Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In



Yellowstone Bison (Buffalo) FAQs

As the largest land-dwelling animal in North America, the bison of Yellowstone National Park (often mistakenly referred to as “buffalo”) are nearly impossible to miss. Good thing too. These massive animals are definitely worth getting a look at!

Known for their brown coats, curved horns and shaggy beards, bison are a central fixture on the Yellowstone landscape. Snap pictures, but don’t even think about approaching one of these docile-looking beasts. Bison are agile creatures that can run up to 35 miles per hour, and they are aggressive when disturbed.

Yellowstone may be the only place in the United States where never-domesticated, free-range wild bison still exist. Other herds in the country had been eradicated and then reintroduced back to the land.

Bison, sometimes called buffalo, are everywhere in Yellowstone including the roads! If you encounter a bison on foot, stay a safe distance of 25 yards. In a car, have patience and calmly make your way when there is an opening. Most of all, enjoy this spectacularly rare experience.

What Does a Yellowstone Bison Look Like?

Bison closeup
NPS Eric Johnston

Bison have dark-chocolate brown fur that’s long on the head, shoulders and forelegs; the hair covering the rest of their bodies is slightly lighter in color and much shorter, although it’s still quite dense. A bull (male) can weigh up to 2,000 pounds; a cow (female) up to 1,000 pounds. A bison’s shoulder hump can peak at 6 feet tall. They can swim well and can jump over objects up to 5 feet tall. Their hearing, vision and sense of smell are keen.

How Many Bison Are in Yellowstone?

Yellowstone’s bison population is divided into two breeding herds, northern and central, that together include roughly 4,000-5,000 animals. Herds migrate to higher elevations and cooler temperatures in the summer and lower elevations and warmer temperatures in the winter. Cows and bulls typically live apart for most of the year, coming together in large herds during mating season.

What Do Bison Eat?

Bison move continuously as they eat. They graze on a variety of grasses and sedges, as well as herbs, shrubs, and twigs. After swallowing their food, bison regurgitate it to chew again as cud before finally digesting it.

How Long Do Bison Live?

Bison typically live between 12 and 15 years, although a few animals have been known to live as long as 20 years. They mate in the summer (late July-August). Females have a 9- to 9.5-month gestation period. Babies have reddish tan fur when they’re born; the fur darkens to brown at 2.5 months

Do Bison Have Any Predators?

Both wolves and grizzly bears will hunt and eat bison. A bison carcass provides a delicious treat for scavengers and other carnivores.