Bison Facts & Figures

Bison calf and cow standing in grass

NPS photo

Learn the facts about bison, named America's national mammal in 2016.

  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Artiodactyla (same as deer, sheep, pronghorn)
  • Family: Bovidae (true horns, not branched, on both sexes, cattle, sheep, goat, musk ox)
  • Genus: Bison
  • Species: bison
  • Subspecies: athabascae (woods); bison (plains)
  • Name/History: In the late 1800s, bison almost became extinct. They were saved by the American Bison Society. Often called buffalo by early scientists who thought they were related to the Africa/Asian water buffaloes. French explorers also called the animals "les boeff"—the cattle.
  • Weight/Height: Male - 2000 lbs, 5.5–6 ft; Female - 1000 lbs, 4.5–5.5 ft; Calf - 30–70 lbs, 2.5 ft
  • Rut: June–September (one bull forms a temporary "tending bond" with one cow at a time)
  • Gestation: 9.5 months
  • Birth: April–June (reddish, brown fur, no conspicuous hump)
  • Number of young: Usually 1
  • Age: 12–15 years
  • Habitat/Range: At one time, bison roamed North America from Alaska to northern Mexico and western California to western New York.
  • Food: Grasses, browse
  • Predators: Occasionally grizzly, humans, extinct prairie wolf
  • Disease: Brucellosis, tuberculosis
  • Communication: Grunts/snorts between cow-calf, roar by bulls during rut
  • Behavior/Characteristics: Generally cow/calves in herd together, bulls alone or in small bull herd except during the rut
Don't forget to add metadata to your article. This is where you select tags and related parks so your article can appear on sites across It's also where you add a listing description (required) and image, which appear in shared content listings and the API.

Last updated: December 29, 2016