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Buffalo or bison?

By Kathy Fallert; photo courtesy of Julie Lamb


The question of whether the Daniels Park herd is a herd of buffalo or a herd of bison is a common one. For the record, they are bison.

There are two types of buffalo: Cape buffalo and water buffalo. They are native to Africa and Asia. Bison are native to North America and Europe.

There are distinct qualities that make it easy to tell the difference between the two oxlike animals. Bison have a hump at the shoulders while buffalo do not. Buffalo have large horns, up to six feet long, with very pronounced arcs resembling a handlebar mustache. A bison’s horns are much shorter and sharper. Bison also have a beard and a thick coat which they shed in the spring and early summer.

It seems that the misnomer of referring to bison as buffalo was used by confused early European explorers, and that misnomer stuck. The terms are often used interchangeably today, although the native animals in the United States are in fact bison.



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