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These massive animals delight all visitors to Werribee Open Range Zoo.

Once, great herds of this wonderful animal roamed from northern Mexico to Alaska. Today, wild Bison herds are found in national parks and refuges in only six US states (Montana, Wyoming, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota) and one Canadian province (Northwest Territory).The 19th century saw hunting of Bison on a scale that nearly brought the species to extinction. Threats now include habitat loss, genetic manipulation and culling to prevent the spread of bovine disease. Wild herds now occupy less than 1% of their original range. They are classed as ‘near threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (on the IUCN ‘red list’).

Meeting the Bison at Werribee Open Range Zoo is an important way to connect with an open grassland species. Your visit helps to fight species extinction. Visiting the Bison at Werribee is an opportunity not only to marvel at these amazing animals, but also to learn about the threats to many species, what the international community is doing to try to conserve this species, and how Zoos Victoria is contributing to the fight.

Bison means ‘ox-like’ in Greek. They belong to the bovidae family just like cattle, buffalo, antelope, gazelles, sheep and goats.

The American Bison, commonly known as the American Buffalo, is not to be confused with its African (Cape Buffalo) and Asian (Water Buffalo) cousins. A large shoulder hump and thick winter coat are two things that distinguish a Bison from a buffalo.

Bisons are the largest land mammals in North America. Male Bison, called bulls, stand 1.8 m and weigh 700-900 kg. Cows, female Bison, weigh only half as much but they are hefty beasts all the same.

American Bison live in grassland habitats such as plains, prairies and river valleys and are grazers, meaning they eat mainly grasses. Bison eat in the early morning and evening and chew their cud in between. In winter, Bison use their head and hooves to find food beneath the snow.

American Bison live, feed and move in herds like all other gregarious animals. The herds include cows and calves. Adult bulls are solitary animals and only join a herd during the mating season called the rut.

Class 
Mammalia
Order 
Cetartiodactyla
Family 
Bovidae
Genus 
Bison
Species 
B. bison
Status 
Near Threatened
Found in 
Six US states and one Canadian province

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