Bison Vs Yak

Bison Vs Yak: A Comparative Study

Bison and yak are two of the most iconic large animals of the northern hemisphere, known for their strength, agility, and their ability to survive in diverse ecosystems. While bison has been a part of the North American landscape for thousands of years, yaks are native to the high-altitude regions of Central Asia, ranging from Tibet to Mongolia. Although the two species may appear similar at first glance, there are some key differences between them that set them apart. In this article, we will take a closer look at bison vs yak, their features, habitat, diet, and behavior, and see how they stack up against each other.

Physical Features

Bison are large, sturdy beasts that can weigh up to 2,000 pounds in males, and 1,000 pounds in females. Their coat coloration varies from dark chocolate brown to light tan during the summer, but in winter, their coats are long and shaggy, enabling them to survive in extreme cold. They have a broad, muscular hump on their shoulders, which is supported by strong forelimbs. Their powerful neck, head, and horns make them formidable opponents in any fight. They have short, curved horns that they use for fighting against other bulls during the breeding season. They have distinctive “beards” of long hair under their chins, which help them to remain warm in severe winters.

On the other hand, yaks are smaller and more nimble than bison. They have long, shaggy coats that can vary in color from dark brown to black, grey, and white. Their bodies are covered with long, course hair, which provides insulation against harsh winter weather. One of the most striking features of yaks is their prominent humps, which are located behind their heads, and also their curving horns, which point upwards and backward. Yaks have a distinctive face, with a broad forehead and short snout. They are well adapted to life in high-altitude regions, where oxygen levels are low and temperatures are extreme.


Bison are typically found in grasslands, open meadows, and prairies, where they graze on prairie grasses and wildflowers. Their range once extended across the Great Plains of North America, from Canada to Mexico, but overhunting and habitat loss have significantly reduced their numbers. However, conservation efforts have successfully restored bison populations in some areas, such as Yellowstone National Park and some ranches in the American West.

Yaks, on the other hand, are native to the high-altitude regions of Tibet, China, Mongolia, Bhutan, and Nepal. They are adapted to life in harsh, cold climates, where temperatures can drop to -40 degrees Celsius. Yaks have well-developed lungs, kidneys, and circulatory systems, which allows them to thrive at high altitudes. They graze on thick mountain grasses and herbs, and can happily survive on sparse vegetation where other animals can’t.


Both bison and yaks are herbivores, surviving on a diet of grasses and plants. Bison prefer to graze on fresh grasses while they are still green but can also feed on dry grass during droughts. They are also known to consume sagebrush and wildflowers if other food sources are scarce. Yaks are adapted to high-altitude grazing, and their primary diet is pasture grasses, herbs, and leaves. They can also eat lichens and moss, which are found in rocky mountain regions.


Bison are social animals and live in herds, frequently made up of females and their offspring. Mature male bison are solitary and only join the herd during the breeding season. Bison are known for their aggressive behavior, charging at predators or intruders to protect themselves and their young. They are also known to wallow in mud or dusty areas, which helps them to regulate their body temperature and protect them from biting insects.

Yaks, on the other hand, live in large groups, with females forming the core of the herd. Male yaks, known as bulls, lead solitary lives or roam in small groups. Yaks are known for their calm and gentle temperament, rarely attacking humans or other animals unless threatened. They can survive extreme weather conditions by huddling together and sharing body heat.


Q. Are bison and yaks related?

A. Yes, they belong to the same animal family, Bovidae, which includes antelopes, goats, and sheep.

Q. Can you domesticate bison and yaks?

A. Yes, both bison and yaks can be domesticated and used for meat, milk, and fiber production.

Q. What is the difference between a bison and a buffalo?

A. Bison and buffalo are not the same animal. “Buffalo” is a catch-all term used to describe several species of bovine, including African and Asian buffalo. Bison is exclusively found in North America.

Q. How do bison and yaks cope with extreme weather?

A. Both bison and yaks have developed adaptations that enable them to cope with harsh winter weather. Their thick, shaggy coats provide insulation, while their ability to huddle together helps to conserve body heat. Bison also roll around in muddy or dusty areas, which acts as a natural insect repellent and helps to regulate temperature.


In conclusion, bison and yaks are two magnificent animals that have adapted to different environments and developed unique features to cope with extreme weather conditions. Bison are iconic animals of the American West, known for their immense strength, agility, and aggressive behavior, while yaks are a symbol of the high-altitude regions of Central Asia, known for their calm temperament, and hardiness. In terms of comparison, both animals are impressive in their unique way, and it’s hard to say which one is better than the other. Nonetheless, they are both vital components of their ecosystems, and their survival is important for the health of our planet.