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Bison once ranged across the Great Plains of North America in vast herds – early eighteenth century explorers described them as 'innumerable' – and at the beginning of the nineteenth century they numbered in the tens of millions. However, during the next century or so humans were responsible for the bison's near extinction in North America, slaughtering an estimated 50 million for their meat, pelts and fur, reducing the bison population to less than a thousand by 1890. Hunting of bison became so prevalent that travellers on longhaul trips in the Midwest would shoot them from their trains. Notable developments have been made in recent years to revive the decimated bison population of North America: farming of bison has increased their population to nearly 150 000, and the American bison is no longer considered an endangered species.
In Bison renowned zoologist Desmond Morris explores the animal's evolution and habitat, from their first evidence in fossil records 2 million years ago to today. He reveals the different sides to its personality – bison are extremely unpredictable and, while they normally appear lazy and calm, can attack at any moment – and describes the important differences between the European wisent and American bison, the only two species now surviving. Bison also discusses depictions of the bison in art, from early painting to contemporary metal sculpture. This vibrantly illustrated book will appeal to anyone curious about the natural and cultural history of this iconic creature.
Desmond Morris is a world-renowned zoologist and the author of many best-selling books on human and animal behaviour. He is the author of Leopard (2013), Monkey (2013) and Owl (2009) in Reaktion's Animal series.