The LARGEST Mammal in North America

“Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam…” Humming “Home on the Range,” you might picture tail-swishing herds of buffalo grazing on the plains of the American West. But buffalo don’t actually live in North America! You’re imagining bison—or, to use its scientific name, the bison bison.

True buffalo, the bison’s distant relatives, live across the ocean in Europe and Africa. But most bison probably won’t mind if you call them buffalo—people have been calling them that for hundreds of years.

The bison’s childhood nickname is maybe even more confusing! While a “red dog” might sound like a good friend for Fido, it’s actually a baby bison. Its red-orange coat deepens into a dark brown by the time it’s two or three months old.

Growing up also includes gaining some weight—hundreds of pounds! While a red dog typically weighs 30 to 70 pounds, an adult bison can weigh up to a thousand pounds, making it the largest mammal in North America.

You’d think an animal that big might want to eat you, but the bison’s favorite snacks are leafy greens and grasses. They can spend nine to eleven hours per day just grazing. That’s a long mealtime! While bison enjoy munching on new shoots of grass in the spring, finding food is more difficult in winter when their meals are covered in inches and inches of snow.

But God gave bison a shoulder hump that allows them to swing their heads from side to side like a natural snow shovel. With the extra help of their hooves, they can dig deep below the ice to reach their food.

While we don’t often have to push snow off our meals, we do face challenges as we look for spiritual food. Spending time praying and reading God’s Word—both on our own and with other Christians—nourishes us in our walk with Jesus, but fear, frustration, and even laziness can prevent us from filling up on His goodness.

Thankfully, God gives us something even better than a shoulder hump to clear away obstacles—the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). With His help, we can confront sin and fear and dig into God’s truth. 

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