American Bison Introduction
Bison are the iconic image of the Great Plains and the Old West. They are massive, shaggy beasts and the heaviest land animals in North America. Despite their hefty size, bison are quick on their feet. When the need arises they can run at speeds up to 40 miles (65 kilometers) an hour. Their curved, sharp horns can grow to be 2 feet (61 centimeters) long. Females (cows) and adult males (bulls) generally live in small, separate bands and come together in very large herds during the summer breeding season. Males wage battles for mating rights, but such contests rarely turn dangerous. Females give birth to one calf after a nine-month pregnancy. Bison once covered the Great Plains and much of North America, and were critically important to Plains Indian societies. During the 19th century, settlers killed some 50 million bison for food, sport, and to deprive Native Americans of their most natural asset. The once enormous herds were reduced to only a few hundred animals. Today, bison numbers have rebounded somewhat, and about 200,000 bison live on preserves and ranches where they are raised for their meat.
Keywords to learn
Rebound: Recover in value, amount, or strength after a decrease or decline
Hey Kids, my name is Bea the American Bison and I am very happy to meet you. Learn more about me and my species @ www.kids.nationalgeographic.com
- Lifespan:23 years.
- Scientific Name:Orycteropus afer.
- Mass:110 to 180 pounds.
- Length:Head and body: 43 to 53 inches; tail: 21 to 26 inches.
- Region found:sub-Saharan Africa.
- Population Status:Not evaluated.
- Current population trend:Unknown.
- Sexual maturity:2 years.
American bison are not generally aggressive; however they can be dangerous to humans if provoked. These beautiful creatures should be left alone in the wild to roam the plains.
Now that you know more about the American bison by learning the key data above, be sure also to check out the fun facts When you are finished learning the facts, try answering the questions in the Q&A corner on the bottom right side of the page.
Download questions about the American bison here: American Bison (answers are on this page)
Teachers. For more in depth work sheets on the American bison. Click on Kidskonnect Worksheets
American Bison Fun Facts for Kids
- # 1. Yellowstone National Park is the only place in the U.S. where bison have continuously lived since prehistoric times.
- # 2. Bison calves tend to be born from late March through May and are orange-red in color, earning them the nickname “red dogs.”
- # 3. After a few months, their hair starts to change to dark brown and their characteristic shoulder hump and horns begin to grow.
- # 4. Bison have been integral to tribal culture, providing them with food, clothing, fuel, tools, shelter and spiritual value. Established in 1992, the inter tribal buffalo council works with the national park service to transfer bison from national park lands to tribal lands.
- # 5. Bison primarily eat grasses, weeds and leafy plants — typically foraging for 9-11 hours a day. That’s where the bison’s large protruding shoulder hump comes in handy during the winter.
- # 1. How fast can an American bison run?
- # 2. Where can American bison be found?
- # 3. What is the primary food source of the American bison?
- # 4. What age do American bison live to?
- # 5. What age do American bison sexually mature?