The animal that most Americans call a buffalo is actually a bison. Buffaloes are found in Africa and South Asia, while bison roam in North and South America. This comparison examines the differences between buffaloes and bison in terms of physical characteristics, habitats, lifespan, and temperament.
|Shape||Four footed, huge structure, large hump.||Four footed, huge frame, no hump.|
|Horns||Sharp and small.||Not sharp but long (Water buffalo); medium & sharp (Cape buffalo).|
|Fur||Thick fur.||Light fur.|
|Beard||Thick beard.||No beard.|
|Weight||700 to 2,200 lb.||1200 kg (2640 lb) for wild water buffalo; 850 kg (1870 lb) for domestic water buffalo; 909 kg (2000 lb) for Cape buffalo.|
|Lifespan||13-21 years.||25-30 (Water Buffalo); 15-25 (Cape Buffalo).|
|Diet||Grass and hay.||Grass.|
|Habitat||Plains. Rugged lands. Really cold places.||Cannot live in rugged conditions (Water). Can and mostly does live in rugged conditions (Cape).|
|Native to||North and South America, Europe.||Asia (Water), Africa (Cape).|
|Domesticated||No.||Yes (Water); No (Cape).|
|Used for||Meat, clothing, shelter, weapons.||Milk, cattle, meat (Water) . Once hunted as trophies, but now meat for hunters and other animals (Cape).|
|Population||2 million.||150 Million (Water); 160,000 (Cape).|
|Genus||Bison||Bubalus (Water Buffalo); Syncerus (Cape Buffalo)|
Differences in Physical characteristics
- Bison have a hairy fur coat on their body which grows thicker in the winters as a protection from the rugged environment they live in. Buffalo do not have thick fur.
- Bison have very sharp horns which they use for their defense. A buffalo's horns aren't very sharp but are longer than a bison's.
- Bison have a huge hump on their back which Buffaloes do not have.
- Bison also have a thick beard that circles around their rib cage but Buffaloes do not have a thick beard.
- A Bisons' temperament is associated with its rugged structure and it can be a very aggressive animal when threatened. While the African cape buffalo is also aggressive, Asian water buffaloes are peaceful animals, which is why they are domesticated.
- Buffaloes grow up to 5 feet in size while Bison may grow to 6 feet.
- Bison can run faster than Buffaloes.
- Buffaloes can weigh between 800-1200 kg while Bison can weigh up to 1400 kg.
Buffalo are highly domesticated or raised for their meat, hence they have a very lazy and tame habitat. They are accustomed to living in mild temperatures. Bison, on the other hand, are not domesticated. Bison are accustomed to rugged conditions and can survive extreme conditions.
Bisons are native to North and South America (but are also found in Asia and Africa now). Buffaloes are native to Asia and Africa (and are found in other parts of the world now).
Bisons live in rugged conditions and hence live till their teenage years while domesticated buffaloes are known to live for 25-30 years.
Buffaloes, except for one or two species are domesticated, while Bisons aren't domesticated. Buffalo milk is also used in Asia and Africa for consumption. Buffaloes are used as work animals extensively while bison are mostly wild in nature and aren't used for work. Both animals are also raised for their meat.
The Bison population is estimated to be around 2 million. There are about 20,000 wild bison and 400,000 commercial bison (raised for meat) in the United States. Buffaloes are more numerous and their population is estimated to be around 150 million across the world.
The video below discusses the life of bison at Yellowstone National Park.
And here is a video of wolves hunting American bison on snow in Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta, Canada.