Today is National Bison Day.
Bison are the official national mammal of the United States and have played an important part in the history of North America.
The Bison is the largest land mammal in North America of which there are 2 living species, the Plains Bison and the Wood Bison.
They are believed to have descended from the Steppe Bison who appeared during the Middle Pleistocene age (now known as the Chibanian age) and crossed the Bering land bridge into North America between 195000 - 135000 years ago.
The Steppe Bison survived into the early to mid Holocene age before becoming extinct.
Bison were a significant creature for Native Americans as a food source and spiritually and were treated with respect.
During the 1800's Plains Bison were slaughtered in their millions by European settlers almost to the point of extinction.
Plains Bison lived between the Appalachian Mountains in the east to the Rocky Mountain ranges in the west and as far north as Canada and as far south as Northern Mexico.
The Wood Bison is the larger of the 2 north American species and ranged from Alaska and throughout Northern Canada.
After near extinction both are making a slow comeback due to captive breeding however the DNA has become blurred in many cases and many are hybrids in the Wood Bison species.
Life wasn't any better for the European bison which was hunted to total extinction in the wild. In the early 1900's they were returned to the wild, again via captive breeding programs.
Some interesting links to more facts and photos on Bison are included below.