Which bison do horns, males or females have?

American bison or Indian buffalo,
scientific name:Bison bison. The American bison belongs to the horned family.

(Linnaeus, 1758)
Scientific name: bison bison

  • English: American bison, buffalo
  • French: Bison d’Amérique du Nord
  • Danish: Amerikansk bison
  • Dutch: Bizon
  • Portuguese: Bisonte
  • Swedish: bisonox

Photo of a bison herd in Yellowstone National Park in winter
© Copyright image / photo: American bison
Rolf Hicker Photography

  • Genus: bison (bison)
  • Subfamily: Cattle (Bovinae)
  • Family: Hornbearers (Bovidae)
  • Subordination: ruminants (Ruminantia)
  • Order: cloven-hoofed (Artiodactyla)
  • Group: ungulates (Ungulata)
  • Superordinate:Laurasiatheria
  • Subclass: Higher Mammals or Placenta Animals (Eutheria)
  • Class: Mammals (Mammalia)
  • Series: Land Vertebrates (Tetrapoda)
  • Superclass: jaw animals (Gnathostomata)
  • Sub-strain: vertebrates (Vertebrata)
  • Tribe: chordates, back string animals (Chordata)
  • Core group: Neumünder (Deuterostomia)
  • Subdivision: Bilaterally Symmetrical Animals (Bilateria)
  • Department: Tissue Animals (Eumetazoa)
  • Sub-kingdom: multi-cell (Metazoa)
  • Empire: animals (Animalia)


Bison reach a head-trunk length of 3.8 m, a tail length of 90 cm, a shoulder height of up to 1.95 m and a weight of up to 850 kg. The females are a third to a quarter lighter than the bulls and only reach a head-torso length of a maximum of 2.4 m.

The front part of the body looks very massive. This effect is supported by the low head, which has a broad skull, and the arched withers with a sloping back. The legs are relatively short. The massive front body has longer, up to 50 cm long hair, more precisely the head, neck and shoulder. On the front legs, the longer hair looks like “puff sleeves”. The fur of the rest of the body is short, with a thickly hairy tail. In winter the bison get a thick winter coat, which comes off in tatters in spring. The horns are bent sideways upwards like a semicircle and have blunt tips.

The fur is usually brown, but occasionally gray, spotted or even whitish.

Bison are rather calm animals. Actually, you can only hear them snort or hum. However, bulls encountering each other during the rut can get quite noisy.

Bison have a life expectancy of up to 25 years.


The home of the bison stretches from Canada to Mexico.


Bison do not have a real natural enemy. However, from time to time wolves stay near bison to hunt weakened or sick animals. The wolves are therefore not a real danger. The greatest enemy was once man!

Way of life

Bison live in groups of up to 30 animals. Such herds usually consist of either just bulls or cows with their young. You can always see huge herds, but within these herds the groups stay among themselves and do not mix.

In the summer months, numerous flies and horseflies attack the bison. You are a great nuisance. To get rid of this, the bison roll around extensively in the sand, they even take a real sand bath.

Despite their mighty front body, bison are very agile. They are good swimmers and good fast runners. They reach a top speed of around 50 km / h!


Bison were forced to migrate. As soon as everything was grazed in the current pasture area, the entire herd migrated to the next pasture area. The migrations did not take place at any particular time or in any particular direction. They were based exclusively on the food supply. Such a hike could be of different lengths and distances.

However, the weather also played a role. The small herds then banded together in July and moved south. The following spring they migrated back and split up again into their small herds. Such a hike could go up to 650 km in total.

The pure-bred forest bison, however, was not so keen on hiking. Nowadays the bison don't need to migrate anymore. Since most of the animals live in reserves and national parks, they can find enough food. If the pasture areas should be exhausted, they will be fed. This also prevents the animals from migrating and destroying the farmers' lands.


The main diet consists of green, dry grass. Herbs and perennials are also consumed. Wood bison mainly eat leaves and twigs. Overall, however, the food is quite low in protein. In winter the bison get their food by scratching aside the snow with their front hooves. The bison then also eat moss and lichen.

Bison are not able to get along without water any longer. Therefore, they need to drink water every day.


The rutting season extends from May to September. For this purpose, the small herds of cows and bulls join together to form a large rutting association. The cops fight each other pretty hard. The fight is not ended by death or injuries, but the weaker one simply gives up and withdraws, but remains in the herd.

After a gestation period of 9 months, the female gives birth to a calf weighing 30 kg, rarely twins. The legs are quite long, the fur is red-brown and woolly. After just a few hours, the calf is able to walk and follow the herd. After about a year, the calves are weaned. The mother protects her young with full physical effort.

