Bison In Europe: Everything You Need To Know About Them

Last Updated on September 14, 2023 by Amin Tawar

Bison In Europe
Bison In Europe: Everything You Need To Know About Them

An image of bison roaming in open grasslands may make you think of the prairies of Canada or Yellowstone National Park. but did you know that Europe was also once home to European bison?

Below In this article, I’ve explained everything you need to know about the European Bison, their troubling past, and where they can be seen on the continent.

Are There Any Bison In Europe?

In Europe also bisons suffered a severe downfall by humans. In the early 20th century, just two populations of bison persisted in Europe after years of continuous overhunting and habitat defeat. 

One population remained in the Northern Caucasus Mountains, and a more possible population was in the Białowieża Forest of Poland. Initially, there was a herd of about 600 bison that remained. By the late 1920s, the bison population of Europe was hunted to expiration in the wild. 

The species survived only 54 animals that were protected in zoos, arising from just 12 founder species. In 1954, a bison was released into the wild of Poland’s Białowieża forest. Which was further followed by several reintroductions in other countries.

What Are Bison Called In Europe?

In Europe bisson is called “wisent” which is taken from the German word “Wisent”. This word comes from the Germanic word “wisund”; which became extinct in the premodern periods. The name “bison” began to be utilized in English only in the late Middle Ages. Before that “wisent” was prominently used to address bison in the 19th century.

How Many Bison Are In Europe? (Bison Population In Europe)

From only 12 individuals, enduring in private collections and zoos, captured breeding programs and ambitious reintroduction programs have increased the number of bison populations to around 7,000, with 4000 roaming free in the wild in Europe. This includes Poland, France, Germany, Spain, and a few other countries. 

How Big Are Bison In Europe?

Bison In Europe
Bison In Europe: Everything You Need To Know About Them

The bison is the biggest surviving land mammal in Europe. European bison were larger historically. The current bison are around 9 to 11 feet in length and with a tail length of 12 to 36 inches.

They can reach up to 6 to 7 feet tall. Male bison weigh about 1,356 to 2,028 lb and female bison about 935 to 1,396 lb. At birth, calves are small, weighing 33 to 77 lb.

Where Are European Bison Found?

The biggest European bison herds, both wild and captive populations are still found in Belarus and Poland. The majority of them can be seen in Białowieża Forest including the free-living European bison with other animals on the Polish side. Poland is the center of breeding for wisent. 

From 1945 to 2014, the National Park’s 553 species were transported to captive populations in Europe and breeding sanctuaries in Poland. Since 1983, a reintroduction was made in the Altai Mountains. But this population suffers from inbreeding recession and requires the introduction of unrelated animals. Authorities are hoping to establish about 1,000 animals in the region.

The northernmost European bison population lives in Vologodskaya Oblast and survives without additional winter feeding. A Russian population is found in forests near the Desna River on the borderland between Ukraine and Russia. 

The north-easternmost European bison population is found in Pleistocene Park in Siberia, a program that was created to support the ecosystem. Wisents were introduced to the park from Prioksko-Terrasny Nature Reserve. Reintroduction plans are made to introduce two groups in Germany and Netherlands 

Are European Bison Bigger Than American Bison?

Adult European bison are taller when compared to American bison. They have longer legs and tend to graze less when compared to American relatives, as their necks are set differently. The nose of European bison is positioned additionally forward than American bison on the forehead when the neck is in an unbiased position. 

Wisent has less hair, though it has more hair on its tail than the American bison. European bison have horns pointing forward of their faces, making them more proficient for fighting and interlocking horns. Whereas American bison favors charging forward. 

European bison is a bit shaggy, with a slender body shape. In behavioral capability, they also run slower. They have less stamina but can jump longer and higher than American bison, which shows indications of developed adaptions to mountainous habitats.

Also Check Our Guide On Bison In America

Are Bisons Friendly To Humans?

Bison are not friendly to humans. They might approach you as if they are curious and are conditioned to see humans. But this does not mean they are affectionate. Never, sidle up near them to grab a selfie.

Also, do not touch their body or horns. This is because they do not like it and you can get into a fight with a bison, they will win. Unless you fire it, which you must not. It is best just to look at them from a distance.

Also Check Bison In Yellowstone


And that was everything you need to know about the bison in Europe. I hope this article was informative and your queries were answered.

Thank You For reading!

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