Not everyone knows the difference between buffalo and bison. Calling a bison a buffalo is inaccurate, but a common mistake. It’s so common, in fact, that we sometimes use the two interchangeably.
Both the buffalo and bison are in the Bovidae family, which also includes other cloven-hoofed ruminants, like goats. The two main species of buffalo are the African or Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) and the endangered wild Asian water buffalo (Bubalus arnee). There’s also a domestic water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), that is smaller than its wild cousin.
As for bison, the two main species are the American bison (Bison bison) and the European bison (Bison bonasus), which is mainly found in Poland, but is starting to make a comeback in very small numbers in other parts of Europe. There is also a distinctive northern subspecies of the American bison called the wood bison (Bison bison athabascae), native to Alaska and Canada.
|Fur||Thick fur.||Light fur.|
|Diet||Grass and hay.||Grass.|
|Weight||700 to 2,200 lb.||1200 kg (2640 lb) for wild water buffalo; 850 kg (1870 lb) for domestic water buffalo; 909 kg (2000 lb) for Cape buffalo.|
|Lifespan||13-21 years.||25-30 (Water Buffalo); 15-25 (Cape Buffalo).|
|Horns||Sharp and small.||Not sharp but long (Water buffalo); medium & sharp (Cape buffalo).|
|Native to||North and South America, Europe.||Asia (Water), Africa (Cape).|
|Beard||Thick beard.||No beard.|
|Shape||Four footed, huge structure, large hump.||Four footed, huge frame, no hump.|
|Population||2 million.||150 Million (Water); 160,000 (Cape).|
|Domesticated||No.||Yes (Water); No (Cape).|
|Habitat||Plains. Rugged lands. Really cold places.||Cannot live in rugged conditions (Water). Can and mostly does live in rugged conditions (Cape).|
|Genus||Bison||Bubalus (Water Buffalo); Syncerus (Cape Buffalo)|
|Used for||Meat, clothing, shelter, weapons.||Milk, cattle, meat (Water) . Once hunted as trophies, but now meat for hunters and other animals (Cape).|