Difference between Bison and African Buffalo

Key Difference: Bison are large bovidae animals that are native to Europe and Americas. The African Buffalo is a large bovidae animal that is native to Africa. These two animals differ in diet, height, weight and many other factors.

Bison and buffalo can often be confused as one creature due to their similarities in nature. Some even refer to bison as American buffalo. Both the animals belong to the same kingdom (Animalia), class (Mammalia), order (Artiodactyla), family (Bovidae), but differ in species. These tow animals are different from each other and should not be confused as one.

Bison can be divided into two subspecies depending on their location: The American Bison and The European Bison. The European bison is also known as wood bison or wisent, while the American bison is often called American Buffalo, though it should not be mistaken with a buffalos.

The European bison were almost hunted to extinction during 1919-1927 but since then have been reintroduced to the wild from captivity. They were often hunted during the Middle Ages for their hide and horns. They are now marked as Vulnerable by the IUCN. The European bison are large stocky creatures and can range between 7 and 10 ft in length and are between 5 and 7 ft tall. The tail ranges between 30 and 60 cm (12 and 24 in) in length. They also weight from 300 to 920 kg (660 to 2,000 lb), while some can even go up 2,200 lbs in captivity. European bison are herbivores and can be found mostly in large meadows or near water resources as water plays a huge part in their diet. The European bison are native to many parts of Europe including Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Belarus, etc. The Wisents are herd animals and can reside in mixed herds as well as bachelor herds. Reproduction is usually done by adult males, and gestation period lasts around 264 days; the female births only one offspring at one time. Wisents are not territorial and can share their land with multiple herds. The lifespan of a wisent can range between 13-21 in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity.

The American bison is a species of bison that are native to North and South America and were nearly extinct due to commercial hunting and slaughter in the 19th century and due to the spread of the bovine disease. Due to reserves and national parks, they have been resurged and are now marked as Near Threatened by the IUCN. The American bison can be further classified into two subspecies: the plains bison (Bison bison bison) and the wood bison (Bison bison athabascae). The wood bison is bigger than the plains bison and has a taller squarer hump, while the plains bison has a smaller rounder hump. The bison has a thicker, shaggier winter coat and a lighter color and lighter weight summer coat. The American bison’s head and body length ranges from 6.6 to 11.5 ft long and shoulder height of 60 to 73 in. The tail is between 12 and 36 in long. The male bison are generally bigger compared to female bison. The bison can weight from 318 to 1,000 kg (700 to 2,200 lb). Bison are herbivore and feed on grasses and sedges and can be found on near pastures, prairies and plains. They also consume a lot of water and snow as a part of their diet. American bison are raised for their meat and their hide, though they have not been able to be domesticated yet. The American bison are migratory animals and their herd migrations can be directional as well as altitudinal.  Female and male bison reside in separate herd that only mix during breeding season. The male bison play no part in the raising of the young, and the female birth one offspring at one time. The lifespan of an American bison is 13-25 years.

Compared to the American bison, the European bison are slightly lighter in body mass and have taller. The Wisent also sport shorter hair on the neck, head, and forequarters, but have longer tails and horns. Both the species have a curved horn, however the European bison’s horns point forward through the plane of their faces, making it easier for them to interlock horns. The European bison has 14 ribs, while the American bison has 15. The European has five lumbar vertebrae, while the American has four. American bison tend to graze more and browse less than the European bison, due to the European bison’s neck being set differently.

 The African buffalo, also known as affalo, nyati, mbogo and Cape buffalo, are large bovine creatures that are native to various parts of Africa. The various subspecies of an African buffalo includes: Syncerus caffer caffer (Cape buffalo), S. c. nanus (forest buffalo), S. nanus. (hybrids), S. c. brachyceros (Sudanese buffalo), S. c. aequinoctialis (Nile buffalo) and S. c. mathewsi (mountain buffalo). The buffalos are unpredictable in nature and can be easily provoked. Due to these reasons, they have not been effectively domesticated. African buffalo is related to the Asian water buffalo, though contrary to popular belief is not the ancestor of domestic cattle, and is only distantly related to other larger bovines. The African buffalo has a shoulder length that can range in between 3.3 and 5.6 feet, while the head-and-body length can be between 5.6 to 11 feet. The tail can range from 70 to 110 cm (28 to 43 in) in length. The Cape buffalo have a long, stocky body and short and thickset legs. They usually have a short standing height. They can weigh between 900 kg to 1200 kg (2000 lbs).

