So what exactly is the difference between a bison and a buffalo?
The answer . . .
Historians speculate that early European explorers used the term ‘buffalo’ as the name for the North American bison, as they were familiar with the species that existed in Africa (Cape Buffalo) and Asia (Water Buffalo). The terms buffalo and bison have been used interchangeably ever since that time.
Late summer is an important time for bison. It’s the season of rut, when the dominant bison bulls must re-establish their right to sire next year’s calves. There is much jousting between the bulls – and people going out on bikes with Teton Mountain Bike Tours are certainly getting an eye-ful!
Our Antelope Flats ride during this part of the year almost guarantees a buffalo sighting. The massive animal can be found in herds all over the area of Mormon Row where we bike, so guides and visitors need to be extra careful of their distance. In fact, we’ve had several occasions where the guide had to hitch a ride back to the van near trip-end so they could pick up TMBT guests and their bicycles. Only then could they safely drive through the bison lining the sides of the road!
Fighting among bulls during the rut can be fierce and their challenging roars echo across the grasslands. Buffalo are more aggressive and can be more dangerous during this time – and unfortunately, people are sometimes more concerned about getting the perfect picture! Just imagine how you would feel if someone in a compact car going about 30 miles an hour hit you. It is somewhat equivalent, however bison have horns!
In the late 1800s, buffalo were nearly exterminated by men. Today, they are no longer endangered and combined herds in the United States are estimated at approximately 80,000 animals.
Check out the “bashing bison” video put out by Animal Planet on YouTube!