Bison vs. Buffalo: What’s the difference?

Whats the difference Bison VS Buffalo

Bison vs. Buffalo

Bison vs. Buffalo – There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding most animals, and one of the most prominent ones is the differences between a buffalo and bison. Here is the thing; the species of animal that most Americans refer to as a buffalo, is actually a bison.

As a matter of fact, buffaloes are mostly seen in Africa and South Asia, while bison live mainly in North and South America.

Bison Special Handling Required

However, both of them are in the Bovidae family which also includes other cloven-hoofed ruminants, like goatsOpens in a new tab.. So today, we are going to have a look at how these two animals differ from one another.

Bison Fight

Are a Bison and a Buffalo the same thing

No Bison American and European are Wild Herds that one Roamed North America Ranges. They provided food for the American Indians. They were once hunted close to extinction

Buffalo is the Asian Typ of Domesticated Cattle

Why do we Call Bison Buffalo

I think a lot of confusion lies in some of our western languages. Buffalo Wild Bill – was a Buffalo hunter – but really he was shooting Bisons. Western TV shows constantly portray Buffalo Hunters and Skinners.

Bison were naturally in the United States, and there was a European Bison in Europe.

BreedsWeightOriginCurrent PopulationLargest Recorded
Plains Bison700 - 2200 lbsUnited States3,000 - Yellowstone3,800 lbs
Woods Bison790 - 2400 lbsUnited States7,000 - Canada
European Bison1800 - 2200 lbsEurope / Russia7,500 ( 2019 )4,200 lb
American Bison / American Buffalo880 - 2200 lbsUnited States New York - Colorado545,0003,800 lb
Water BuffaloOpens in a new tab.1700 - 2600 lbsAsia130 Million2650 lbs
Cape Buffalo / African Buffalo660 - 1900 lbsAfrica900,0002,000 lbs
American Buffalo


The Cape Buffalo, which is sometimes called the African Buffalo, is a bovine species from Africa that is prominent for its huge body, unpredictably aggressiveness and revengeful demeanor.

This is why it is often regarded as an extremely wild animal. And practically, it is the very reason why no one at least that we’ve heard of, has tried to domesticate it. No one keeps a buffalo as a pet in their house.

Bison vs. Buffalo: What's the difference? 1
Bison vs. Buffalo

Size and Description of Buffalo

By nature, buffaloes aren’t outstandingly tall animals like the giraffes and the rest. From measurement, it stands only 51–59 inches 130–150 cm (130–150 cm) and has relatively short legs. Nevertheless, buffaloes are massive, as they often weigh between 935–1,910 pounds (425–870 kg).

Put differently, it is 220 pounds (100 kg) heavier than a cowOpens in a new tab., and its horns are way thicker and most times wider, measuring up to 40 inches (100 cm), coupled with a broad shield covering its forehead.

Most of the time, their body is always black and thin, excluding the younger ones, whose body often appears either brown or black in color. Overall, buffaloes are heavy-set, built with stocky legs, a very big head, and absurdly a short neck.

All over their entire body, you won’t find any unique designs or marks on it; plus, they have droopy ears that are large in size.

Range and Habitat of Buffaloes

Buffalo is one of the most successful Africa’s wild ruminants because, it can thrive perfectly in almost every form of grassland habitat in sub-Saharan Africa; ranging from dry savannah to swamp, and from lowland floodplains to montane mixed forest and glades. As a matter of fact, anywhere, provided it is within a reach of water logs like a lake and so on.

Another notable thing about buffalo is that it is, extremely immune to most diseases that would normally afflict domestic cattle in Africa. One of such disease is the bovine sleeping sickness transmitted by tsetse flies, which infects all cattle except buffaloes.

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Bison vs. Buffalo

Nevertheless, there was one disease that even the buffalo wasn’t immune to, and that was in the early 1890s, when a rinderpest plague cut across the whole African continent, spanning from Ethiopia, down to the Cape of Good Hope. As a result of this deadly cattle-borne diseases, about 90 percent of the buffaloes’ population died, alongside hundreds of antelopes too.

They are oftentimes seen in African open plains. Plus, you can also locate them at grasslands, river valleys, semiarid lands, and prairies. For those that love to be extra adventurous, they often roam into foothills and mountainous areas, even though high-altitude relaxation isn’t really their thing.

Buffalo’s Diet

In order to stay in its tip-top buffy shape, buffaloes always have to eat a huge amount of grass. Put differently, they rely more on quantity than quality. And this is often possible because buffaloes are built in such a way than they are able to digest longer and thick grasses than most other ruminants.

Plus, they have a broad muzzle and a row of incisor teeth that helps them to make huge bites at a time. They can also make use of their tongue in bundling grass prior to cropping it. Actually, this trait is common to every bovine.

However, if the economy of the jungle is too hard, and buffaloes can’t locate some grass where they could graze on, then they alternatively munch on woody vegetation.

