The bisons, although regarded by systemists as of two species, the North American "buffalo" and the European "wissent," are as nearly alike as well can be. The latter originally ranged over all Europe, and was necessarily a forest animal, and hence never could assemble into herds as did its American cousins. It has been protected on the Czar's and other great estates in Lithuania and Russia, to the number of about 700; but these preserves were ravaged during and after the World War. The wanton waste that swept away the millions of our American bison in a few short years would long ago have exterminated this species also had it not been preserved in bands here and there in the West and in various animal collections. The peculiarity of the bison is the massive, humplike strength of the fore quarters, the great mop of hair upon them and about the head, and the short, stout horns growing straight out of the side of the head.
Bison.—The name applied to two species of ox. One of these, the European bison, or aurochs, (Bos bison  or Bison europæus ), is now nearly extinct, being found only in the forests of Lithuania and the Caucasus. The other, or American bison, improperly termed buffalo (Bison americanus ), is found only in the region lying north and south between the Great Slave Lake and the Yellowstone River, and is rapidly becoming extinct in the wild state, though formerly to be met with in immense herds. The two species closely resemble each other, the American bison, however, being for the most part smaller, and with shorter and weaker hind-quarters. The bison is remarkable for the great hump or projection over its fore-shoulders, at which point the adult male is almost six feet in height; and for the long, shaggy rust-colored hair over the head, neck, and forepart of the body. In summer, from the shoulders backward, the surface is covered with a very short, fine hair, smooth and soft as velvet. The tail is short and tufted at the end. The American bison used to be much hunted for sport as well as for its flesh and skin. Its flesh is rather coarser grained than that of the domestic ox, but was considered by hunters and travelers as superior in tenderness and flavor. The hump is highly celebrated for its richness and delicacy. Their skins, especially that of the cow, dressed in the Indian fashion, with the hair on, make admirable defenses against the cold, and are known as buffalo robes ; the wool has been manufactured into hats, and a coarse cloth. The American bison has been found to breed readily with the common ox, the issue being fertile among themselves.