Bison Antiquus
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Bison Antiquus. Source from:

Scientific Classification

B. antiquus

Labeled diagram of Bison Antiquus

Figure 1: Diagram of Bison Antiquus. Source from:

Bison Antiquus, the direct ancestor of the modern American Bison, originally came from Asia approximately 200,000 years ago during the ice age. Antiquus is the latin meaning old or ancient, to describe this type of bison had extinct long time ago. The Bison Anitquus was bigger in size than the modern American Bison, with the height of around 2 meters, 15.6 feet body length, weighed approximately 5,000 lbs and had a horn span of about 1 meter. The ancient bison doubled the size of the modern American Bison, though their behavior is similar. However, the Bison Antiquus had much longer and thicker fur since the winter seasons 200,000 years ago were way colder than the ones today in North America, considering it is still very cold in North America today during winter with the temperature being -20 degrees Celsius only.
Figure 2: Land Bridge between Asia and Alaska. Source from:

Bison Antiquus had the similar habitat to that of the modern American Bison. These animals have crossed the land bridge between Asia and Alaska where the Bearing Strait is today. They lived on open woodlands and savannas ranged from North America, mainly in Southwestern United Sates, all the way to Canada, Mexico and Central America. They shared the same habitat with horses, camels, giant ground sloths and mammoths. The ancient bison were more of a grazer, some also browsed. Unlike the American Bison that has not much fear to their predators when traveling in herds, the Bison Antiquus had to face predators like the extinct Saber Tooth cat, African Lion and Dire Wolves which were much more violent.

Figure 3: Environment that the Bison Antiquus once lived in. Source from:

These ancient bison mostly fed on grass, similar to the modern American Bison. They live in herds to travel through the plains of North America. The weather back then was much colder than it is today in North America. Many new born or older bison did not make it through the harsh winter. The Bison Antiquus walked in a single file through the snow and had eaten the snow for water supply. It was difficult to seek for food during winter, but the bison had used their large head to push away the snow and ate the grass from the bottom. Some ancient bison ate leafs from trees around the height of their eye level.

Figure 4: Native American hunting Bison Antiquus. Source from:

Although the natural predators hunted down many of the Bison Antiquus, the biggest predator of these ancient bison was human. Native Americans hunted down the Bison Antiquus during Ice Age for their skin to build shelter, blankets, and clothing and used their horns and bones for tools. The flesh of the Bison Antiquus was also the main source of food supply for the Native Americans during the Ice Age. In the 1500's, the number of horses quickly multiplied after the Spanish had introduced them into North America. The Native Americans rode on the horses and followed the ancient bison as they migrated.

During late 1800's, the Anglo-Americans were slaughtering the Bison Antiquus by millions. Many of these bison were slaughtered just for their tongues and hides, then these dead bison were left to rot on the open plains. Another practice of slaughtering Bison Antiquus included for entertainment. The Kansas and Pacific Railroad promoted the slaughtering of bison, just for 10 dollars, you were provided a coach and a machine gun and people could shoot at the herds of bison until the ammos ran out. By the end of 1885, only 500 bison were left.

Structural Adaptation

1. Large horns - The Bison Antiquus had larger and stronger horns compared to the modern bison. The horn span was about 1 to 2 meters depended on each bison. Since the Bison Antiquus were herbivores, they did not use their horns for attacking preys. The main purpose for their horns was for protection from predators. Bison Antiquus had used more of their horns than any other bison of different genus. During mating seasons, the male bison fought head to head using their horns with the motion of twisting and pushing, these activities rarely resulted with serious injuries or deaths. However, these horns can also be deadly with the momentum from running at a high speed, which can leave a deep wound onto their predators. The environmental pressure that forced the ancient bison to develop such large horns was their natural predators. Those predators were way more violent than the ones existing today, with animals like Saber Tooth Cats and African Lions, it was really important to have a better weapon to deal with these predators.

Behavioral Adaptation
Figure 5: Bison Antiquus grazing in herds. Source from:,%20136-CMC%20image%20of%20ancient%20bison.jpg

1. Bison Antiquus move continuously in herds - The Bison Antiquus was constantly on the move. They walked couple of miles each day in herds to find new grasslands for food. Interestingly, these bison were very considerate, they moved continuously in herds to new plains to avoid overgrazing the area, leaving some of the vegetation behind without clearing every single inch of the grass. This behavior was similar to that of the Water Buffalo. Moving into new areas was also for finding new source of food, since these bison travel in herds of 50 - 60, they can't possibly stay in the same grass patch for too long as they would finish off all the grass very quickly. The Bison Antiquus had to move into new areas to find food to prevent overgrazing the area. The environmental pressure was the limited food provided in each area, which the bison had to constantly move from plains to plains for more grass to eat. Also, the bison live in herds, this also forced them to move into new land before the grass were all eaten by the bison.

2. Calves born in warmer time of the year - The Bison Antiquus's calves were born during warmer times of the year. This was because the food were in better condition with better nutrients and quantity and the weather was not as harsh during warmer climates. The new born bison could not take the extreme temperature during winter; most of them had not developed fur to keep their body at a warm temperature like the adult bison could. If these bison were to be born during winter, most of them would not make it through to spring. Another reason for these calves to be born in warmer time of the year was because of the food. During warmer climate, more vegetation would grow, therefore providing more food for these new born bison. Whilst during snowing seasons, the vegetation would be covered in snow, made it really difficult for the little bison to seek for food. The environmental pressure was the cold climate; the calves could not survive extreme temperature of the winter, so it forced the cows to give birth during warmer time of the year. Also, more food was for the calves to eat during warmer seasons than colder seasons.

Physiological Adaptation

Figure 6: Bison Antiquus during winter. Source from:

1. Slow down metabolism during winter - During winter, the Bison Antiquus would slow down their metabolism by 25% of its summer rate to save up the energy needed. Since most of the vegetation was covered by snow during winter, the Bison Antiquus had less to eat; therefore they needed to slow down their metabolism to conserve the energy. When the bison slow down their metabolism, they did not have to intake as much food since less energy are needed, this certainly helped the animal to overcome harsh cold seasons when limited vegetation were seen during winter. The environmental pressure was the extreme weather in North America, with the temperature of minus 20 degrees Celsius, forced the bison to overcome the cold by slowing down their metabolism when less food were found during winter. The Bison Antiquus were constantly on the move, which meant they would not hibernate like mammals; this left the only option of storing fat inside their body by slowly down their metabolism to overcome the coldness.

Extinction Pressure

The Bison Antiquus was the direct extinct animal of the modern American Bison. These
Figure 7: Pile of Bison Antiquus skills. Source from:,_ca1870.png/220px-Bison_skull_pile,_ca1870.png
animals once roamed the whole North America and Mexico, but by the late 1800's there were only few hundred Bison Antiquus left due to human slaughtering. The Native Americans slaughtered the bison for many purposes. For example for food, shelter, clothing and religious purposes etc. However, not until the late 1800's when bison slaughtering was so popular, the numbers of bison reduced significantly from millions to hundreds. At this stage, the Bison Antiquus were evolving into more of like the modern American Bison. Towards the mid 1990's, when people finally rose awareness to the loss of this animal, the numbers of bison rose rapidly, and today, there are more than 350,000 are grazing the grass in North America and the ancient bison are now evolved into American Bison.

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