Bison Mating Habits
As many have seen in social media or photos, bison are herd animals who stand up for their family and look to continue growing their pack. In order to grow their pack quickly, bison are polygynous and every year bison come together to mate. Mating differs in most farms from the wild as there are more bison and herds than in a typical farm. For instance, at JJ Bison, we have 1 herd and there is only 1 male within that group that mates with the rest of the females. This promotes good behavior from the males and avoids overall aggression. For the same reason, many other bison farmers we know also choose this practice of one male per herd. However, in the wild bison and their mating rituals are completely different. Regardless of the environment bison are raised in, they are biologically inclined to want to grow their pack.
Unlike other animals such as wolves, in most larger packs, bison are divided into different herds with the males and females separated. Due to the separation, in the summer the males will temporarily join the females in order to pursue a mate with the goal of conceiving a calf. These bison will find each other by communication via their body language, snorting, and general smell. When bison are in heat, they produce more pheromones that attract their fellow bison. First, the male will start courting the female by sniffing her before rolling around in the dirt, or wallowing, to cause the dust to stir around the herd. If another male does attempt to make a move on the female that is currently being courted, the male bull will fight the other potential suitors to protect her. After the bison have mated, potentially several times, the bison again separate.
Just as in humans, female and male bulls also look for certain qualities in their males. Female bison do look for larger males in order to have strong offspring. The female will only mate with 1 bull in hopes of conceiving a calf. Males, however, will mate with more than one female in order to successfully expand the herd. Mating with several animals is often referred to as polygyny and is common in most mammals. Overall, the goal is to have a large number of strong offspring.
After the mating season ends in summer, the hope is that the females are pregnant in the fall and give birth in early spring. By being born in early spring, young bison are able to avoid the colder winter months where the snow may tower over them before they grow their large muscles to move aside the snow. By having the mating season every summer, bison are ultimately ensuring their species continues to grow.
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