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611 illustration

European bison

Bison bonasus

The European bison is the largest mammal in Belarus. It measures up to 3.5 metres long and up to 2 metres tall. Males can weigh up to 1,000 kilograms. The bison's tail is covered with long hair, unlike domestic cattle, which have hair only at the end of the tail. Bison have massive heads, beards, and small, upward-curving horns. Their fur is reddish brown in summer and dark brown in winter. They are able to jump barriers of up to 2 metres. Bison have cloven hooves and their tracks resemble those of cows.

There are populations of bison living in the wild in only a few European countries, and Poland and Belarus are home to the highest numbers. Although European bison were hunted to extinction in the wild, they were reintroduced in Belarus from captivity and now live in seven different areas. The largest populations are found in Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, the Naliboki Forest, Pripyatsky National Park, the Palessie Nature Reserve, and the Oziory conservation area near Grodno. Bison live in deciduous forests and forage in clearings and at the edges of the forest.

Bison form herds of up to 15, although old bulls tend to be solitary. Bison are active in the evenings and at night. They feed on grass, twigs, tree bark and bushes. The breeding season is in late summer, when rival males fight for supremacy. Females give birth to a single calf in early summer.

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