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Bison vs. Buffalo: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Bison are shaggy-haired, hump-backed animals native to North America and Europe, while buffalo refer to two species in Africa and Asia, lacking humps.
Bison vs. Buffalo

Key Differences

Bison are distinguished by their massive head, shaggy mane, and pronounced hump. Buffalo, such as the African and Asian species, lack these features and have a more uniform body shape.
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Bison are native to North America (American Bison) and Europe (European Bison). Buffaloes are found primarily in Africa (Cape Buffalo) and Asia (Water Buffalo).
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Bison have a deep cultural significance in North American indigenous cultures, symbolizing abundance and the spirit of the wilderness. Buffalo hold a similar place in African and Asian societies, representing strength and utility.
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Bison play a crucial role in their ecosystems, influencing grassland dynamics. Buffaloes are essential in their habitats, often associated with water bodies in Asia and savannas in Africa.
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Bison are largely wild, with some domestication for meat and conservation. Buffaloes, especially the Asian species, have been widely domesticated for agriculture, dairy, and draft purposes.
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Comparison Chart

Origin

North America and Europe
Africa and Asia
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Physical Traits

Humped back, shaggy mane
Smoother coat, no hump
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Size

Larger, heavier build
Generally smaller, varied sizes
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Domestication

Limited, mostly wild
Widely domesticated (especially in Asia)
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Symbolism

Represents wilderness and abundance
Symbolizes strength and utility
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Bison and Buffalo Definitions

Bison

A species renowned for its significant role in indigenous cultures.
The painting depicted a bison, a sacred symbol in Native American traditions.
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Nov 17, 2023

Buffalo

An animal integral to Asian agriculture and transport.
The farmer used his buffalo to plow the rice fields.
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Nov 17, 2023

Bison

A large, hump-backed mammal native to North America and Europe.
The bison roamed the grassy plains in majestic herds.
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Nov 17, 2023

Buffalo

A creature with cultural significance in many African and Asian societies.
In many Asian cultures, the buffalo symbolizes perseverance and hard work.
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Nov 17, 2023

Bison

A symbol of the American West's wilderness.
The bison is often featured in literature as an icon of the untamed American frontier.
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Buffalo

A large bovine native to Africa and Asia, known for its strength.
The buffalo grazed peacefully near the African savanna's watering hole.
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Bison

A key species in grassland ecosystems.
Conservationists reintroduced bison to restore the natural balance of the prairie.
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Buffalo

A species diverse in its habitats, from wetlands to savannas.
The water buffalo is perfectly adapted to life in the marshy areas of Asia.
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Bison

An animal valued for its meat and conservation importance.
Bison ranching has become popular as a sustainable alternative to traditional cattle farming.
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Nov 17, 2023

Buffalo

An animal domesticated for dairy, meat, and labor.
Buffalo milk is a key ingredient in traditional mozzarella cheese.
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Nov 17, 2023

Bison

A bovine mammal (Bison bison) of western North America, having large forequarters, a shaggy mane, and a massive head with short curved horns; a buffalo.
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Oct 19, 2023

Buffalo

Any of several large African and Asian ruminant mammals of the family Bovidae, such as the water buffalo and the African buffalo.
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Bison

A bovine mammal (Bison bonasus) of Europe, similar to the American bison but with a somewhat smaller head and longer horns; a wisent.
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Buffalo

The American bison (Bison bison).
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Bison

The flesh of the American bison, used as food.
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Buffalo

The flesh of the American bison, used as food.
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Bison

A large, wild bovid of the genus Bison.
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Buffalo

Any of several North American suckers of the genus Ictiobus, having a dark body and an arched back. Also called buffalo fish.
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Bison

The aurochs or European bison.
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Buffalo

To intimidate or frighten, as by a display of authority
“The board couldn't buffalo the federal courts as it had the Comptroller” (American Banker).
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Bison

Any of several large shaggy-maned humped bovids having large heads and short horns
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Buffalo

To confuse or deceive
“Too often ... job seekers have buffaloed lenders as to their competency and training” (H. Jane Lehman).
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Buffalo

Any of the Old World mammals of the family Bovidae, such as the Cape buffalo, Syncerus caffer, or the water buffalo Bubalus bubalis.
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Buffalo

A related North American animal, the American bison, Bison bison.
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Buffalo

Ellipsis of buffalo robe
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Buffalo

The buffalo fish (Ictiobus spp.).
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Buffalo

A nickel.
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Buffalo

(transitive) To hunt buffalo.
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Buffalo

To outwit, confuse, deceive, or intimidate.
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Buffalo

To pistol-whip.
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Buffalo

A species of the genus Bos or Bubalus (Bubalus bubalus), originally from India, but now found in most of the warmer countries of the eastern continent. It is larger and less docile than the common ox, and is fond of marshy places and rivers.
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Buffalo

A very large and savage species of the same genus (Syncerus Caffer syn. Bubalus Caffer) found in South Africa; - called also Cape buffalo.
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Buffalo

Any species of wild ox.
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Buffalo

The bison of North America.
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Buffalo

A buffalo robe. See Buffalo robe, below.
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Buffalo

The buffalo fish. See Buffalofish, below.
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Buffalo

Large shaggy-haired brown bison of North American plains
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Buffalo

A city on Lake Erie in western New York (near Niagara Falls)
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Buffalo

Meat from an American bison
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Buffalo

Any of several Old World animals resembling oxen including, e.g., water buffalo; Cape buffalo
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Buffalo

Intimidate or overawe
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

What's distinctive about a bison's appearance?

Bison have a humped back, large head, and shaggy mane.
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Can bison be domesticated?

Bison are mostly wild, with limited domestication mainly for conservation and meat production.
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Are bison endangered?

The American bison has recovered from near extinction, but the European bison remains vulnerable.
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Are buffalo domesticated?

Yes, especially the Asian water buffalo, for agriculture, dairy, and as draft animals.
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Where do buffalo primarily live?

Buffalo are native to Africa (Cape Buffalo) and Asia (Water Buffalo).
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Where are bison found?

Bison are native to North America and Europe.
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What is the cultural significance of bison?

Bison are significant in indigenous North American cultures, symbolizing abundance and the spirit of the wilderness.
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What role do buffalo play in their ecosystems?

Buffalo are essential in their habitats, often associated with water bodies in Asia and savannas in Africa.
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What is the lifespan of a bison?

Bison can live up to 20 years in the wild.
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Are bison social animals?

Yes, bison live in herds, which provide protection and social interaction.
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What are the physical characteristics of buffalo?

Buffaloes have a smoother coat and lack the pronounced hump of the bison.
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Can buffalo swim?

Yes, particularly the Asian water buffalo, which is well-adapted to swimming in water bodies.
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How fast can a bison run?

Bison can run up to 35 miles per hour.
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What do buffalo eat?

Buffalo are grazers, eating grasses, and in some cases, aquatic vegetation.
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What do bison eat?

Bison are primarily grazers, feeding on grasses and sedges.
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What threats do buffalo face?

Habitat loss and poaching are major threats to buffalo, especially in Africa.
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What is the buffalo's symbolism in culture?

Buffaloes represent strength and utility in many African and Asian cultures.
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How large can a bison grow?

Bison can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and stand up to 6 feet tall at the shoulder.
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How big are buffalo?

Buffalo sizes vary, with African buffalo being larger, sometimes weighing over 1,000 pounds.
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How do buffalo benefit their environment?

Buffalo help maintain grassland and wetland ecosystems through their grazing habits.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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