Bison females become sexually mature at 2 years of age, males at 3 years of age. However, they are not fully grown until the age of 6.


Bison belong to the family ofHorn bearers (Bovidae)
this also includes the genera:

  • Mendez antelopes (Addax)
  • Impalas (Aepyceros)
  • Red hartebeest (Alcelaphus)
  • Stilt gazelles (Ammodorcas)
  • Barbary sheep (Ammotragus)
  • Springbok (Antidorcas)
  • Stag goat antelopes (antelope)
  • Actual cattle (Bos)
  • Nilgau antelopes (Boselaphus)
  • Asiatic Buffalo (Bubalus)
  • Takine (Budorcas)
  • Goats (Capra)
  • Seraue (Capricorns)
  • Cephalophus
  • Wildebeest (Connochaetes)
  • Damaliscus
  • Beiras (Dorcatragus)
  • Gazelles (Gazella)
  • Tahre (Hemitragus)
  • Hippotragus
  • Waterbuck (Kobus)
  • Giraffe gazelles (Litocranius)
  • Dikdiks (Madoqua)
  • Gorale (Naemorhedus)
  • Neotragus
  • Mountain goats (Oreamnos)
  • Klipspringer (Oreotragus)
  • Oryx antelopes (Oryx)
  • Bleaching rams (Ourebia)
  • Musk lizards (Ovibos)
  • Sheep (Ovis)
  • Tschirus (Pantholops)
  • Deer antelopes (Pelea)
  • Short-tailed gazelles (Procapra)
  • Blue sheep (Pseudois)
  • Spiral horned antelopes (Pseudonovibos)
  • Vietnamese forest cattle (Pseudoryx)
  • Raphicerus
  • Reedbuck (Redunca)
  • Chamois (Rupicapra)
  • Saigas (Saiga)
  • Lichtenstein antelopes (Sigmoceros)
  • Kronenduker (Sylvicapra)
  • African buffalo (Syncerus)
  • Eland (Taurotragus)
  • Four-horn anticopes (Tetracerus)
  • Tragelaphus


To the genus of bison (bison) also includes the type:

On the species of the American bison (Bison bison) include the subspecies:

  • Wood bison (Bison bison athabascae)
  • Prairie bison (Bison bison bison)

The subspecies

Wood bison (Bison bison athabascae)
Rhoads, 1898
English: Wood bison
French: Bison des forêts
Danish: Skovbison
Finnish: Metsäbiisoni
Italian: Bisonte dei boschi
Dutch: Bosbison
Swedish: Skogsbison
Spanish: Bisonte americano de bosque, Bisonte selvático de Athabascal
General: The wood bison is slightly larger than the prairie bison. The horns are longer and slimmer. The topline is not as steep as that of his cousin and the coat is also a bit darker. Overall, the wood bison is similar to the bison.
Distribution: The home is Canada and the north of the USA. Purebred wood bison can only be found in one national park in Canada today. The habitat are the forest areas. However, the wood bison is not a pure forest dweller, it prefers to stay near clearings, real islands of tundra and prairie landscapes.

Prairie bison (Bison bison bison)
General: The topline is steeply sloping from the withers.
Distribution: The homeland ranges from Canada to Mexico, from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. The habitat are the grasslands.

The bison and the human

The second name of the bison is “Indian buffalo”. This is because it was vital for the Indians. Indians ate his meat, and made their clothes and blankets from the hide and sinews. The horns were also used. The bison was also a supplier of saddles, bridles, ropes, harness, jewelry and tools. The Indian peoples followed the migrations of their bison herd.


The hunting of the Indians had no effect on the survival of the bison. But probably the hunt of the white man who wanted to colonize the Indian and buffalo country. He saw easy prey in the bison. As a result, there were only around 800 animals left at the end of the 19th century.

Not only hunting, but also the destruction of habitats and the interruption of hiking trails through the railway lines led to the decimation. But hunters also got to the bison faster with the railways and were also able to transport their prey away much better through the railroad. The notorious “Buffalo Bill” alone killed a little over 4000 bison in 18 months. Between 1870 and 1875 alone, around 2.5 million bison were killed each year!

In the truest sense of the word, people woke up in the last few minutes and established refuge for the bison, including the Buffalo Park in Canada and Yellowstone National Park. In Yellowstone lived about 400, of the 800 still living animals.

Originally there were 60 million animals, hunting saw them on the verge of extinction, and thanks to protective measures, around 350,000 animals are living again today. Most bison now live in national parks.

You can find more animal pictures here.

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American bison: all about the almost extinct buffalo

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Photo credits: Shutterstock / Gray Photo Online (sorted by order in the post)