Bison

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Bison
Temporal range: 2–0  Ma
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Early Pleistocene  – Recent
American bison k5680-1.jpg
American bison
(Bison bison)
Bison bonasus (Linnaeus 1758).jpg
European bison
(Bison bonasus)
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Bovinae
Subtribe: Bovina
Genus:Bison
Hamilton Smith, 1827
Species

Bison are large, even-toed ungulates in the genus Bison within the subfamily Bovinae.

Even-toed ungulate Order of mammals

The even-toed ungulates are ungulates – hoofed animals – which bear weight equally on two of the five toes: their third and fourth toes. The other three toes are either present, absent, vestigial, or pointing posteriorly. By contrast, odd-toed ungulates bear weight on one of the five toes: the third toe. Another difference between the two is that even-toed ungulates digest plant cellulose in one or more stomach chambers rather than in their intestine as the odd-toed ungulates do.

A genus is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, as well as viruses, in biology. In the hierarchy of biological classification, genus comes above species and below family. In binomial nomenclature, the genus name forms the first part of the binomial species name for each species within the genus.

Bovinae subfamily of mammals

The biological subfamily Bovinae includes a diverse group of 10 genera of medium to large-sized ungulates, including domestic cattle, bison, African buffalo, the water buffalo, the yak, and the four-horned and spiral-horned antelopes. The evolutionary relationship between the members of the group is still debated, and their classification into loose tribes rather than formal subgroups reflects this uncertainty. General characteristics include cloven hooves and usually at least one of the sexes of a species having true horns. The largest extant bovine is the gaur.

Contents

Two extant and six extinct species are recognised. Of the six extinct species, five became extinct in the Quaternary extinction event. Bison palaeosinensis evolved in the Early Pleistocene in South Asia, and was the evolutionary ancestor of B. priscus (steppe bison), which was the ancestor of all other Bison species. From 2 MYA to 6,000 BC, steppe bison ranged across the mammoth steppe, inhabiting Europe and northern Asia with B. schoetensacki (woodland bison), and North America with B. antiquus , B. latifrons , and B. occidentalis. The last species to go extinct, B. occidentalis, was succeeded at 3,000 BC by B. bison.

Extinction Termination of a taxon by the death of the last member

In biology, extinction is the termination of an organism or of a group of organisms (taxon), usually a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point. Because a species' potential range may be very large, determining this moment is difficult, and is usually done retrospectively. This difficulty leads to phenomena such as Lazarus taxa, where a species presumed extinct abruptly "reappears" after a period of apparent absence.

Quaternary extinction event mass extinction event, around 10000 BCE, marking the end of the Pleistocene and the beginning of the Holocene, during which many megafauna species went extinct; hypothesized to be caused by human hunting and/or natural climate change

The Quaternary period saw the extinctions of numerous predominantly megafaunal species, which resulted in a collapse in faunal density and diversity and the extinction of key ecological strata across the globe. The most prominent event in the Late Pleistocene is differentiated from previous Quaternary pulse extinctions by the widespread absence of ecological succession to replace these extinct species, and the regime shift of previously established faunal relationships and habitats as a consequence.

The Early Pleistocene is a subepoch in the international geologic timescale or a subseries in chronostratigraphy, being the earliest or lowest subdivision of the Quaternary period/system and Pleistocene epoch/series. It spans the time between 2.588 ± 0.005 Ma and 0.781 ± 0.005 Ma. The Early Pleistocene consists of the Gelasian and the Calabrian ages.

Of the two surviving species, the American bison, B. bison, found only in North America, is the more numerous. Although commonly known as a buffalo in the United States and Canada, [2] it is only distantly related to the true buffalo. The North American species is composed of two subspecies, the Plains bison, B. b. bison, and the Wood bison, B. b. athabascae, which is the namesake of Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada. A third subspecies, the Eastern Bison (B. b. pennsylvanicus) is no longer considered a valid taxon, being a junior synonym of B. b. bison. [3] References to "Woods Bison" or "Wood Bison" from the eastern United States confusingly refer to this subspecies, not B. b. athabascae, which was not found in the region. The European bison, B. bonasus, or wisent, is found in Europe and the Caucasus, reintroduced after being extinct in the wild.

