Get to Know Bison
Your questions answered
Bison is showing up on menus and in grocery stores, but what exactly is it? We’ve put together the bison basics: the difference between buffalo and bison, where to get it, and how to cook it.
Click in the Bison for answers!
Love it, cook it well, eat it responsibly.
What Are Bison?
Bison are North America’s largest indigenous animal. The terms bison and buffalo are often used interchangeably, but the National Park Service says this is incorrect, because bison are not in the same family as Asian and African buffalo. The Latin name for North American Plains bison is Bison bison. The National Bison Association encourages sellers to label their meat as bison to avoid confusion.
Ken Lindner, co-owner of Lindner Bison, a small ranch in California, says, “They are very gregarious animals and like to have a good time.” Bison bulls weigh around 2,000 pounds, cows about 1,100 pounds. They’re surprisingly quick and agile for their size, able to run up to 30 miles per hour.
The National Bison Association estimates that about 70 million bison ranged from Canada to Mexico before the 17th century. As people moved west, hunting took a drastic toll on the species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that there were fewer than 300 wild bison left in the United States and Canada by the early 1900s.
The first major step toward conservation was the Lacey Act, which outlawed all hunting in Yellowstone National Park in 1894, including bison. Between 1905 and 1930 efforts were made to reintroduce herds throughout the United States. Estimates put today’s combined U.S. and Canadian population at 500,000—both ranched and wild.