The American bison and the European bison (wisent) are the largest surviving terrestrial animals in North America and Europe. They are typical artioeactly (cloven hooved) ungulates, and are similar in appearance to other bovines such as cattle and true buffalo. They are broad and muscular with shaggy coats of long hair.
American bison are known for living in the Great Plains, but formerly had a much larger range including much of the eastern United States and parts of Mexico. Both species were hunted close to extinction during the 19th and 20th centuries, but have since rebounded.
Bison are nomadic grazers and travel in herds. The bulls leave the herds of females at two or three years of age, and join a male herd, which are generally smaller than female herds. Mature bulls rarely travel alone. Towards the end of the summer, for the reproductive season, the sexes necessarily commingle
American bison live in river valleys, and on prairies and plains. Typical habitat is open or semiopen grasslands, as well as sagebrush, semiarid lands, and scrublands. Some lightly wooded areas are also known historically to have supported bison. They also graze in hilly or mountainous areas where the slopes are not steep.