American bison species of even-toed ungulates

The American bison or simply bison, also commonly known as the American buffalo or simply buffalo, is a North American species of bison that once roamed North America in vast herds. Their historical range, by 9000 BCE, is described as the great bison belt, a tract of rich grassland that ran from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico, east to the Atlantic Seaboard as far north as New York and south to Georgia and per some sources down to Florida, with sightings in North Carolina near Buffalo Ford on the Catawba River as late as 1750. They became nearly extinct by a combination of commercial hunting and slaughter in the 19th century and introduction of bovine diseases from domestic cattle. With a population in excess of 60 million in the late 18th century, the species was down to 541 animals by 1889. Recovery efforts expanded in the mid-20th century, with a resurgence to roughly 31,000 animals today, largely restricted to a few national parks and reserves.

North America Continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere

North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere; it is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

While all bison species are classified in their own genus, they are sometimes bred with domestic cattle (genus Bos) and produce fertile offspring called beefalo or zubron.

Beefalo cattle breed

Beefalo, also referred to as cattalo or the Canadian hybrid, are a fertile hybrid offspring of domestic cattle, usually a male in managed breeding programs, and the American bison, usually a female in managed breeding programs. The breed was created to combine the characteristics of both animals for beef production.

Description

Magdalenian bison on plaque, 17,000-9,000 BC, Bedeilhac grottoe, Ariege Bison on plaque Bedeilhac grottoe Ariege.jpg
Magdalenian bison on plaque, 17,000–9,000 BC, Bédeilhac grottoe, Ariège

The American bison and the European bison (wisent) are the largest surviving terrestrial animals in North America and Europe. They are typical artiodactyl (cloven hooved) ungulates, and are similar in appearance to other bovines such as cattle and true buffalo. They are broad and muscular with shaggy coats of long hair. Adults grow up to 1.8 metres (5 ft 11 in) in length for American Bison [4] and up to 2.8 metres (9 ft 2 in) in length for European bison [5] . American bison can weigh from approximately 400 kilograms (880 lb) to 900 kg (2,000 lb) [6] and European bison can weight from 800 kilograms (1,800 lb) to 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lb) [7] . European bison tend to be taller and heavier than American bison.

Bison are nomadic grazers and travel in herds. The bulls leave the herds of females at two or three years of age, and join a male herd, which are generally smaller than female herds. Mature bulls rarely travel alone. Towards the end of the summer, for the reproductive season, the sexes necessarily commingle. [8]

Grazing method of feeding in which a herbivore eats parts of low-growing grasses, forbs or algae

Grazing is a method of feeding in which a herbivore feeds on plants such as grasses, or other multicellular organisms such as algae. In agriculture, grazing is one method used whereby domestic livestock are used to convert grass and other forage into meat, milk and other products.

Herd group of animals

A herd is a social group of certain animals of the same species, either wild or domestic. The form of collective animal behavior associated with this is referred to as herding.

American bison are known for living in the Great Plains, but formerly had a much larger range including much of the eastern United States and parts of Mexico. Both species were hunted close to extinction during the 19th and 20th centuries, but have since rebounded; the wisent owing its survival, in part, to the Chernobyl Disaster, ironically, as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone has become a kind of wildlife preserve for wisent and other rare megafauna such as the Przewalski's Horse, though poaching has become a threat in recent years. [9] The American Plains bison is no longer listed as endangered, but this does not mean the species is secure. Genetically pure B. b. bison currently number only ~20,000, separated into fragmented herds—all of which require active conservation measures. [10] The Wood bison is on the endangered species list in Canada [11] and is listed as threatened in the United States, though there have been numerous attempts by beefalo ranchers to have it entirely removed from the Endangered Species List. [12]

A museum display shows the full skeleton of an adult male American Bison Bison skeleton taxidermy mount.jpg
A museum display shows the full skeleton of an adult male American Bison

Although superficially similar, physical and behavioural differences exist 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. [13] (The difference in this case is that what would be the first lumbar vertebra has ribs attached to it in American bison and is thus counted as the 15th thoracic vertebra, compared to 14 thoracic vertebrae in wisent.) Adult American bison are less slim in build and have shorter legs. [14] American bison tend to graze more, and browse less than their European relatives. Their anatomies reflect this behavioural difference; the American bison's head hangs lower than the European's. The body of the American bison is typically 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 butting. [15] American bison are more easily tamed than their European cousins, and breed with domestic cattle more readily. [16]

