Friday, March 25, 2005

Friday Bison Blogging

Posted by Hello

We photographed this beautiful bison (bison bison) just the other day. It's part of a small herd about 10 miles south of us.

The great American bison is a truly magnificent animal. It is the largest land mammal in North America since the end of the Ice Age. Estimates of the pre-European herd size vary from 30,000,000 to 70,000,000 animals and they ranged over most of North America.

There are three subspecies of bison: the Plains bison, Wood bison, and the European Wisent.

Unregulated killing of bison led to the many millions of animals being reduced to no more than 1,500 individuals in the mid to late 1800s.

Legal protection of the bison in Yellowstone Park, the establishment of preserves like the National Bison Refuge in Montana, along with individuals raising bison on their own land, have helped restore the bison to over 350,000 animals. Current estimates place the size of the U.S. herd at 270,000 animals, with most of the production occuring on private ranches.

And for those of you wondering as I wondered: What is the difference between a buffalo and a bison? Here's what I found out.

Scientifically, the term “buffalo” is incorrect for the North American species; its proper Latin name is Bison bison. However, common usage has made the term “buffalo” an acceptable synonym for the American bison. (from The American Buffalo in Transition, by J. Albert Rorabacher.)

In the seventeenth century, French explorers in North America referred to the new species they encountered as “les boeufs,” meaning oxen or beeves. The English, arriving later, changed the pronunciation to “la buff.” The name grew distorted as “buffle,” “buffler,” “buffillo,” and, eventually, “buffalo.” (from The American Buffalo in Transition, by J. Albert Rorabacher.)

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