Bison or Buffalo?

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Here is a periodic reminder that BISON and BUFFALO are not the same thing. Yes, yes, a long time ago, the majestic bison of North America were sometimes referred to as “American buffalo” because of their kinda-sorta resemblance to the buffalo of Africa and/or Asia – but bison is indeed the correct term for America’s official national mammal.

Yes, the bison was named as America’s National Mammal in 2016, and the US Department of the Interior noted at the time: “What’s the difference between bison and buffalo? While bison and buffalo are used interchangeably, in North America the scientific name is bison. Actually, it’s Bison bison bison (genus: Bison, species: bison, subspecies: bison), but only saying it once is fine.”

There are quite a few online resources to help you understand the difference – here’s a few:

Brittanica notes that the “3 H’s” make it simple (home, hump, and horns).

LiveScience explains that “even though bison and buffalo are similarly large, cattle-like animals, there are striking physical differences that distinguish them.”

And Modern Farmer notes that bison might be considered “hipsters” due to their beards – a feature that buffalo lack.


FLASHBACK! Remember that time I got to meet some young bison? It was amazing!

Me feeding bison!

Me feeding bison!

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