American symbol: National Geographic’s best bison pictures
To celebrate bison, we choose our most stunning pictures of the large mammal, treasured in Native American and U.S. history.
Just a few hundred years ago, between 30 and 60 million American bison (Bison bison) roamed the Great Plains. Their herds were said to be so great that it took six days for a rider to pass through.
Many people use the words “bison” and “buffalo” interchangeably, but this isn’t technically correct. While both animals belong to the Bovidae family, “buffalo” refers to animals such as the African Cape buffalo and Asian water buffalo. When European settlers first saw American bison, they named it “bufello,” and the misnomer stuck.
It only took a few decades of intense hunting and fur trading to lay the herds low. Bison hunting became so popular in the 19th century that some