American bison

plural American bison

Definition of American bison

: a large North American bison (Bison bison) that has a dense coat of dark brown fur with a shaggy mane on the head and lower neck, short hollow horns, and heavy forequarters with a large muscular hump over the shoulders and that formerly was abundant in North America but is now reduced to small populations of plains and prairies chiefly of the central U.S. and Canada : buffalo sense 1c(1)

Note: The American bison is the largest terrestrial mammal in North America with males usually weighing about 2000 pounds (907 kilograms) and reaching a height of 6 to 6.5 feet (1.8 to 2 meters) at the shoulders and a length of 10 to 12.5 feet (3 to 3.8 meters). The American bison is comprised of two subspecies, the plains bison (Bison bison bison) of the central U.S. and southern Canada and the slightly larger wood bison (B. b. athabascae) of northern Canada.

First Known Use of American bison

1763, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About American bison

Time Traveler for American bison

Time Traveler

The first known use of American bison was in 1763

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near American bison

American beech

American bison

American bittern

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for American bison

Cite this Entry

“American bison.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon
Seen & Heard
People are talking about


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!