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​America’s New Icon – The Bison

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Meet America’s new national treasure...

You may or may not have heard, but the bison has recently become the official mammal of the United States of America. This week, President Barak Obama signed the National Bison Legacy, making the bison the official mammal of the USA.

Bison, also known as buffalo, are the largest terrestrial animal in North America. They are herbivores that graze on plants, grass and shrubs. You may recognise these beasts by their tough and sturdy bodies covered with their shaggy, brown winter coats. Bisons are distinct by their horns, which can grow up to 60cm long. They use these horns in defense and to contest their position within the herd. Bison’s also weight up to 1000kg - That’s a whole lot of bull!

Bison travel in herds and very rarely travel alone. After a few years of age, the male bison, also known as bulls, leave the females to go and find a male herd. Towards the end of summer, the males and females reunite just in time for mating and reproductive season.

The difference between American bison and European bison can be determined due to their ribs. The American species of bison have 15 ribs compared to it’s European counterpart, who only has 14. Bison are also surprisingly good swimmers. They are known to swim across rivers spanning almost a kilometre in length. With the size of their bodies, who would have thought!

The bison’s top predators include coyotes, wolves and bears. Thankfully, due to their extreme size, their predator list is limited. When a bison is attacked however, the attack is generally on a young bison calf or by a pack of wolves. This makes them vulnerable targets and easier to hunt.

Unfortunately, after the introduction of horses and guns, humans also became one of the bison's top predators. Bison hunting almost lead the beastly animal into extinction. Native Americans would use the mammal for food, clothing and shelter. This resulted in bison falling into the brink of extinction, with over 50 million killed by humans. Luckily, through the dedication of conservationists, they have made a comeback and are now thriving in most states around the US.

The bison's resilience through time has appointed them the position of America's newest national representative. The bison is the perfect animal for the Americans because they are an iconic image of the Old West and the Great Plains. Not only are bison tough and sturdy, but they have roamed around America for thousands of years and will hopefully continue to do so!

Move over bald eagle, there’s a new kid on the block!