Buffalo’s Behavior

Just like any other animal, buffaloes have their distinctive trait. Savannah buffaloes most especially, live in massive herds of about 50-500 animals. And this group often sums up females and their infants, and insignificant subgroups of single males. Sometimes, the males who are advanced age may remain solitary.

Depending on its mood, buffalo could be thoroughly active all day long, and even in the night as well. From research, an average buffalo spends nothing less than18 hours every day moving and foraging.

Given that they are often preyed upon by lions, as soon as a herd member is attacked, other buffaloes rather than retreat, will immediately rush to defend the attacked one.

That’s why it’s been noted by most animal scientists that as a group, buffaloes are one of the few animals who can wade off an attack from dangerous predators like lions. In fact, most hunters tag a wounded buffalo bull as the dangerous animal to ever go after, as they could end anything that comes in their way.

So that’s that for buffaloes. Now, let’s have a look at Bisons.

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Bison vs. Buffalo


American Bison is an epitome of Great Plains, which is mostly found in North America. And for what it’s worth, the current notoriety this specie of cattle has is as a result of the recognition and appreciation given to it by the Native Americans.

Size and Description of Bison

Currently, in North America, Bison is the biggest mammal. And as part of its breath-taking size, it grows to 7 to 11.5 feet (2.1 meters to 3.5) long from head to rump, and its tail adds an extra 20 to 23.5 inches. It often weighs about 930 to 2,200 lbs. (422 to 998 kilograms).

However, like a buffalo, there are two unique attributes of bison which distinguishes it from other cattle. These include its shoulder hump and large-sized head.

In terms of appearance, a bison’s fur is often brown in color, which a-times differs from its rear and front section. Its hair is always longer in the front than at the back. In fact, the most lucid difference is found in the length of their hair, especially in the male ones.

And still, on the aesthetics, their horns are always curving inward and upward, with a very sharp tip at the top of it. A bison’s hooves are often round in shape, and black in color.

Range and Habitat of Bison

15,000 out of the 500,000 animals contained on private land in the world are estimated to be truly wild and free-range. And bison happens to be one of them.

From past records, bison roamed from northern Mexico to Canada. However today, they are restricted to tiny pockets of habitat. That way there is a small herd of bison’s in Mexico, a number of fragmented herds in the United States, and a number of fragmented herds in Canada.

Bison’s Diet

By nature, bison are herbivorous mammals, which is why they mainly eat plants. Bison are widely known as grazers that eat grasses and sedges rather than searching for fruit or other plants. That is why whenever winter period comes, it is often hard for them to find a plant that they can feed on, as they are often covered up in the snow.

Nevertheless, whenever snow covers the grasses, bison make use of their highly muscular necks to scrape, all the way down to the buried plant beneath the snow.

Averagely, a bison gets in 1.6% of their body mass each day from dry vegetation. Overall, they are solely dependent on daily water in order for them to survive.

Bison’s Behavior

Bison are a gregarious breed of cattle and are often segmented into batches based on age, habitat, season, and sex. However, you should know that a lot of male bison get enrolled in these batches as the rut draw nearer.

These males coexist with one another individually or in batches that could be up to 30 of them, and the domination amongst the bulls is often straight forward because, in the family, bulls are way higher in rank than others, which is why they automatically show dominance above others.

Another point is that bison graze during various periods every day. And they do this in separate batches, almost independently. However, as soon as they are done eating, they move together in batches, in a straight line.

And how they move from one place to the other is determined either by the condition of the habitat they are living in, or the terrain as a whole.

As a fun fact, bison are actually great swimmers and sprinters, as they have the capacity to cover up to a speed of 62 km/hr while running after their prey.

So, to wrap it up, bison and buffaloes, although in the same family of mammals, are quite different. From their habitat, down to how they graze and behave, it’s quite clear that unlike what people would love to think, buffaloes are not bison, vice versa!

Are Bison Stronger than Buffalo

Bison are stronger, I would say that for the following facts Bison can

  • They can run up to 35 MPH
  • They have been known to jump 6′ fences
  • They can exist and protect themselves in the Wild
Cape Buffalo vs Bison

Can you Hunt Bison in the United States

Yes, you can Hunt Bison in the United States. The largest Reserve for wild bison herds is Yellowstone National Park. It is illegal to hunt Bison there.

You are able to hunt Bison on Private Ranches. But in all cases, you will need a permit. Today a guided huntOpens in a new tab. will cost you between $4500 – $8000.

Todays Bison Population is very carefully managed

Did Native Americans Hunt Buffalo or Bison

The Native American Indians hunted Bisons. Usually the Plains Bison, or the Woods Bison. They would hunt them on foot, or on horseback. A Horse (55MPH) can outrun a Bison (35 MPH)

I think a lot of confusion lies in some of our western languages. Buffalo Wild Bill – was a Buffalo hunter – but really he was shooting Bisons. Western TV shows constantly portray Buffalo Hunters and Skinners.