Evolution and genetic history

The bovine tribe (Bovini) split about 5 to 10 million years ago into the buffalos ( Bubalus and Syncerus ) and a group leading to bison and taurine cattle. [17] Thereafter, the family lineage of bison and taurine cattle does not appear to be a straightforward "tree" structure as is often depicted in much evolution, because evidence of interbreeding and crossbreeding is seen between different species and members within this family, even many millions of years after their ancestors separated into different species. This crossbreeding was not sufficient to conflate the different species back together, but it has resulted in unexpected relationships between many members of this group, such as yak being related to American bison, when such relationships would otherwise not be apparent.

A 2003 study of mitochondrial DNA indicated four distinct maternal lineages in tribe Bovini:

  1. Taurine cattle and zebu
  2. Wisent
  3. American bison and yak [18] and
  4. Banteng, gaur, and gayal

However, Y chromosome analysis associated wisent and American bison. [19] An earlier study using amplified fragment length polymorphism fingerprinting showed a close association of wisent with American bison, and probably with the yak, but noted that the interbreeding of Bovini species made determining relationships problematic. [20]

The genus Bison diverged from the lineage that led to cattle ( Bos primigenius ) at the Plio-Pleistocene boundary in South Asia. [21] Two extant and six extinct species are recognised. Of the six extinct species, five went extinct in the Quaternary extinction event. Three were North American endemics: Bison antiquus , B. latifrons , and B. occidentalis . The fourth, B. priscus (steppe bison), ranged across steppe environments from Western Europe, through Central Asia, East Asia including Japan, [22] [23] and onto North America. The fifth, B. schoetensacki (woodland bison), inhabited Eurasian forests, extending from western Europe to the south of Siberia. [24]

Bisons depicted at Cave of Altamira Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain-110113.jpg
Bisons depicted at Cave of Altamira

The sixth, B. palaeosinensis, evolving in the Early Pleistocene in South Asia, [21] is presumed to have been the evolutionary ancestor of B. priscus and all successive Bison lineages. [25] The steppe bison (B. priscus) evolved from Bison palaeosinensis in the Early Pleistocene. B. priscus is seen clearly in the fossil record around 2 million years ago. [26] The steppe bison spread across Eurasia, and all proceeding contemporary and successive species are believed to have derived from the steppe bison. Going extinct in 6,000 BCE, [27] outlasted only by B. occidentalis , B. bonasus and B. bison , the steppe bison was the predominant bison pictured in the ancient cave paintings of Spain and Southern France.

The modern European bison is likely to have arisen from the steppe bison. There is no direct fossil evidence of successive species between the steppe bison and the European bison, though there are three possible lines of ancestry pertaining to the European wisent. Past research has suggested that the European bison is descended from bison that had migrated from Asia to North America, and then back to Europe, where they crossbred with existing steppe bison. [26] However, more recent phylogenetic research points to an origin either from the phenotypically and genetically similar Pleistocene woodland bison (B. schoetensacki) [24] or as the result of an interbreeding event between the steppe bison and the aurochs (Bos primigenius), the ancestor of domesticated cattle, around 120,000 years ago. [28] The possible hybrid is referred to in vernacular as the 'Higgs bison' as a hat-tip to the discovery process of the Higgs boson. [29]

At one point, some steppe bison crossbred with the ancestors of the modern yak. After that crossbreeding, a population of steppe bison crossed the Bering Land Bridge to North America. The steppe bison spread through the northern parts of North America and lived in Eurasia until around 11,000 years ago [30] and North America until 4,000 to 8,000 years ago. [26]

The Pleistocene woodland bison (B.schoetensacki) evolved in the Middle Pleistocene from B. priscus, and tended to inhabit the dry conifer forests and woodland which lined the mammoth steppe, occupying a range from western Europe to the south of Siberia. Although their fossil records are far rarer than their antecedent, they are thought to have existed until at least 36,000 BCE. [24] [21]

