American Bison
Photo by Bob Gress


American Bison
Bison bison

Total Length: 80-150 inches
Tail Length: 17-33 inches
Weight: 900-2,000 pounds

  • Comments:   American bison, or "buffalo," are the heaviest land mammal native to North America. Prior to settlement an estimated 60 million bison roamed North America. They were a major resource for the Great Plains Indians providing food, shelter, clothing, fuel, tools and dozens of other items essential for survival. The last wild bison in Kansas was killed in 1879 at Point of Rocks north of Elkhart. Bison frequently wallowed in dusty or muddy spots to shed hair and rid themselves of insect and parasite pests. Thousands of these saucer-shaped "buffalo wallows," some 30 feet across and more than 2 feet deep, are still visible today. Bison breed from early July to late September. Cows usually deliver one reddish calf weighing up to 35 pounds in April or May. They can live up to 30 years.
  • Distribution:   Bison were originally found from Mexico to Canada and throughout much of the United States but most numerous in the Great Plains. Public and private captive herds are scattered across Kansas. The best viewing opportunities exist at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge near Canton and Finney Game Refuge near Garden City.
  • Food:   Bison are grazers feeding on a variety of grasses and forbs.

For more information, see the GPNC portrait web page for Bison.

Other Kansas Ungulates


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Mammal's Den
Text: George Potts and Bob Gress
Design: Jim Mason