DESCRIPTION: Also known as the wisent, the European buffalo is the largest wild land mammal surviving in Europe3,4. Males may reach a weight of 1000 kgs!4 They grow up to 195cm (6½ foot) at shoulder height and have a large shoulder hump1. Their coat is brown to dark brown and is shaggy around the neck and front legs2, although the rest of the coat is short and lighter in colour. The horns are forward facing2.
HABITAT: The European bison is found in deciduous and mixed forests1. Historically it was found throughout western, central and southeastern Europe, but by the 19th century there were only 2 populations left in the wild, in the Bialoweiza forest and the western Caucasus mountains. The wisent has been reintroduced to Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and Slovakia3.
FEEDING: The European bison feeds mainly on leaves, twigs and bark2 and grass depending on the season and habitat3.
BREEDING: A single calf is born after a pregnancy of around 9 months2, weighing up to 30kg4. The young mature at 2–4 years old2 and can live up to 27 years4.
CONSERVATION: European buffalo populations originally plummeted due to habitat loss and hunting3. Thanks to reintroductions, the number of free-ranging European bison now stands at around 1,800 and their numbers are believed to be increasing. There is a good captive breeding programme and reintroductions will continue3.
1 Macdonald (Ed), Encyclopaedia of Mammals, Oxford University Press (2001)
2 Nowak, R. Walker’s Mammals of the World. John Hopkins University Press (1991)
3 IUCN REDLIST www.iucnredlist.org.uk
4 WAZA, VIRTUAL ZOO www.waza.org
5 ANIMAL, Dorling Kindersley Publishing, 2001
6 Ultimate Ungulate. www.ultimateungulate.com/artiodactyla