The animal commonly known as the American Buffalo is a type of cattle properly called the American Bison. Both names have a similar meaning. "Bison" comes from the Greek word meaning ox-like animal, while the word "buffalo"
is derived from the early French fur trappers in America, who called these massive animals “boeufs,” also meaning ox. The American Bison is related to the Europe’s Wisent, not to the Wild Asian Water Buffalo. It is relatively new animal species in North America, having originated in Eurasia and migrated over the Bering Strait about 10,000 years ago. Bison have shaggy dark brown winter coats and lighter weight, lighter brown summer coats. They can grow up to 6’ 7” (2 meters) high at the shoulder and 10’ (3 meters) long. They weigh from 900 to 2,200 pounds (400 to 1000 kg). The biggest specimens on record have weighed as much as 2,500 pounds (1,130 kg). Their heads, chests and shoulders are massive, and both sexes have short, curved horns, which they use to fight for status within the herd and for self-defense.
At the end of the 19th Century, less than 1,000 bison had survived when James "Scotty" Philip in South Dakota purchased a cow and 4 bull bison taken from the Last Big Buffalo Hunt on the Grand River in 1881. Scotty's goal was to preserve the animal from extinction. At the time of his death at 53 in 1911, Philip had grown his herd to an estimated 1,000 to 1,200 head of bison. Other privately owned herds were created from this population. Today, the North American bison population has grown to approximately 500,000, compared to an estimated 60 million to 100 million in the mid-19th Century.