Species: B. bonasus - Linnaeus, 1758
In the past, the European bison was hunted until it completely disappeared in nature; the species survived only thanks to a few captive bred specimens that have been reintroduced in various states of the European Union: the most famous and numerous nucleus is the herd that lives in the Białowieża Forest in Poland and Belarus.
Three subspecies of European bison are recognized:
- lowland bison or Białowieża Forest - Bison b. bonasus;
- Carpathian bison (Bison b. Hungarorum) - extinct;
- Caucasian bison (Bison b. caucasicus) - extinct.
European bison - Bison bonasus (photo www.wildpoland.com)
European bison - Bison bonasus (photo http://greenlungsofpoland.blog.com)
It is the largest terrestrial animal left in Europe; length about 3 meters, 1,8 - 2,2 m height at withers and weight 300 - 920 kg. It is smaller than the American bison (Bison bison), his close relative, and also has a less thick hair on the neck, but has longer tail and horns.
The European bison is a social animal and can live both in mixed groups and in herds of males only. The mixed groups include the young, the young of 2 - 3 years, the calves, the semi-adult males and possibly a single adult male. Herd sizes vary according to environmental factors, but on average they include 8 - 13 specimens each. Groupings consisting of males only consist of fewer specimens and on average comprise only two individuals. European bison herds are not family units. The various groups interact with each other frequently, quickly combining and separating after exchanging members.
The mating season runs from August to October. 4 - 6 year old males, although sexually mature, cannot mate, as this privilege belongs only to older males. Females usually have a gestation period of 264 days and almost always bring one baby to the world at a time. Males reach sexual maturity at two years of age, while females at three.
European bison specimens are bred in many zoos, including in Italy (Bioparco di Roma).