The front hooves of the buffalo are slightly larger than the back hoofs in order to support the heavier front of their body. Savannah-type buffaloes have black or dark brown coats with age. The females tend to have a coat that is reddish in color. The horns of an African buffalo are medium in length and are sharp, while in some subspecies they may also curl back and slightly up. Depending on the different subspecies, buffalos can live in swamps, floodplains, grasslands, mountains and forests. Cape buffalos prefer habitats with dense coverage. Buffaloes mate and reproduce only during the rainy seasons. The calves remain hidden in vegetation for the first few weeks before joining the main herd. Cape buffalos are very aggressive creatures. They also spar and play with each other. The lifespan of an African buffalo can range between 15 and 25 years.

 

Bison

African Buffalo

Other names

American buffalo; European wood bison or wisent.

affalo, nyati, mbogo, Cape buffalo.

Kingdom

Animalia

Animalia

Class

Mammalia

Mammalia

Order

Artiodactyla

Artiodactyla

Family

Bovidae

Bovidae

Genus

Bison

Syncerus

Species

B. bonasus (European); B. bison (American)

S. caffer

Conservation status

Vulnerable (European); Near Threatened (American).

Least Concern

Size

European bison can range between 7 and 10 ft in length and is between 5 and 7 ft tall. The tail ranges between 30 and 60 cm (12 and 24 in) in length. The American bison’s head and body length ranges from 6.6 to 11.5 ft long and shoulder height of 60 to 73 in. The tail is between 12 and 36 in long.

The shoulder length of an African buffalo can range in between 3.3 and 5.6 feet, while the head-and-body length can be between 5.6 to 11 feet. The tail can range from 70 to 110 cm (28 to 43 in) in length.

Weight

European bison can weight from 300 to 920 kg (660 to 2,000 lb), while American bison can weight from 318 to 1,000 kg (700 to 2,200 lb).

Around 900 kg to 1200 kg (2000 lbs)

Body type

Four footed, huge structure, large hump.

Cape buffalo have a long, stocky body and short and thickset legs. They usually have a short standing height.

Habitat

European bison are found in meadows and near water resources. American bison are found near pastures, prairies, and montane and northern areas.

Depending on the different subspecies, buffalos can live in swamps, floodplains, grasslands and forests. Cape buffalos prefer habitats with dense coverage.

Behavior

European bison reside in mixed herds and are not family units. They mix with other herds and often change individuals. They do not defend their territory and often share with other herds. American male and female herds are usually separate. They have a dominant bison in their heard, usually a bison that was born during the early mating season.

Cape buffalos are very aggressive creatures. The herd size can vary depending on the buffalos. During dry season, the males form bachelor herds and rejoin the herd during mating season. Bulls spar and play with each other.

Reproduction

European bison resides in mixed herds and are not family units. Mating occurs from August through to October and the female only births one offspring at one time. American male and female herds are usually separate and do not mix until breeding season. Mating occurs in the first 2-3 weeks of the season. The females give birth to offspring at one time.

Buffaloes mate and reproduce only during the rainy seasons. The calves remain hidden in vegetation for the first few weeks before joining the main herd. Male calves leave their mother at the age of two and join bachelor groups. The females give birth to one calf at a time.

Native to

American bison is native to North and South America, while European bison various parts of Europe, including Poland, Russia, etc.

Africa

Diet

European bison feed on grasses, shoots and leaves. American bison feed on grasses and sedges, while consuming large amounts of water or snow.

Grass

Fur

Thick fur that changes color depending on weather.

Light fur

Beard

Yes

No

Horns

European bison and American bison both have short, curved horns. However, European bison’s horns point forward through the plane of their faces, making it easier for them to interlock horns.

Medium in length and sharp.

Domesticated

No

No

Lifespan

13-21 years

15-25 years

Uses

Meat, clothing, shelter and weapons. In the past, horns were hunted for producing drinking horns.

Previously they were hunted for fun, but now they are hunted for their horns, skin and meat.

Image Courtesy: golden-gate-park.com, wildlifesafari.info

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