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|Image Info||Original File Name: Wisent or European Bison (Bison bonasus).jpg Resolution: 1000x642 File Size: 832331 Bytes Date: 2007:04:18 09:13:22 Upload Time: 2007:09:23 23:03:42|
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|Subject||Wisent or European Bison (Bison bonasus) - Wiki|
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Wisent or European Bison (Bison bonasus) - Wiki
The Wisent or European Bison (Bison bonasus) is a bison species and the heaviest land animal in Europe. A typical wisent is about 2.9 m (9.5 ft) long and 1.8???2 m (5.9???6.5 ft) tall, and weighs 300???920 kg (660???2000 lb). It is typically smaller than the related American bison (B. bison), and has shorter hair on the neck, head, and forequarters, but longer tail and horns. Wisents are forest-dwelling. They have few predators with only scattered reports from the 1800s of wolf and bear predation (besides humans). Wisents were first scientifically described by Carolus Linnaeus in 1758. Some later descriptions treat the wisent as conspecific with the American bison. It is not to be confused with the aurochs.
The species is now endangered. In the past they were commonly killed to produce hides and drinking horns, especially during the Middle Ages.
About 2000 years ago wisents lived in most of Europe - from Britain in the west to Siberia in the east, from Spain in the south to Sweden in the north. Wisents lived not only in the forests but also roamed the grasslands of Europe.
In Western Europe, wisent were extinct by the 11th century except in the Ardennes, where they lasted into the 14th century. The last wisent in Transylvania died in 1790.
In the east, wisent were legally the property of the Polish kings, Lithuanian grand dukes and Russian czars. King Sigismund the Old of Poland instituted the death penalty for poaching a wisent in the mid-1500s. Despite these and other measures, the wisent population continued to decline over the following four centuries. The last wild wisent in Poland was killed in 1919 and the last wild wisent in the world was killed by poachers 1927 in the Western Caucasus. By that year fewer than 50 remained, all in zoos.
Wisents were re-introduced successfully into the wild beginning in 1951. They are found living free-ranging in forest preserves like Western Caucasus in Russia and Białowie??a Forest in Poland and Belarus. Unfortunately, this forest is divided by a security fence separating Belarus from Poland. The wisent on either side of this barrier are genetically isolated from each other. Free-ranging herds are found in Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Latvia, Kyrgyzstan and since 2006 in Moldova. There are plans to re-introduce two herds in northern Germany. Zoos in 30 countries also have quite a few animals. There were 3000 individuals as of 2000, all descended from only 12 individuals. Because of their limited genetic pool, they are considered highly vulnerable to diseases like foot and mouth disease.
Wisents are now found in the 30km exclusion zone around Chernobyl. As with other animals, it seems that the benefits of removing people from the zone have far outweighed any harm from radiation.
In 1996 the IUCN classified the wisent as endangered.
Wisent have lived as long as 28 years in captivity although in the wild their lifespan is shorter. Productive breeding years are between 4 and 20 years old in females and only between 6 and 12 years old in males. Wisent occupy home ranges of as much as 100 square kilometers and some herds are found to prefer meadows and open areas in forests.
Wisent can cross-breed with American Bison. The products of a German interbreeding program were destroyed after World War II. This program was related to the impulse which created the Heck cattle. The cross-bred individuals created at other zoos were eliminated from breed books by the 1950s. A Russian back-breeding program resulted in a wild herd of hybrid animals which presently lives in the Caucasian Biosphere Reserve (550 individuals in 1999).
There are also bison-wisent-cattle hybrids. In 1847 a herd of wisent-cattle hybrids named ??ubro?? was created by Leopold Walicki. The animal was to become a durable and cheap alternative to cattle. The experiment was continued by researchers from the Polish Academy of Sciences until the late 1980s. Although the program resulted in a quite successful animal that was both hardy and could be bred in marginal grazing lands, it was eventually discontinued. Currently the only surviving ??ubro?? herd consists of just a few animals in Białowie??a Forest, Poland.
Three sub-species have been identified:
Lowland wisent - Bison bonasus bonasus (Linnaeus, 1758) ??? (from Białowie??a Forest)
Hungarian (Carpathian) wisent - Bison bonasus hungarorum - extinct
Caucasus wisent - Bison bonasus caucasicus - extinct, although one individual, a bull named Kaukasus was one of the 12 founders of the modern herds
The modern herds are managed as two separate lines - one consisting of only Bison bonasus bonasus (all descended from only 7 animals) and one consisting of all 12 ancestors including the one Bison bonasus caucasicus bull. Only a limited amount of inbreeding depression from the population bottleneck has been found, having a small effect on skeletal growth in cows and a small rise in calf mortality. Genetic variability continues to shrink. From 5 initial bulls, all current wisent bulls have one of only two remaining Y chromosomes.
The wisent (or Zubr in Slavic languages) is the largest wild animal in Belarus, and it is a national symbol of Belarus today.
A wisent (zimbru or bour in Romanian) head (sometimes identified with an aurochs) featured on Moldavia's state symbols, as well as in the Romanian national court of arms, a depiction connected with the legend of the foundation of the Moldovan voievody.
The first Romanian stamp called "Cap de Bour" issued in 1858 features a wisent's in head.
Zimbru is also the name of the biggest football club in Moldova Republic.
??ubr??wka Polish vodka is indirectly named after this animal (??ubr in Polish). Each bottle contains a stalk of "bison grass", which produces a slightly yellowish colour and a distinctive flavour.
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