American Bison

 The American Bison is a very large animal.

He is the largest mammal in America. Recently he was made the national animal of America.

He is an awesome creature to meet.

American bison

Where they are found

The American bison used to be found all over the plains of America.

In pre-historic times he could be seen from Alaska to Mexico.

Sadly he has been hunted and nearly made extinct! Now herds of bison are carefully kept in national parks for people to see them.

What do they look like?

American bison

Bison are very big. They have been called buffalo, but that is not correct.

The bison is not a buffalo. The bison has a big head and shaggy fur round his neck and forelegs. He can weigh up to 2000 pounds.

The male bison is bigger than the female and stands six feet tall. Bison are animals with hooves.

The female bison, known as cows, are only four to five feet tall and weigh 1000 pounds. Both the males and the females have horns.

Where do they live?

American bison

Bison are herbivores.

They graze the grass and small plants on the plains where they live.

They live in herds together, but the males tend to stick to themselves or live in bachelor herds until it is time for breeding season.

Family life

American bison

When it is time for the male bison to mate with a female they like to choose the best ladies in the herd.

They follow the females around and chase any other males away. This is called ‘tending.’

The male will try to shield the female’s eyes by standing in front of her. This action stops her seeing any other bulls except the one tending to her.

The baby, called a calf, is born after 285 days. The calf feeds from its mother for a year. Baby bison are mature by the age of three.

When the baby is born it is an orange/red color and is nicknamed ‘red dog.’

The cows and calves stay together. They communicate with little grunts.

Characteristics

American bison

Bison like to wallow in dust or in muddy water.

They do this to keep cool. It is also a way to protect themselves from annoying insects, ticks or other parasites.

Wallowing helps to keep the temperature of the bison cool.

Bison do not have good eyesight. They smell and hear well.

When their tails are relaxed they are in a good mood. If you see a bison with its tail sticking up it may be mad at you!

Predators and dangers

American bison

Bison are big animals, but they do have enemies.

The calves and the old bison are the ones to be caught first.

Wolves and grizzly bears and mountain lions, attack bison.

Bison were hunted by men in the early European settler days.

Contribution to nature

American bison

Bison make a great contribution to nature.

They churn up the ground with their hooves preparing it for seeds to grow.

They also fertilise the soil with their urine and deposits of manure as they move across the plains.

American Bison Facts for Kids

  • Yellowstone National park is the only place where bison have lived since pre historic times.
  • Bison were very important to the Native Americans. They provided them with clothing, tools, shelter, food, fuel and their spirituality.
  • Bison are very good at all sorts of physical activity. They can run up to 35 miles per hour. They can jump and are good swimmers too.
  • It is estimated that nearly 50 million bison were killed by the early settlers. That is why bison nearly became extinct.
  • Sometimes a white bison is born. A white bison is considered to be sacred by the native American tribes.

New vocabulary.

Extinct – when an animal is extinct it no longer exists and we can not see it any more.
Wallow – this is the action of rolling around in mud or dust.
Herbivores – animals that only eat plants.
Parasites – creatures or plants that feed on other animals or plants and do not search for their own food.

Male plains bison

What did you Learn?

1.Where have bison lived since prehistoric times?
Bison have been able to live in the Yellowstone National Park since pre-historic times.
2.Who are the bison’s enemies?
Bison can be attacked by wolves, bears and the mountain lion. They were also hunted by men both the European settlers and the native Indians.
3.Do male and female bison have horns?
Yes, both of them have horns.
4.What nickname does a baby bison have and why?
A baby bisn is called a ‘red dog, because of its color and size. It does not have a hump when it is born, it grows later after the calf has been born.
5.How do bison help with the environment on the American plains?
Bison are important because they walk around the plains and do not stay in one place. While they walk they are turning over the soil with their hooves and adding nutrients to the soil through their urine and their manure.