Bison Frequently Asked Questions

Is it Bison or  Buffalo?                                    

Scientifically, the true name for the North American Buffalo is "Bison" - but because our history has ingrained in us the name Buffalo, we still use it today. True buffalos are the Cape Buffalo and Water Buffalo of Africa and Asia.  Bison and Buffalo both belong to the Family Bovidae. We are not so politically correct in the bison industry that we insist on the use of one term over the other.

There are two subspecies of the North American Bison: the more common plains bison and the wood bison, which are native to the forests of northwestern Canada.

How similar are bison to cattle?                                                

Like cattle, bison are grazing ruminants with split hooves. Both bison and cattle have multiple stomachs and chew their cud. Both male and female bison have horns, while not all breeds of cattle grow horns. As with cattle, the bison cow typically raises one calf per year (twins are rare but possible). While beef or dairy cows often have their first calf at two years of age, bison cows typically don’t have a calf until they are three years old. The gestation (pregnancy) period is typically around nine months for both bison and cattle. Bison calves are naturally weaned by their mothers around a month prior to the arrival of a new calf. Calving and breeding seasons for bison closely follow the patterns in nature, with calves arriving in May and June and the breeding season running from shortly after the start of calving through August. Males between one and two years of age are capable of impregnating females.  However, in practice, bison bulls do not become dominant active breeders in the herd until they are at least four-years-old. Calving and breeding seasons for dairy and beef cattle can potentially occur at almost any time of year. Bison have retained their natural instincts to a greater degree than domestic cattle and require some specialized handling techniques. Of course the two species differ greatly in appearance, the bison has a distinctive hump and impressive shaggy hair coat over the front quarters and head. The tails of bison are less than half the length of the tails on cattle.

Are bison dangerous?             

Bison can be dangerous to humans; especially for people unfamiliar with bison behavior. Bison have stronger natural instincts than cattle and their “wild” nature requires specialized handling methods and skills to ensure the safety of the bison and their handlers. By taking the interest and time to learn about bison behavior and proper handling techniques and by constructing safe bison handling facilities, raising bison can be as safe as raising domestic cattle. Canada’s bison producer associations (the CBA and its provincial affiliates) provide information such as codes of practice and advice to new producers as well as new techniques for safe handling that can benefit even the most experienced bison ranchers.

 

How much do bison weigh?

A mature bison bull will weigh approximately 2000 lbs while a mature cow will weigh approximately 1100 lbs.

What is the approximate birth weight of a bison calf?

Calves' average weight is 40–50 pounds. They are usually walking and running around hours after being born.

How fast can a bison run?

Bison look big and slow but don’t be deceived. They turn quickly and can run up to 30 MPH.  They can reach their top speed in just a few strides.

How long do bison live?

Bison should live an average of 20-25 years in their natural environment.

Do all BISON have horns?

When bison are born they do not have horns but do have buttons which will grow into horns on both male and females. Unlike antlers on deer or elk, bison get only one set of horns.

What kind of noise do bison make?

They do not moo or bawl, but grunt and roar.