The American Bison became the National Mammal of the United States in 2016. Bison are often mistakenly called Buffalo; however, they are two different animals. The Cape and Water Buffalo are found in Africa. The American Bison can stand 6 feet tall at the shoulder. Despite this large size, they can run at speeds approaching 40 miles an hour, faster than a human. They are the heaviest land animal in North America ranging from 790 - 2,000 lbs. The large hump behind a bison’s head is a giant muscle used to swing their head back and forth, helping them clear snow to reach the grass below. Prior to colonization, the bison population throughout North America is estimated to have been 30-60 million. The extermination of the bison was a government mandate. In 1867, a U.S. Army member is recorded saying "kill every buffalo you can. Every buffalo dead is an Indian gone." By the end of the 1800s, it's estimated that there were roughly 300 bison left, with 25 living within the boundaries of what is now Yellowstone National Park. 

Click HERE for a Bison Activity Sheet!

Our Current Residents

Bert, Male - Born September 1, 2017

Bert came to ZooMontana in 2018 after his herd trampled him, suffering a broken leg. Although healed, a limp kept him from the wild as it would have hindered his ability to evade predators.

Jay, Male - Born June 30, 2021

Jay is Bert and Nellie's offspring. Although Nellie has passed, she will live on through Jay. 


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Cetartiodactyla
  • Family: Bovidae
  • Genus: Bison
  • Species: Bison

Animal Facts

  • Herbivore: eats mostly grasses and sedges
  • Population: threatened
  • Habitat: Grasslands, Plains, Rivers & Streams, Scrubland/Forest, and Tundra
  • Diurnal: active during the day

Our Animals