Bison latifrons (the "giant" or "longhorn" bison) is thought to have evolved in midcontinent North America from B. priscus, after the steppe bison crossed into North America. [31] [32] [33] Giant bison (B. latifrons) appeared in the fossil record about 120,000 years ago. [26] B. latifrons was one of many species of North American megafauna that became extinct during the transition from the Pleistocene to the Holocene epoch (an event referred to as the Quaternary extinction event). It is thought to have disappeared some 21,000–30,000 years ago, during the late Wisconsin glaciation. [34]

B. latifrons co-existed with the slightly smaller B. antiquus for over 100,000 years. Their predecessor, the steppe bison appeared in the North American fossil record around 190,000 years ago. [35] B. latifrons is believed to have been a more woodland-dwelling, non-herding species, while B. antiquus was a herding grassland-dweller, very much like its descendant B. bison. [36] B. antiquus gave rise to both B. occidentalis, and later B. bison , the modern American bison, some 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. [37] [38] B. antiquus was the most common megafaunal species on the North American continent during much of the Late Pleistocene and is the most commonly found large animal found at the La Brea Tar Pits. [39]

In 2016, DNA extracted from Bison priscus fossil remains beneath a 130,000-year-old volcanic ashfall in the Yukon suggested recent arrival of the species. That genetic material indicated that all American bison had a common ancestor 135,000 to 195,000 years ago, during which period the Bering Land Bridge was exposed; this hypothesis precludes an earlier arrival. The researchers sequenced mitochondrial genomes from both that specimen and from the remains of a recently discovered, estimated 120,000-year-old giant, long-horned, B. latifrons from Snowmass, Colorado. The genetic information also indicated that a second, Pleistocene migration of bison over the land bridge occurred 21,000 to 45,000 years ago. [40] [41]

Skulls of European bison (left) and American bison (right) Euroameribison.jpg
Skulls of European bison (left) and American bison (right)

During the population bottleneck, after the great slaughter of American bison during the 19th century, the number of bison remaining alive in North America declined to as low as 541. During that period, a handful of ranchers gathered remnants of the existing herds to save the species from extinction. These ranchers bred some of the bison with cattle in an effort to produce "cattleo" [42] (today called "beefalo") Accidental crossings were also known to occur. Generally, male domestic bulls were crossed with buffalo cows, producing offspring of which only the females were fertile. The crossbred animals did not demonstrate any form of hybrid vigor, so the practice was abandoned. Wisent-American bison hybrids were briefly experimented with in Germany (and found to be fully fertile) and a herd of such animals is maintained in Russia. A herd of cattle-wisent crossbreeds (zubron) is maintained in Poland. First-generation crosses do not occur naturally, requiring caesarean delivery. First-generation males are infertile. The U.S. National Bison Association has adopted a code of ethics that prohibits its members from deliberately crossbreeding bison with any other species. In the United States, many ranchers are now using DNA testing to cull the residual cattle genetics from their bison herds. The proportion of cattle DNA that has been measured in introgressed individuals and bison herds today is typically quite low, ranging from 0.56 to 1.8%. [42] [43]

There are also remnant purebred American bison herds on public lands in North America. Herds of importance are found in Yellowstone National Park, Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, Blue Mounds State Park in Minnesota, Elk Island National Park in Alberta, and Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan. In 2015 a purebred herd of 350 individuals was identified on public lands in the Henry Mountains of southern Utah via genetic testing of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA. [44] This study, published in 2015, also showed the Henry Mountains bison herd to be free of brucellosis, a bacterial disease that was imported with non-native domestic cattle to North America. [45]

Behavior

A group of images by Eadweard Muybridge, set to motion to illustrate the movement of the bison Muybridge Buffalo galloping.gif
A group of images by Eadweard Muybridge, set to motion to illustrate the movement of the bison
A bison charges an elk in Yellowstone National Park. Buffalo charges Elk near old faithful - panoramio.jpg
A bison charges an elk in Yellowstone National Park.

