American Bison and Their Impressive Sense Of Smell

Bison are large and hairy creatures wandering the plains of North America. Despite their large size, they can move at astonishing speeds and can easily outrun a human. Unfortunately, they are not gifted with good eyesight. 

But, thankfully for the bison, their good sense of smell compensates for their poor vision! With their commendable faculty of smell, a bison can easily distinguish another animal’s smell from 1.9 miles. That skill helps them sense predators from afar and stay safe. 

Are you still curious and want to know more about the bison’s sense of smell? Then, keep reading as Floofmania shares everything you need to know about the bison’s smelling behavior! 

Bison standing on a green field with grasses and herbs.

Do Bison Have A Good Sense Of Smell?

According to the Smithsonian National Zoo, bison have a very good sense of smell! Like other animals, this great sense of smell helps bison detect the presence of their predators. We will talk more about what bison use their noses for in the next paragraphs! 

How Far Can A Bison Smell?

As mentioned, bison can smell as far as 1.9 miles! That’s a lot further compared to humans who, according to some, can only smell as far as 11 feet! The bison’s long-distance smelling skill allows them to distinguish another scent (whether be it from other bison, animals, or humans) from a distance, which helps them stay safe.

What Do Bison Use Their Noses For?

A bison’s great sense of smell has many functions, so let’s look at them one-by-one! 

One of the most important uses of their noses is to detect dangers from potential threats. Since every animal has their own distinctive scent, a bison can distinguish whether they smell a scent from a potential predator. 

In addition, bison also use their sense of smell to communicate with other bison.  For example, during the rut season, bison communicate by detecting pheromones. A bison will sniff the air to see if any other bison are available for mating! This behavior is also called the “Flehmen response“. 

Isn’t that amazing? You can also take a look at this post from National Buffalo Museum to see a photo of a bison sniffing another bison: 

(See their Facebook post)

With these uses, it is evident how a bison’s sense of smell is one of their most important senses. 

How Is The Bison’s Sense Of Smell Adapted For Its Environment?

Aside from having a great sense of hearing, a bison’s sense of smell also helps them survive in its environment. But, how? 

The prairies are composed of many threats such as human hunters or other wild animals. So, a bison’s sense of smell helps them adapt and respond better to those threats. 

For example, a bison can easily detect a predator planning to attack from miles ahead! They can do this by noticing whether a new scent entered their surroundings.  It is like having additional leverage against predators.

How Important Is The Sense Of Smell For The Bison?

As we previously discussed, a bison’s sense of smell is extra important given that it compensates for their poor eyesight

Plus, their long-distance smelling ability gives them an advantage in defending themselves against predators. 

They also use their sense of smell to communicate during mating season. Now, it is really clear how without this feature, a bison will have a hard time surviving in the prairies. 

Bison standing among short, dry bushes with other bison in the background lying down.

Want To Know More About Bison? Check These Other Floofmania Articles About Them! 

Author: Kaye

Hi, I’m Kaye! Since an early age, I’ve been fascinated with animals. While growing up, I was constantly watching animal programs and reading magazines. I started writing about animals in 2021 when I volunteered to be a publicity officer in a nonprofit organization that advocates for giving stray animals a better life.

Author: Mitzie C

Mitzie is a writer and animal welfare advocate. Her writing is inspired by her love for her rescue cats, Eddy and Dylan, and her rescue dogs, Cypher, Daegu and Holly. Follow her journey as she discovers her unique voice here in Floofmania and shares her insights on the importance of the animal kingdom.

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