Bison: All You Need to Know About America’s New Official Mammal
Bison: All You Need to Know About America’s New Official Mammal

The American Bison, sometimes known as the buffalo, has officially become the United States’ National Mammal. 

Signed in law by President Barack Obama on May 9, the National Bison Legacy Act adopts the American Bison as the country’s official mammal.  

Also known as H. R. 2908, the act was passed by the House on April 26, and by the Senate on April 28. It lists 23 findings for establishing the American bison as the national mammal. 

The law will not displace the Bald Eagle, but joins it as “the official symbol of our country.” 

Photo by Neal Herbert, National Park Service.
Photo by Neal Herbert, National Park Service.

There are two subspecies of American bison; the plains bison (Bison bison bison) and the wood bison (Bison bison athabascae).

According to the Department of the Interior, the bison is the largest mammal in North America, with males reaching a height of six feet and a weight of one ton. Females are smaller, reaching 1,000 pounds and a height of five feet. 

The massive animals can run up to 35 mph and vertically jump over objects up to five feet in height. 

ALTERNATIVE CROP - A wood bison calf stands next to its mother at their outdoor enclosure at the Hellabrunn zoo in Munich, southern Germany, on June 17, 2015. The American bison also known as buffalo became nearly extinct in the grasslands of North America due to commercial hunting and introduction of bovine diseases from domestic cattle in the 19th century.       AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOF STACHE        (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
A wood bison calf stands next to its mother at their outdoor enclosure at the Hellabrunn Zoo in Munich, Germany, on June 17, 2015. (Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images)

Calfs have been called “red dogs” for their orange-reddish in coat, which begins to darken at around two and a half months of age. 

Between 30 to 60 million American Bison used to roam North America before the mid-1800s. 

Mass hunting and a bovine illness called brucellosis almost drove the ungulates to extinction in the latter half of the 19th century. 

A snow covered American Bison (Neal Herbert/National Park Service)
A snow covered American Bison (Neal Herbert/National Park Service)

Citing the Department of Agriculture’s 2012 Census of Agriculture, the there are currently 162,110 bison in farms across the US. 

This number is down from the 2007 total, which was 198,234.

The Smithsonian Institute estimates there to be 30,000 American bison in conservation herds on public lands. 

393346 06: The sun sets behind a herd of bison in Wind Cave National Park, August 14, 2001 in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota. Millions of bison were slaughtered by white hunters who pushed them to near-extinction by the late 1800''s. Recovery programs have brought the bison numbers up to nearly 250,000. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
The sun sets behind a herd of bison in Wind Cave National Park, August 14, 2001 in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota. (David McNew/Getty Images)
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