Similarities Between Bison and Buffalo

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As a result of the early European immigrants in North America referring to these animals as buffaloes, a bison is frequently mistaken for a buffalo. Bison traverse North and South America, while buffaloes are prevalent in Africa and Southern Asia.

There are many similarities between the two, even though a bison’s shoulder hump can be used to distinguish between them.

The Bison

The scientific term for what most people call the “American buffalo” is “bison.” The majority of the U. S., northern Mexico, and southern Canada make up the bison’s natural habitat.

Bison are herbivores and so usually favor sedges and low-growing grasses. The bison are always moving, and they even walk while they eat. 

Throughout the year, bison display various peculiar behaviors. For example, with their enormous weight, they roll around in the dirt, make depressions in the ground (called “wallows”), and enjoy dust baths.

The largest remaining terrestrial animals in North America and Europe are the bison. The Plains Bison and the Wood Bison are the two most common subspecies of bison. Both species were hunted almost to extinction during the 19th and 20th centuries, but they have recovered.

The bison’s situation changed in the 1900s. The significance of the bison to the ecology and indigenous cultures of the American West was beginning to be recognized by conservationists, ranchers, and landowners. As a result, they were reared, kept safe on government property, and saved from extinction. 

The Buffalo

Several different ox-family cud-chewing mammals go by the name “buffalo.” However, the Water Buffalo and the Cape Buffalo are the two main types of buffalo.

The water buffalo, also known as the Indian buffalo, can be found throughout Asia, Northern Africa, and in South Europe. They can be found in wild and domesticated forms; they were tamed in Asia from early on and brought to Italy around the year 600.  

Sub-Saharan African grasslands are home to the Cape Buffalo, commonly known as “Syncerus caffer .”These creatures can be found throughout West Africa and on the plains of the south and east Africa. Some have been kept as domesticated animals for a long time and are prized for their milk, meat, leather, and labor.

The Cape Buffalo is a wild animal and often found in the wilderness. These animals can sever people with their powerful horns, making them dangerous.


Now that you know more about both the bison and buffalo. Let us look at the various similarities between the bison and buffalo.

Bovidae Family

The biological family of ruminant, cloven-hoofed animals known as the Bovidae encompasses cattle, buffalo, antelopes, and caprines. A bovid is a part of this family. The family Bovidae includes 11 (or two) major subfamilies and 13 major tribes, with 143 recognized living species and 300 known extinct species.

It’s understandable why people might get confused about bison and buffalo. Since they belong to the same animal family, bison and buffalo are related. Both species, along with others like musk oxen and domesticated cattle, are members of the Bovidae family. And they are both large, horned, ox-like creatures.


Both buffalo and bison have horns. However, all bison have rather small, slender horns that extend from their heads a few inches over their eyes. 

Wider and up to six feet long, the horns of water buffalo grow laterally out of their heads before curling upward. African buffalo have enormous horns that resemble enormous handlebar mustaches and usually cover the top of their heads.

Big Animals

Buffalo and bison are both large mammals. However, the American bison dominates in size; males, known as bulls, can reach lengths of 12.5 feet from head to tail and weigh up to 2,200 pounds.

The Cape buffalo is the second-longest animal and weighs little less than 2,000 pounds. Its length is roughly 11 feet. However, the water buffalo is the heavyweight champion because it can reach heights of nine feet and weights 2,650 pounds.

Free Roaming Animals

Both bison and buffalo are free-ranging, grassland animals, whether they are domesticated or wild. As per the African Wildlife Foundation, African cape buffalo are indigenous to the savannas and plains of Africa. The animals frequently gather around water (AWF).

According to the DOI, there are still about 10,000 wild bison roaming 12 states in North America. These animals spend 9 to 12 hours foraging for weeds, grasses, and leafy plants daily.


The Bison and the Buffalo are both herbivores. Therefore, roughage, including grass, legumes, and straw, makes up most of the buffalo’s diet. Roughage could be fed in various ways, including as fresh pasture, in a cut-and-carry system, or stored as hay. In addition, cereals concentrate and agro-industrial byproducts like sugar cane tops, etc., are frequently added to the roughage to supplement it.

While bison graze all year round, they prefer to eat grasses, though they will also eat blooming plants, lichens, and the leaves of woody plants if they are there. They move their heads from one side to another to sweep away the snow to uncover grass in the winter. Bison consume an average of 1.6% of their body weight in dry grass daily. Every day, water is needed for bison as well.


How are bison and buffalo different?

Compared to buffalo, bison have larger heads and noticeable humps at the shoulders. In addition, they have thick coats that they shed in the spring and early summer, as well as beards. A buffalo’s horns can also distinguish it from a bison.

What is similar to a bison?

The Bovidae family of ungulates includes upwards of 100 different species of hoofed animals, that includes both bison and buffalo.

Is bison the same as buffalo meat?

Bison, primarily American Bison, that’s what Americans refer to as “buffalo.” It can be seen across the US and Canada, which is what the “buffalo burgers” comprise due to their enormous size.

Why are bison also called buffalo?

The American bison is referred described as a “buffalo” by Native Americans. This is probably because buffalo in most native languages is translated as “bull.”

Why is bison not called buffalo?

Regarding genetics, cape and water buffalo are less connected to bison than a domestic cows. Therefore, wildlife experts use the popular name bison rather than buffalo to prevent confusion between the species.

Author: Syed Hasan

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