Wallowing is a common behavior of bison. A bison wallow is a shallow depression in the soil, either wet or dry. Bison roll in these depressions, covering themselves with mud or dust. Possible explanations suggested for wallowing behavior include grooming behavior associated with moulting, male-male interaction (typically rutting behavior), social behavior for group cohesion, play behavior, relief from skin irritation due to biting insects, reduction of ectoparasite load (ticks and lice), and thermoregulation. [46] In the process of wallowing, bison may become infected by the fatal disease anthrax, which may occur naturally in the soil. [47]

Bison temperament is often unpredictable. They usually appear peaceful, unconcerned, even lazy, yet they may attack anything, often without warning or apparent reason. They can move at speeds up to 35 mph (56 km/h) and cover long distances at a lumbering gallop. [48]

Their most obvious weapons are the horns borne by both males and females, but their massive heads can be used as battering rams, effectively using the momentum produced by what is a typical weight of 2,000 pounds (900 kg) (can be up to 2700 lbs) moving at 30 mph (50 km/h). The hind legs can also be used to kill or maim with devastating effect. In the words of early naturalists, they were dangerous, savage animals that feared no other animal and in prime condition could best any foe [48] (except for wolves and brown bears [8] [49] ).

The rutting, or mating, season lasts from June through September, with peak activity in July and August. At this time, the older bulls rejoin the herd, and fights often take place between bulls. The herd exhibits much restlessness during breeding season. The animals are belligerent, unpredictable, and most dangerous. [48]

Habitat

"Last of the Canadian Buffaloes", 1902, photograph: Steele and Company The last of the Canadian buffaloes Photo No 580 (HS85-10-13487).jpg
"Last of the Canadian Buffaloes", 1902, photograph: Steele and Company

American bison live in river valleys, and on prairies and plains. Typical habitat is open or semiopen grasslands, as well as sagebrush, semiarid lands, and scrublands. Some lightly wooded areas are also known historically to have supported bison. They also graze in hilly or mountainous areas where the slopes are not steep. Though not particularly known as high-altitude animals, bison in the Yellowstone Park bison herd are frequently found at elevations above 8,000 feet and the Henry Mountains bison herd is found on the plains around the Henry Mountains, Utah, as well as in mountain valleys of the Henry Mountains to an altitude of 10,000 feet.

European bison tend to live in lightly wooded to fully wooded areas and areas with increased shrubs and bushes, though they can also live on grasslands and plains.

Restrictions

Throughout most of their historical range, landowners have sought restrictions on free-ranging bison. Herds on private land are required to be fenced in. [50] In the state of Montana, free-ranging bison on public lands may be shot, due to concerns about transmission of disease to cattle and damage to public property. [51] In 2013, Montana legislative measures concerning the bison were proposed and passed the legislature, but opposed by Native American tribes as they impinged on sovereign tribal rights. Three such bills were vetoed by Steve Bullock, the governor of Montana. The bison's circumstances remain an issue of contention between Native American tribes and private landowners. [52]

Diet

A bison and an elk grazing together in the Yellowstone National Park. Elk and Bison inYellowstone, Wyoming.jpg
A bison and an elk grazing together in the Yellowstone National Park.

Bison are ruminants, which allows them to derive their energy from cell walls. Bison were once thought to almost exclusively consume grasses and sedges, but are now known to consume a wide-variety of plants including woody plants and herbaceous eudicots. [53] [54] Over the course of the year, bison shift which plants they select in their diet based on which plants have the highest protein or energy concentrations at a given time and will reliably consume the same species of plants across years. [53] Protein concentrations of the plants they eat tend to be highest in the spring and decline thereafter, reaching their lowest in the winter. [53] In Yellowstone National Park, bison browsed willows and cottonwoods, not only in the winter when few other plants are available, but also in the summer. [55] Bison are thought to migrate to optimize their diet, [56] and will concentrate their feeding on recently burned areas due to the higher quality forage the regrows after the burn. [57] Wisent tend to browse on shrubs and low-hanging trees more often than do the American bison, which prefer grass to shrubbery and trees. [58]

Reproduction

Female bison typically do not reproduce until three years of age [59] and can reproduce to at least 19 years of age. [60] Female bison can produce calves annually as long as their nutrition is sufficient, but will not give birth to a calf after years where weight gain was too low. A mother's probability of reproduction the following year is strongly dependent on the mother's mass and age. [60] Heavier female bison produce heavier calves (weighed in the fall at weaning) than light mothers, while the weight of calves is lower for older mothers (after age 8). [60]

Predators

Wolves hunting bison Journal.pone.0112884.g001 a.png
Wolves hunting bison

Due to their size, bison have few predators. Five notable exceptions are humans, the wolf, mountain lion, brown bear, and coyote. [61] The grey wolf generally takes down a bison while in a pack, but cases of a single wolf killing bison have been reported. [49] Brown bear also consume bison, often by driving off the pack and consuming the wolves' kill. [8] Brown bear and coyotes also prey on bison calves. Historically and prehistorically, lions, tigers, Smilodon , Homotherium , cave hyenas and Homo sp. had posed threats to bison.

