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bison vs buffalo

bison vs buffalo

bison vs buffalo

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bison vs buffalo
bison vs buffalo

Bison vs buffalo meat

The physical differences are more evident. These buffalo do not have a large hump like the American bison.
American Bison (or buffalo) is considered to be lower in calories, fat and cholesterol than Beef and Chicken. Bison meat is relatively tender and thought to be sweeter and richer in flavor when compared to beef.

BISON vs buffalo fight

In a fight with a bison, the buffalo will most likely win the fight due to its aggressive and unpredictable behavior, while on another hand, Bison is more muscular, stalky and have a stronger bone structure.

Bison vs buffalo size


The American bison wins in the length department: Males, called bulls, can grow up to 12.5 feet from head to rump and weigh as much as 2,200 pounds. The Cape buffalo comes in second in length, at around 11 feet and weighs in at a little less than 2,00o pounds.

Bison vs Buffalo: What’s the Difference?

You can blame early European settlers of the Great Plains for all the confusion. They too were confused, calling the vast herds of large, hoofed animals “buffelo” due to their (somewhat) similar appearance to the creatures found in Africa and Asia. They were, in fact, bison.

Both the buffalo and bison are in the Bovidae family.

cloven-hoofed ruminants

which also includes other cloven-hoofed ruminants, like goats. The two main species of buffalo are the African or Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) and the endangered wild Asian water buffalo (Bubalus arnee). There’s also a domestic water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), that is smaller than its wild cousin.

As for bison, the two main species are the American bison (Bison bison) and the European bison (Bison bonasus), which is mainly found in Poland, but is starting to make a comeback in very small numbers in other parts of Europe. There is also a distinctive northern subspecies of the American bison called the wood bison (Bison bison athabascae), native to Alaska and Canada.

Here are five distinct differences to help you distinguish between these big boys and girls of the grass-eating world.

1. Bison are Head and Shoulders Above The Buffalo

Bison have a large shoulder hump of pure muscle and a massive head that makes their hindquarters look smaller than their fronts.

Both the Cape buffalo and water buffalo have smaller heads and shoulders in proportion to the rest of their bodies, giving them a more symmetrical appearance.

2. The Horns Have It

Both male and female Cape buffalo have large horns in the shape of a handlebar mustache that sweep up on the ends and can grow up to three or more feet across on males. The water buffalo trumps them all with its majestic horns that can have a six-foot span in both sexes. Bison horns of both sexes average around two feet.

bison vs buffalo
bison vs buffalo

3. Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Bison have a thick, shaggy coat that keeps them warm in the harsh winter weather of the Great Plains, which they shed in the hot summer months. Both the Cape buffalo and the water buffalo have a thinner coat that they don’t shed.

4. Hipster Beard

Bison would fit right in at a Williamsburg coffee shop or hip East Village bar with their long, unkempt beard. Buffalo, however, might feel more comfortable in a Midtown office with a strict facial hair policy; they lack a beard of any sort.

5. Weighty Matters

The American bison wins in the length department: Males, called bulls, can grow up to 12.5 feet from head to rump and weigh as much as 2,200 pounds.

The Cape buffalo comes in second in length, at around 11 feet and weighs in at a little less than 2,00o pounds. The water buffalo can grow up to nine feet and weigh as much as 2,650 pounds, making it the heavyweight champion. Its tail is also longer than that of a bison, up to 33 inches compared with 26 inches for the bison.

What’s the Difference Between Bison and Buffalo?

It’s easy to understand why people confuse bison and buffalo. Both are large, horned, oxlike animals of the Bovidae family. There are two kinds of bison, the American bison and the European bison, and two forms of buffalo, water buffalo and Cape buffalo. However, it’s not difficult to distinguish between them, especially if you focus on the three H’s: home, hump, and horns.

Home on the Range

Contrary to the song “Home on the Range,” buffalo do not roam in the American West. Instead, they are indigenous to South Asia (water buffalo) and Africa (Cape buffalo), while bison are found in North America and parts of Europe. Despite being a misnomer—one often attributed to confused explorers—buffalo remains commonly used when referring to American bison, thus adding to the confusion.

Another major difference is the presence of a hump.

Bison have one at the shoulders while buffalo don’t. The hump allows the bison’s head to function as a plow.

sweeping away drifts of snow in the winter. The next telltale sign concerns the horns.

Buffalo tend to have large horns—some have reached more than 6 feet (1.8 meters)—with very pronounced arcs. The horns of bison, however, are much shorter and sharper.

And, if you want to throw a B into the mix, you can check for a beard. Bison are the hipsters of the two animals, sporting thick beards. Buffalo are beardless.

Bison vs Buffalo

Is that giant, black, scary-looking beast a bison or buffalo? The two animals are indeed quite different, but the bison vs buffalo debate is complicated somewhat by American bison commonly being referred to as buffalo.

This confusion is generally blamed on the early European settlers of America’s Great Plains, who saw vast herds of large, hoofed animals and called them buffalo, due to their superficial similarity to African and Asian buffalo.

In fact, although both bison and buffalo are in the Bovidae family, and are both large, horned, oxlike animals they are not closely related.

Before we dive into the differences between bison and buffalo, it’s worth knowing that there are actually three species of bison, and three species of buffalo:

bison vs buffalo
bison vs buffalo

Bison species:

  • The American bison (Bison bison) is near threatened, but with a stable population roaming parts of North America.
  • The wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) (also known as the mountain bison) is a distinct northern subspecies of the American bison native to Alaska and Canada.
  • European bison (Bison bonasus) (also known as the European wood bison, wisent, and zubr), found predominantly in Poland, but with reintroduction programs in many European countries.
  • Buffalo species:

    • The African buffalo (Syncerus caffer), (also known as the Cape buffalo) found across sub-Saharan Africa, and member of ‘the big five’.
    • The Asian water buffalo (Bubalus arnee) (also known as an Asian buffalo, Asiatic buffalo, and wild Asian buffalo), native to the Indian subcontinent, and listed as an endangered species.
    • The domestic water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) (also known as the water buffalo and Asian water buffalo), smaller than its wild cousin, and found across India, China and Southeast Asia.

Bison vs buffalo range & habitat

This one is pretty simple.

Contrary to the unofficial anthem of the American west Home on the Range, buffalo do not roam in America.

True buffalo are only found in Africa (African buffalo) and Asia.

bison vs buffalo
bison vs buffalo

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