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Bison (pronounced /ˈbaɪsən/) is a genus of bovine mammals, commonly known as buffalo in North America. The term "bison" is derived from the Latin word "bisontis," which refers to a wild ox.


Bison are large, even-toed ungulates in the genus Bison within the subfamily Bovinae. They are characterized by their long, shaggy brown coats, humped shoulders, and large, strong skulls. Bison are herbivores, grazing on the grasses and shrubs of the North American prairies.


There are two extant species of bison: the American bison (Bison bison) and the European bison (Bison bonasus), also known as the wisent.

American Bison

The American bison is the heaviest land animal in North America. It is native to the grasslands of North America and has a massive head, broad shoulders, and a pronounced hump.

European Bison

The European bison, or wisent, is the heaviest land animal in Europe. It is similar in appearance to the American bison but has a less pronounced hump.


Bison were hunted to near extinction during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Conservation efforts have led to a recovery in their numbers, and they are no longer considered endangered.

Related Terms

  • Bovinae: The subfamily that includes bison, cattle, and other large, hoofed mammals.
  • Ungulate: A large group of mammals, most of which use the tips of their toes, usually hoofed, to sustain their whole body weight while moving.
  • Herbivore: An animal anatomically and physiologically adapted to eating plant material.

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