Bison were naturally in the United States, and there was a European Bison in Europe.

True Buffalo is represented by cape Buffalo, water Buffalo, and African Buffalo

What Can Kill a Bison

Bison are so large they do not have many predators, some of them are

  • Wolves
  • Mountain Lions
  • Bears
  • Human – Hunters – Skinners
  • Loss of habitat – fences
  • Harsh Winters
  • Disease

Does Yellowstone have Bison or Buffalo

Yellowstone Herd Population are Bison.Opens in a new tab. They are of the American Bison or Plains Bison species. Currently, their Herd Population is 4,900 (2015) Most of them are roaming from Gardiner, Montana across the Blacktail Plateau and down into the Lamar Valley.

Bison vs Buffalo vs Yak

Here is a Table comparing the Differences between a Bison / Buffalo / Yak

BreedsWeightOriginCurrent PopulationLargest RecordedCost Live Animal $Cost of Meat / lb
Plains Bison700 - 2200 lbsUnited States3,000 - Yellowstone3,800 lbs$ 2500 - $5000$ 10.00 - $30.00Opens in a new tab.
Woods Bison790 - 2400 lbsUnited States7,000 - Canada$ 2500 - $5000
European Bison1800 - 2200 lbsEurope / Russia7,500 ( 2019 )4,200 lb$ 2500 - $5000
American Bison / American Buffalo880 - 2200 lbsUnited States New York - Colorado545,0003,800 lb$ 2500 - $5000$ 10.00 - $30.00Opens in a new tab.
Water BuffaloOpens in a new tab.1700 - 2600 lbsAsia130 Million2650 lbs$ 1500+$ 20.00 LbOpens in a new tab.
Cape Buffalo / African Buffalo660 - 1900 lbsAfrica900,0002,000 lbs$ 4,000
Domesticated Yak2200 lbsRussia
14.2 Million - most in China2,205 lb$ 2500+$ 18.00 LbOpens in a new tab.
Wild Yak2200 lbsRussia
15,000 - 20,000
Northern Tibet Grassland
2,205 lb

What is a Yak

A Yak is a member of the Bovidae family and lives in the colder regions of Tibet, Himmilayias, Mongolia, Siberia, Russia, and India Some experts suggest that somewhere in History Yaks were ancient ancestors of the American Bisons.

The domestic yaks have been kept for years for their Meat, Milk, and Coat for people.

Their poop is the only fuel in some treeless regions they live in. They burn it. They will not eat grain and will starve unless they can graze. They will not eat grain.

They are used to pull plows. Their milk makes Cheese, butter, and butter tea.

Breeders over the years have crossed Yaks with Domestic Cattle. They also have been crossed with the American bison. They usually have one calf at birth.

Yaks fur is extremely warm allowing them to be comfortable in extremely cold conditions. They have an outer coat, then an inner one that resembles down. It is extremely rare and valuable.

Yak in Tibet

Wild Yaks

Today there are fewer than 10,000 Yaks remaining left alive roaming free. Their population has declined over uncontrolled hunting and poaching. It has lost a lot of its natural habitat to farming.

Most of the wild ones are in Northern Tibet Grassland They are not aggressive to people. In the wild, they live to about 20 years old.

Domestic Yaks

Yaks gestation lasts for 260 – 270 days. They ARE raised Domestcally for farming. They are raised for their meat, like most cattle. They are also raised for yak milk.

There are a few Yak farms in the United States now. Some have estimated over 6,000 being Raised domestically.

Yaks are a tremendously hearty animal. They love and thrive in Fierce snow. They need no shelter and are not affected by cold winds. You can see the attraction to farmers. It is the same attraction for Bison farmers. A tougher breed that is less affected by harsh winters that play havoc on cattle farming.

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Bison vs. Buffalo

Are Yaks Dangerous

Yaks are not dangerous. They are naturally very friendly. That is one of the reasons for their domestication. Yaks will fight but it is usually during mating season with other male yaks.

Is Yak Good to Eat

I have never tasted yak meat. But from those who have, it is said to be a very tasty red Meat. Much more flavor than beef minus the gamey taste.

Not very popular yet, Yak meat sells for around $10.00 lb. Sold as exotic Novelty meat currentlyOpens in a new tab.. You can get your Yak Burgers Here – Smile

What is the difference between a cow and a yak

They are from the same family. Yaks are more wooly and able to handle extreme weather conditions than domestic cattle. They live in the highest plains of the world.

They have been cross-bred with cattle, from breeders looking for a sturdier, hardier, domestic cow.

Yak sporting events

  • Yak Races
  • Yak Polo
  • Yak Skiing

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Whats the difference Bison VS Buffalo