Infections and illness

For the American bison, the main cause of illness is malignant catarrhal fever, [62] though brucellosis is a serious concern in the Yellowstone Park bison herd. Bison in the Antelope Island bison herd are regularly inoculated against brucellosis, parasites, Clostridium infection, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, and bovine vibriosis. [63]

The major concerns for illness in European bison are foot-and-mouth disease and balanoposthitis, which affects the male sex organs; a number of parasitic diseases have also been cited as threats. [64] The inbreeding of the species caused by the small population plays a role in a number of genetic defects and immunity to diseases, which in turn poses greater risks to the population. [64]

Name

The term "buffalo" is sometimes considered to be a misnomer for this animal, as it is only distantly related to either of the two "true buffalo", the Asian water buffalo and the African buffalo. Samuel de Champlain applied the term buffalo (buffles in French) to the bison in 1616 (published 1619), after seeing skins and a drawing shown to him by members of the Nipissing First Nation, who said they travelled forty days (from east of Lake Huron) to trade with another nation who hunted the animals. [65] Though "bison" might be considered more scientifically correct, as a result of standard usage, "buffalo" is also considered correct and is listed in many dictionaries as an acceptable name for American buffalo or bison. Buffalo has a much longer history than bison, which was first recorded in 1774. [66]

Human impact

Photo from the 1870s of a pile of American bison skulls waiting to be ground for fertilizer. Bison skull pile edit.jpg
Photo from the 1870s of a pile of American bison skulls waiting to be ground for fertilizer.

Humans were almost exclusively accountable for the near-extinction of the American bison in the 1800s. At the beginning of the century, tens of millions of bison roamed North America. American settlers slaughtered an estimated 50 million bison during the 19th century. [67] Railroads were advertising "hunting by rail", where trains encountered large herds alongside or crossing the tracks. Men aboard fired from the trains roof or windows, leaving countless animals to rot where they died. [68] The overhunting of the bison reduced their population to hundreds. [69] Attempts to revive the American bison have been highly successful; farming has increased their population to nearly 150,000. The American bison is, therefore, no longer considered an endangered species. [69]

As of July 2015, an estimated 4,900 bison lived in Yellowstone National Park, the largest U.S. bison population on public land. [70] During 1983–1985 visitors experienced 33 bison-related injuries (range = 10–13/year), so the park implemented education campaigns. After years of success, five injuries associated with bison encounters occurred in 2015, because visitors did not maintain the required distance of 75 ft (23 m) from bison while hiking or taking pictures. [71]

Nutrition

Bison is an excellent source of complete protein and a rich source (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of multiple vitamins including Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12 and is also a rich source of minerals including iron, phosphorus, and zinc. Additionally, bison is a good source (10% or more of the Daily Value) of thiamine.

Bison, ground, grass-fed, cooked
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 179 kcal (750 kJ)
0.00 g
Sugars 0 g
Dietary fiber 0 g
Fat
8.62 g
Saturated 3.489 g
Monounsaturated 3.293g
Polyunsaturated 0.402 g
25.45 g
Vitamins Quantity%DV
Thiamine (B1)
12%
0.139 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
22%
0.264 mg
Niacin (B3)
40%
5.966 mg
Vitamin B6
31%
0.401 mg
Folate (B9)
4%
16 μg
Vitamin B12
102%
2.44 μg
Vitamin D
0%
0 IU
Vitamin E
1%
0.20 mg
Vitamin K
1%
1.3 μg
Minerals Quantity%DV
Calcium
1%
14 mg
Iron
25%
3.19 mg
Magnesium
6%
23 mg
Phosphorus
30%
213 mg
Potassium
8%
353 mg
Sodium
5%
76 mg
Zinc
56%
5.34 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Livestock

