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Regions > Eurasia > Wisent (European bison)

Wisent (European bison)

Location at the Zoo: Eurasia


Northern Europe









Scientific Name:

Bison bonasus bonasus


: The wisent is a massive ox-like animal with distinct hump-like shoulders and a short neck. The forehead is broad and flanked by two short upcurving sharp horns. Both sexes have horns. They usually have a beard on their chin. In comparison with the North American bison, the European bison has longer legs, greater body length, and a smaller head which is carried much higher. On the average males are larger than females.

Head and body length: 2.1 - 3.5 m
Tail length: 0.3 - 0.6 m
Height at shoulder: 2.6 - 2.8 m
Weight: 450 - 1,350 kg


: The reintroduced population now inhabits parts of Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, and the Russian Federation.


: Mixed forests with access to wet areas.


: Browse on ferns, leaves and bark, lichen and graze on grasses.

Reproduction and Development

: There is no harem master who monopolizes sexual activities. The bulls fight each other during the mating season (July - September). The gestation period is about nine months and the cow is solitary when the calf is born. After 4 - 5 days when the calf is able to stand, they join the herd. The young calf is reddish brown in colour. The calf is protected by the bull, the cow, and frequently the whole herd. Nursing takes place for about a year and the calf stays with the mother until it is about three years old. At that time it becomes sexually mature and ready to mate. The Wisent is sexually mature at about 3 years. The female is physically mature at 4 years and the male at 6 years. The life span is 18 - 40years.


: Although gregarious, the herds usually numbered less than 30 individuals. Solitary bulls were quite common. Like the American bison, the wisent had good sense of smell, but weak eyesight. It is altogether a wilder and more wary animal. They graze mostly in early morning and early evening. Much of the day is spent ruminating or chewing cuds of grass that was eaten earlier.
In time of danger the herd will form a circle of adults facing outward, while the young are kept inside. This method of defense works with all predators except man. Unlike the American Bison, the Wisent had little seasonal migrations.

Threats to Survival

: Wisent habitat is threatened by "development" by humans. Young animals may be killed by wolves or lynx. Several diseases also take a toll on the population.


: Endangered

Zoo Diet

: Herbivore ruminant cubes, timothy hay, alfalfa, salt blocks with cobalt, iodide and trace minerals are available at all times. Browse when available.


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