Classification of Bison

Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Artiodactyla
Family:Bovidae
Subfamily:Bovinae
Subtribe:Bovina
Genus:Bison

Interesting Bison Facts for Kids 1-9

1. Millions of bison roamed North America during prehistoric periods, from the forests of Alaska and Mexico to the Great Basin of Nevada and the eastern Appalachian Mountains.

By the late 1800s, however, there were just a few hundred bison remaining in the United States as a result of European settlers’ westward expansion, which reduced the bison’s habitat and pushed the poor animal to extinction. 

2. Bison may appear to be heavy, but they’re actually incredibly agile and quick, able to gallop 30 to 45 mph and jump up to six feet vertically.

3. North America’s largest mammal is the bison. Female bison (called cows) weigh up to 1,000 pounds and reach a height of 4-5 feet.

Whereas male bison (called bulls) reach up to 2,000 pounds of weight and stand 6 feet tall.

Born bison calves weigh between 30 and 70 pounds.

4. Since the late 19th century, the Interior Department has been the primary national steward for bison conservation.

In 12 states, including Alaska, 17 bison herds, or around 10,000 bison, are supported by public lands controlled by the Interior Department.

5. Although the terms bison and buffalo are used interchangeably, the scientific name for this animal in North America is bison.

Actually, it is Bison bison bison (genus, species, and subspecies name is bison), however, it is acceptable to only use the term once.

6. According to historians, the word “buffalo” originated from the French word for beef, “boeuf.”

7. Bison are mostly herbivores, feeding primarily on the grasses of the Northern Great Plains.

In the summer and fall, their diet consists primarily of leaves of woody plants, flowering plants,  and lichens.

In the winter, bison utilize their large heads, which are driven by their muscular humps, to plow through snow in search of buried food.

8. Bison have poor vision. However, their hearing is exceptional. During mating season, bulls may be heard bellowing from great distances. Cows and calves communicate with pig-like grunts.

9. Bison have an average lifespan of 10–20 years, however, some live longer.

Cows begin reproducing at the age of 2 and have only one calf. Males are most fertile between the ages of 6 and 10 years.

herd of bison grazing and roaming in the field-bison-facts-for-kids

Interesting Bison Facts 10-18

10. Bison roll in the dirt, a behavior that is usually known as wallowing, to ward off biting insects and to shed fur.

During mating season, male bison wallow to leave their fragrance and demonstrate their might.

11. Bison are capable of “plowing snow” with their heads. When snowfall becomes excessive, bison will move snow with their heads to facilitate transit and feeding. This is a common occurrence at Yellowstone National Park!

12. The mood of a bison can be determined by its tail. When it droops and switches naturally, bison are often relaxed. Watch out if the tail is standing upright!

It may be capable of charging. Regardless of the position of a bison’s tail, remember that they are dangerous and can charge at any time.

Each year, unfortunate events occur as a result of people getting too close to these enormous animals. 

13. Bison calves are often born between late March and May and are orange-red in hue, giving them the moniker “red dogs.”

After a few months, their hair begins to turn dark brown and their shoulder hump and horns begin to develop.

14. Most of the approximately 500,000 bison in the United States are reared as livestock on ranches.

Approximately 30,000 are conserved in private and public herds.

15. Yellowstone National Park is the only U.S. location where bison have resided continuously from prehistoric times, as evidenced by fossils and reports from early travelers.

16. The Yellowstone herd is one of the few remaining populations devoid of cattle DNA.

17. The hump of a bison is comprised of muscle and is supported by long vertebrae. 

18. Male and female bison both get horns. Although both males and females develop horns, their horns can be used to distinguish them.

On a cow (female), the horn will be thinner and more C-shaped than on a bull. 

Sources: 1, 2

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