Sunday, August 16, 2009
The wisent (Bison bonasus), also known as the European bison, is a species of Eurasian bison. It is the heaviest surviving land animal in Europe; a typical wisent is about 3 m (10 ft) long and 1.8 to 2.2 m (6 to 7 ft) tall, and weighs 300 to 920 kg (660 to 2,000 lb). It is typically lighter than the related American Bison (Bison bison), and has shorter hair on the neck, head and forequarters, but longer tail and horns. Wisent are now forest-dwelling. They have few predators (besides humans) with only scattered reports from the 1800s of wolf and bear predation. It is not to be confused with the aurochs, the extinct ancestor of domestic cattle.
In 1996 the IUCN classified the wisent as an endangered species. It has since been downgraded to a vulnerable species. In the past it was commonly killed to produce hides and drinking horns, especially during the Middle Ages.