They are different species but there is often confusion because the American Bison has often been called “Buffalo”, but this is a misnomer with an unknown origin. The American Bison historically grazed across the plains and grasslands. They are herbivores, they are large (up to 6 1/2 feet tall and 10 feet long) and are also currently being raised for meat. This is what they look like:
Buffalo are animals that are native to Asia (the Water Buffalo) and Africa. The African Buffalo grazes in swamps, on mountains, forests and grasslands. They like to eat tall grass and need water daily. The Asian Water Buffalo are used for meat, dairy and as draft animals. They have curved horns. The African Buffalo and the Water Buffalo look like this:
African Buffalo Asian Water Buffalo
wow, greenjoy, we used the same pictures! ha
Good question, shaffer38. People tend to refer to North American Bison as Buffalo, when really, this is not the proper term for them. Buffalo and bison both belong to the family bovinae, but buffalo are native to Africa and Asia, whereas buffalo are native to North America.
Here is a picture of Cape buffalo from Africa:
photo: African Wildlife Foundation
Here is a picture of Water buffalo from Asia:
photo: B.J. Hayward
And here is a picture of North American bison:
Hope this helps!
There is definitely some confusion about these two terms. The American Bison is often called the American Buffalo. Scientifically, however, buffalo refers to either the genus Bubalus, or the African Buffalo genus with a single species. Bubalus consists of a few species of water buffalo (including dwarf species). Bison, on the other hand, is also a genus. There are two species in it – besides the aforementioned American Bison, there’s also the European Bison.
All three genera – Bubalus (aka buffalo), Bison, and Syncerus (aka African Buffalo) – belong to the subfamily Bovinae, along with other animals like domestic cattle, yak, and some antelopes.
I hope that cleared things up rather than confuse you further.
Buffalo and bison are both members of the Bovidae family, which is probably one of the reasons they are seen as similar and often confused. Starting with appearances, bison and buffalo are similar in body size but have different coats and horns. Bison have a shaggy coat that sheds to reveal a lighter summer coat, and buffalo have a shorter, glossier coat. They also have horns that grow to be much bigger.
As for location, bison are found in North America. Their populations reach from southern Canada to northern Mexico. Some can be found in Europe as well. The two species of buffalo are found all over Asia, in north Africa, and in southern parts of Europe, as well as the plains of Africa. Bison have traditionally hunt, first sustainably by Native Americans and then destructively by white settlers, whereas buffalo have been domesticated for thousands of years. They are used as a source of milk and sometimes meat.
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