Early instances of pre-Columbian domestication of bison include reports by an early Spanish source of domestication by Amerindians (including the "milking" of bison), [72] and Montezuma's zoo at Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, which included bison, which the Spaniards called "the Mexican bull." [73] Bison are increasingly raised for meat, hide, wool, and dairy products. The majority of bison in the world are raised for human consumption or fur clothing. Bison meat is generally considered to taste very similar to beef, but is lower in fat and cholesterol, yet higher in protein than beef, which has led to the development of beefalo, a fertile hybrid of bison and domestic cattle. A market even exists for kosher bison meat; these bison are slaughtered at one of the few kosher mammal slaughterhouses in the U.S. and Canada, and the meat is then distributed worldwide. [74] [75] [76]

In America, the commercial industry for bison has been slow to develop despite individuals, such as Ted Turner, who have long marketed bison meat. In the 1990s, Turner found limited success with restaurants for high-quality cuts of meat, which include bison steaks and tenderloin. [77] Lower-quality cuts suitable for hamburger and hot dogs have been described as "almost nonexistent". [77] This created a marketing problem for commercial farming because the majority of usable meat, about 400 pounds for each bison, is suitable for these products. [77] In 2003, the United States Department of Agriculture purchased $10 million worth of frozen overstock to save the industry, which would later recover through better use of consumer marketing. [78] Restaurants have played a role in popularizing bison meat, like Ted's Montana Grill, which added bison to their menus. Ruby Tuesday first offered bison on their menus in 2005. [78]

In Canada, commercial bison farming began in the mid 1980s, concerning an unknown number of animals then. [76] The first census of the bison occurred in 1996, which recorded 45,235 bison on 745 farms, and grew to 195,728 bison on 1,898 farms for the 2006 census. [76]

Several pet food companies use bison as a red meat alternative in dog foods. The companies producing these formulas include Natural Balance Pet Foods, Freshpet, The Blue Buffalo Company, Solid Gold, Canidae, and Taste of the Wild.

See also

Footnotes

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Further reading

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Aurochs An extinct species of large wild cattle that inhabited Europe, Asia, and North Africa

The aurochs, also known as urus or ure, is an extinct species of large wild cattle that inhabited Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is the ancestor of domestic cattle; it has also been suggested as an ancestor genetically to the modern European bison, which have been crossbred with steppe bison. The species survived in Europe until 1627, when the last recorded aurochs died in the Jaktorów Forest, Poland.

European bison Eurasian species of mammal

The European bison, also known as wisent or the European wood bison, is a Eurasian species of bison. It is one of two extant species of bison, alongside the American bison. Three subspecies existed in the recent past, but only one, the nominate subspecies survives today. Analysis of mitochondrial genomes and nuclear DNA revealed that the wisent is theoretically the result of hybridization between the extinct Steppe bison and the ancestors of the aurochs since their genetic material contains up to 10% aurochs genomic ancestry; the possible hybrid is referred to informally as the Higgs bison, a play-on-words in reference to the Higgs boson. Alternatively, the Pleistocene woodland bison has been suggested as the ancestor to the species.

Steppe bison species of mammal (fossil)

The steppe bison or steppe wisent is an extinct species of bison that was once found on the mammoth steppe where its range included Europe, Central Asia, Northern to Northeastern Asia, Beringia, and North America, from northwest Canada to Mexico during the Quaternary. Three chronological subspecies, Bison priscus priscus, Bison priscus mediator, and Bison priscus gigas, have been suggested.

Bovid hybrid

A bovid hybrid is a hybrid of two different members of the bovid family.

Wood bison Species of bison

The wood bison or mountain bison, is a distinct northern subspecies or ecotype of the American bison. Its original range included much of the boreal forest regions of Alaska, Yukon, western Northwest Territories, northeastern British Columbia, northern Alberta, and northwestern Saskatchewan.

Plains bison subspecies of even-toed ungulates

The Plains bison is one of two subspecies/ecotypes of the American bison, the other being the wood bison. A natural population of Plains bison survives in Yellowstone National Park and multiple smaller reintroduced herds of bison in many places in Canada and the United States.

<i>Bison antiquus</i> species of mammal (fossil)

Bison antiquus, the ancient or antique bison, is an extinct species of bison that lived in North America until around 10,000 years ago (ya). It was one of the most common large herbivores on the North American continent during the late Pleistocene, and is a direct ancestor of the living American bison.

