Hybrid European Bison or Wisent
HISTORY AND STATUS OF WISENT IN NORTH AMERICA:
Back around 2000 there were a handful of pure European Bison imported into Canada from Poland to the Winnipeg Zoo, and some imported to the San Diego Zoo. The Zoos found out that, in captivity and in nature, the European Bison reproduce very slowly, and have a high death rate of offspring, and this problem was compounded even further with such a small genetic diversity to work with. They found they were extremely athletic, and standard 5' high bison fences were not enough to contain these animals. So the animals were removed from being display animals and put on a farm. Over the years that followed (deliberate or accidental) some hybridization with plains bison happened. I acquired 25 animals from the Zoo, with six offspring born to these original registered imported animals. I have been raising Wisent since 2015.
A very heavy culling of all hybrid females and males for meat followed over the years and breeding of only the pure animals and hybrid animals that displayed the best European Bison genetics were bred. This project hit another road block in 2020, as "to the best of my knowledge", in 2020, the last of the European bison in the USA were slaughtered, so no new pure bloodlines being possible. With only a few pure animals in my herd, and most of my herd now approaching 75% European Bison, each years calf crop is getting a better and better "look" of European Bison. That said, the vast majority of my herd is Hybrid animals, and can not be entered in the SCI Record Book. I will do my best to hold on to the last of North Americans Wisent lines....
ABOUT THE EUROPEAN BISON:
The European bison also known as the Wisent, is a forest dwelling bison, and love conifer and spruce forest habitat, so they thrive in mixed type forests like we have here at Silvertine.
European bison browse more, and graze less than their American relatives, due to their necks being set differently, and them evolving in a forested environment of northern Europe and Russia. I have raised the American Bison as well in the past, and have noticed the European Bison do better and utilize poor pastures with more bush and low brush than their American cousins. From my experience the European Bison utilize around 30-40% of their diet from browsing compared to the 5% maybe of the American Bison.
The European Bison, occurs in the Bialowieza Forest area in Poland and Belarus. At one point the European Bison was endangered and did not live in the wild anymore due to habitat displacement (Agricultural and Logging Practices), WW2 soldiers harvesting the animals for food, and settlers needing to harvest the Bison to feed their families. The European Bison is a success story of a species that can be brought to the edge of extinction, and threw the great efforts of a few, it has been brought back for us to enjoy. No longer on the endangered species list they estimate that the world population both wild and ranched is around 3000 plus animals.
The European bison is the largest land mammal in Europe, older mature bulls weigh up to 1800lbs and stand 6 - 6.5 feet at the shoulder. They are built much different than the American Bison because they evolved as a browser in the forest more so than a grazer. They have longer legs and tail, shorter hair and their horns point more forward like domestic cattle than up like the American Bison. The meat tastes exactly the same as American Bison in flavor and texture.