Difference Between Buffalo and Bison

The main difference between buffalo and bison is that buffalo lives in dense-covered habitats such as reeds and thickest in Africa and South Asia whereas bison lives in river valleys, prairies, and plains in North America. Further, it is easy to identify the difference between buffalo and bison by focusing on the three H’s: Home, Hump, and Horns.

The two interchangeably used names buffalo and bison describe large, horned, ox-like, ruminant mammals, who belong to the family Bovidae.  Buffalo does not have a hump while bison has a large hump. Furthermore, buffalo has a medium, sharp horn while bison has a small, sharp horn.

Key Areas Covered

1. Buffalo
     – Definition, Classification, Facts
2. Bison
     – Definition, Classification, Facts
3. What are the Similarities Between Buffalo and Bison
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Buffalo and Bison
    – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms: Bison, Buffalo, Habitat, Horn, Hump

Difference Between Buffalo and Bison- Comparison Summary

Buffalo – Definition, Classification, Facts

A buffalo is a heavy-built, wild ox with backward-curving horns. Buffalos mainly live in Africa and South Asia. The three main species of buffalo are African or Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer), the endangered wild Asian water buffalo (Bubalus arnee), and domestic water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis). Domestic water buffalos are smaller than wild water buffalos.

Difference Between Buffalo and Bison

Figure 1: Buffalo

Buffalos have medium-sized, sharp horns while water buffalos have long horns that are not much sharp. Typically, a buffalo horn is more than 1.8 m. It a great defense against predators such as lions.

Bison – Definition, Classification, Facts

Bison is a hump-backed, shaggy-haired, wild ox native to North America. It mainly lives in North America and Europe. The two main species of bison are American bison (Bison bison) and the European bison (Bison bonasus). European bison mainly lives in Poland. There is also a distinctive, northern species of the American bison known as wood bison (Bison bison athabascae), who is native to Alaska and Canada.

Main Difference - Buffalo vs Bison

Figure 2: American Bison

Bison has humps, one at a shoulder, allowing the bison’s head to function as a plough that sweeps away drift off snow during winter. The fur coat of bison is shaggy and dark brown, allowing them to survive in very harsh cold environments.

Similarities Between Buffalo and Bison

  • Buffalo and bison are large, horned, ox-like animals, who belong to the family Bovidae.
  • Both are ruminant mammals.
  • The two large framed animals can live in rugged conditions.
  • Fur covers the body of both.
  • Both eat grass. If the grass is sparse, they eat tree bark and leaves.

Difference Between Buffalo and Bison

Definition

Buffalo: A heavy-built, wild ox with backward-curving horns

Bison: A hump-backed, shaggy-haired, wild ox native to North America

Habitat

Buffalo: Lives in dense-covered habitats such as reeds and thickest in Africa and South Asia

Bison: Lives in river valleys, prairies and plains in North America and Europe

Cold Environment

Buffalo: Not typically adapted to live in cold conditions

Bison: Adapted to live in cold places such as Wyoming

Weight

Buffalo: Weighs around 2,000 pounds

Bison: Weighs around 700-2,200 pounds

Classification

Buffalo: The three main species are African or Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer), the endangered wild Asian water buffalo (Bubalus arnee), and domestic water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis).

Bison: The two main species are American bison (Bison bison) and the European bison (Bison bonasus).

Hump

Buffalo: Do not have a hump.

Bison: Have a large hump.

Horn

Buffalo: Have medium, sharp horns.

Bison: Have small, sharp horns.

Fur and Beard

Buffalo: Have light fur or no fur.

Bison: Have thick fur and beard.

Uses

Buffalo: Used for meat.

Bison: Used for meat, clothing, weapons, and shelter.

Domestication

Buffalo: Domesticated.

Bison: Not domesticated; because of hunting, they .were hunted to near extinction.

Conclusion

Buffalo lives in Africa and South Asia while bison lives in North America and parts of Europe. Bison are adapted to live in cold environments. They have shaggy-coats of fur and humps. Hence, the main difference between buffalo and bison is the type of habitat they live in. Also, it is easy to identify the difference between buffalo and bison by focusing on the three H’s: Home, Hump, and Horns.

Reference:

1. Gomez, Whitney, et al. “Bovidae (Antelopes, Cattle, Gazelles, Goats, Sheep, and Relatives).” Animal Diversity Web, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “2081931” (CC0) via Pixabay
2. “American bison k5680-1″ By Jack Dykinga – released by the Agricultural Research Service (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things

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