Bison vs Buffalo

Is a bison a buffalo?  What is a bison?

Water Buffalo

Whether you ask the question ‘what is a bison,’  ‘what’s the difference between bison and buffalo,’ or ‘is a bison a buffalo,’ the answer remains the same…….. American buffalo are bison. American buffalo meat is bison meat.

The confusion arose when Europeans first encountered these majestic animals. Our American bison looked to them most like their ‘water buffalo’ back home. That was the point in which American bison began being referred to as buffalo.

Bison bison

Plains Bison

Just as humans, on a genus and species level, are Homo sapiens, American bison are Bison bison. The Bison bisoncategory is further broken down into two widely recognized subspecies, the plains bison (Bison bison bison) and wood bison (Bison bison athabascae).

The plains bison tends to be smaller with a more rounded hump and the wood bison is the larger of the two, having a taller squarer hump.

Wood Bison

The wood bison is one of the largest species of bovid in the world. Wood bison tend to thrive in hilly, wooded areas whereas plains bison are the bison you think of from the movies, thriving throughout the Great Plains of North America.

Neither of these subspecies are related genetically to the water buffalo of other countries. At Bear Mountain Bison we have both plains and wood bison in our herd.