<i>Bison latifrons</i> species of mammal (fossil)

Bison latifrons is an extinct species of bison that lived in North America during the Pleistocene epoch. B. latifrons thrived in North America for approximately 200,000 years, but became extinct some 20,000–30,000 years ago, at the beginning of the Last Glacial Maximum.

Pleistocene rewilding is the advocacy of the reintroduction of descendants of Pleistocene megafauna, or their close ecological equivalents. An extension of the conservation practice of rewilding, which involves reintroducing species to areas where they became extinct in recent history.

Bison occidentalis is an extinct species of bison that lived in North America and the Japanese archipelago from about 11,000 to 5,000 years ago, spanning the end of the Pleistocene to the mid-Holocene. Likely evolving from Bison antiquus, B. occidentalis was smaller overall from its ancestor and other species such as the steppe bison. B. occidentalis had a highly variable morphology, and their horns, which pointed rearward, were much thinner and pointed than other Pleistocene species of bison. Around 5,000 years ago, B. occidentalis was replaced by today's smaller Bison bison.

American Bison Society environmental organization

The American Bison Society (ABS) was founded in 1905 by pioneering conservationists and sportsmen including William T. Hornaday and Theodore Roosevelt to help save the bison from extinction and raise public awareness about the species.

Bison hunting

Bison hunting was an activity fundamental to the economy and society of the Plains Indians peoples who inhabited the vast grasslands on the Interior Plains of North America, prior to the animal's near-extinction in the late nineteenth century. Even a number of Indians west of the continental divide crossed the Rocky Mountains in traditional tribal hunts on the Northern Great Plains. The species' dramatic decline was the result of habitat loss due to the expansion of ranching and farming in western North America, industrial-scale hunting practiced by non-indigenous hunters, increased indigenous hunting pressure due to non-indigenous demand for bison hides and meat, and even cases of deliberate policy by settler governments to destroy the food source of the native Indian peoples during times of conflict.

Pleistocene Park

Pleistocene Park is a nature reserve on the Kolyma River south of Chersky in the Sakha Republic, Russia, in northeastern Siberia, where an attempt is being made to recreate the northern subarctic steppe grassland ecosystem that flourished in the area during the last glacial period.

Antelope Island bison herd

Antelope Island in Great Salt Lake, Utah, is part of Antelope Island State Park. On the island, a semi–free-ranging population of American bison has been in existence since 1893. Though the island was named for the pronghorn antelope that John C. Frémont and Kit Carson found there when they explored the Great Salt Lake, bison were later introduced and the island is now perhaps most famous for its bison herd.

Yellowstone Park bison herd

The Yellowstone Park bison herd in Yellowstone National Park is probably the oldest and largest public bison herd in the United States. Yellowstone is known for its geothermal activity and large mammals, especially elk, timber wolves, bison, bears, pronghorns, moose and bighorn sheep. The Yellowstone Park bison herd was estimated in 2015 to be 4,900 bison The bison in the Yellowstone Park bison herd are American bison of the Plains bison subspecies. Yellowstone National Park may be the only location in the United States where free-ranging bison were never extirpated, since they continued to exist in the wild and were not re-introduced, as has been done in most other bison herd areas. Other large free-ranging, publicly controlled herds of bison in the United States include the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Kansas, Wind Cave bison herd, the Antelope Island bison herd, the Henry Mountains bison herd in Utah, and the National Bison Range herd near Flathead Lake, Montana.

The Henry Mountains bison herd, numbering 250 to 400 bison, is one of only four free-roaming and genetically-pure herds on public lands in North America. The other three herds are the Yellowstone Park bison herd which was the ancestral herd for the Henry Mountains animals, the Wind Cave bison herd in South Dakota and the herd on Elk Island in Alberta, Canada.

Wind Cave bison herd

The Wind Cave bison herd is a herd of 250–400 American bison in Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota, USA. It is believed to be one of only four free roaming and genetically pure herds on public lands in North America. The other three herds are the Yellowstone Park bison herd, the Henry Mountains bison herd in Central Utah, and at Elk Island National Park in Alberta, Canada. The Wind Cave herd are of the Plains bison subspecies.