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Animals & Attractions

European Bison

In our collection

We currently have a large herd of European bison.

Where to see them

They can be found in the main drive through reserve. You can either take your own vehicle or enjoy a guided tour with our Land Rover Tour.

International breeding programme and conservation

European bison previously roamed throughout western, central and south eastern Europe. Unfortunately by 1927, the species had been lost from the wild entirely and only 54 individuals survived in European Zoos. Since then there have been re-introductions to forests in Belarus, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, the Ukraine, Romania and Slovakia.

All our bison are part of the international breeding programme and we currently have one of the largest herds of European bison in the United Kingdom. We manage the European breeding programme for the species.

Conservation success

Glen Rosa, one of the females born here in 2012, was transported to Romania in 2014, along with five other females from UK and Irish zoos, as part of a reintroduction programme.

Audio guide:

Please find below an excerpt on our bison from our Main Reserve audio guide:

Find out more

Status

  • DD
    DATA DEFICIENT
  • lc
    LEAST CONCERN
  • nt
    NEAR THREATENED
  • VU
    VULNERABLE
  • EN
    ENDANGERED
  • CR
    CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
  • EW
    EXTINCT IN THE WILD
for more information on classifications visit www.iucnredlist.org

Size

Population

Population increasing slowly. It was last assessed in June 2008 according to IUCN

Habitat

  • Grasslands

    Grasslands

  • Forest and woodlands

    Forest and woodlands

Diet

In The Wild

The European bison (Bison bonasus), is similar in appearance to its North American relative (Bison bison), it is taller but not as heavily built. Their dense coat is dark to golden brown in colour and is less bushy than that of the American bison. Both sexes have short horns that project outwards and then curve upwards.

European bison prefer a woodland habitat where they live in small herds browsing on leaves and other vegetation. Most of the year the cows and calves will form a herd, which will be joined by bulls around July, leading up to the rut between August and October. This is when disputes between bulls can occur and occasionally result in serious injuries such as deep wounds and broken bones. Most of the time however, fighting will consist more of threatening postures and bellowing. Most of the calves are born between May and July and are able to run only a few hours after birth.

Calves will remain with the herd until they reach sexual maturity at 3-4 years of age. After that, the males will join the bull groups and the females will stay with the cow/calf herd.

Bison are mainly browsers and they can spend up to 60% of daylight hours feeding. When food is plentiful, adult males may consume 32kg of food a day. Their diet varies according to the seasons and as well as grasses and sedges, also includes tree foliage, bark, mosses, fungi and herbaceous plants. Bison need to drink every day and in winter can be seen breaking ice with their heavy hooves. Despite their usual slow movements, they are surprisingly agile and can jump three metre wide streams or two metre high fences from a standing start.

Our European Bison