Buffalo vs. Bison: What’s the Difference?

In In The Yards, Livestock Shows, NWSS Livestock Blog by Clancy Anderson

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between buffalo and bison? They’re actually the same thing! Bison (Bison Bison) is the American Bison or more commonly known as the American Buffalo.

Billy Joe Dilley, a long-time 30-year expert of the bison program at the National Western has seen many buffalo come through the yards and knows their attitude better than most.  

“They’re a little harder to handle,” Dilley said. “A little flightier, edgier, but not as much as they used to be.”

Brian Mahlandt raises buffalo in Kansas and has a lot of experience handling the one to two ton animals.

“They’re still wild animals. You have to have a lot of respect for them.” Mahlandt said.

Both Dilley and Mahlandt were throwing grass hay to the bison when I met them. Mahlandt commented that if the hay had landed on the back of an Angus they’d just look at it and not move. However, with the bison, just dropping the hay over the fence causes them to run around the pen, a bit panicked.

American bison aren’t the only species that exists. A subspecies, the Wood Bison (Bison bison athabascae), is commonly found in Canada.

The buffalo in the Americas, particularly in Colorado and Montana, have a bigger, more massive head, but they don’t get as framed.

“It’s like a Holstein versus a Hereford, but not as extreme,” Mahlandt said.

According to bisoncentral.com the Gold Trophy Show and Sale (GTSS) is the premier bison auction in the U.S. For over 35 years, bison producers have brought their best bison stock to Denver’s National Western Stock Show to show and sell their animals. The sale features high quality, judged breeding stock as well as top-notch production animals that are sure to perform back at the ranch.

The GTSS also features its popular “market class” auction, in which the public can come and bid on top quality, all-natural bison carcasses to be processed into meat to your specifications.