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Bison Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Bison Grand Teton National Park Wyoming (Animals)

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Bison are six species of large even-toed ungulates within the subfamily Bovinae. Two of these species still exist: the American plains bison (Bison bison bison), and the American wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) are subspecies found in North America and the European bison, or wisent (Bison bonasus), found in Europe and the Caucasus. All the species normally form their own genus, also called Bison, but they are sometimes included in the closely related genus Bos, together with domestic cattle, with which bison can interbreed.

Description

The American bison and the European wisent are the largest terrestrial mammals in North America and Europe. Bison are nomadic grazers and travel in herds, except for the non-dominant bulls, which travel alone or in small groups during most of the year. American bison are known for living in the Great Plains. Both species were hunted close to extinction during the 19th and 20th centuries but have since rebounded. The American Plains bison is no longer listed as endangered, but the Wood Bison is on the endangered species list in Canada.

A Russian signpost illustrating the physical differences in American and European bisonAlthough superficially similar, there are a number of physical and behavioural differences between the American and European bison. The American species has 15 ribs, while the European bison has 14. The American bison has four lumbar vertebrae, while the European has five. Adult American bison are not as rangy in build, and have shorter legs. American bison tend to graze more, and browse less than their European cousins, due to their necks being set differently. Compared to the American bison, the nose of the European species is set further forward than the forehead when the neck is in a neutral position. The body of the American bison is hairier, though its tail has less hair than that of the European bison. The horns of the European bison point through the plane of their faces, making them more adept at fighting through the interlocking of horns in the same manner as domestic cattle, unlike the American bison which favours charging. American bison are more easily tamed than their European cousins, and breed with domestic cattle more readily.

Bison are born without their trademark hump and horns and live for approximately twenty years. They grow to maturity at two to three years, although males continue to grow until about their seventh year. Adult bulls express a high degree of dominance competitiveness during mating season. Male bison fight for females and these fights often result in injury or death. After the bison mate, the herd splits up into smaller herds. Calves are born nine months after mating. The mothers take care of and nurse their young for a year.

Male bison grow to as much as 11.5 ft (3.5 m) long, and 6.5 ft (2.0 m) tall at the shoulder and can weigh up to 2,200 lb (1,000 kg).


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