Buffalo or Bison (Bos bison) have roamed North America for centuries when — just like humans — they crossed the bridge of ice that connected Siberia and Alaska. They are the continent’s largest native land mammals, weighing between 750 and 2,000 pounds and standing up at about six feet tall. And while they seem large and clumsy, they can actually run 35 miles per hour.
At one point, there were over 50 million of them in North America. In 1887, however, the buffalo population was reduced to just 541, due to over-hunting by white settlers. While Native American tribes made sure to use every part of the animal, the settlers used only the meat and hides. In the winter of 1872 and ’73, more than 1.5 million hides were shipped eastward to be sold. Since then, the species has been reestablished in Oklahoma and Montana through conservation efforts, but not anywhere near the amount that there used to be.
Many can be found in Yellowstone National Park, but beware: The buffalo have killed or injured four times as many people as bears. So, if you want to spot some, maybe use binoculars, instead of trying to get that close peak.
Fun Buffalo Facts
- Both sexes have horns.
- A buffalo’s temperament can be determined by its tail. If its tail is sticking up, it’s angry.
- Calves can stand within 30 minutes of birth and run within hours.