Moose vs Bison: What Are the Differences?

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: December 15, 2022
© iStock.com/RONSAN4D
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Imagine you’re driving in the northern reaches of North America, and you look off into the distance and see a large, hulking brown creature walk across the road. Its legs are taller than your car and it has a set of antlers that are wider than you are tall. Was that a moose or a bison? These iconic creatures are sometimes confused for one another, but we’re here today to show you the differences between a moose vs bison. Take a look at how to differentiate between these beautiful, massive animals.

Comparing a Moose and a Bison

Moose vs Bison
Bison and moose are two of the largest land animals in North America

©A-Z-Animals.com

MooseBison
SizeWeight: 600lbs-1,500lbs or more Height:  4.6ft-6.9ft at shoulder Length 7ft-10ftWeight: 2,200lbs-3,000lbs
Height: 5ft-6.5ft at the shoulder
Length: 6ft-9ft
Morphology– Large, angular shoulder hump
– Long, thin legs
Unique hump that grows on the back and looms far above its head
– Stocky, proportionate legs
Horns and AntlersMassive, elaborate antlers that demonstrate social rank
– Palmate antlers that can measure up to 6 feet across
Short, black horns that grow directly up from their head
Location– Far northern reaches of North America, Europe, and EurasiaExclusive to North America with some “cousins” in Europe
Fur Color and Length– Dark brown, uniform fur throughout their body– Dark brown fur, but it’s short on their back and lower mid-section, but long and shaggy over their hump, front legs, and face except for their nose
Social BehaviorTypically live alone unless it’s a mother raising young or mating timeLive in large herds, and some are managed by the government to increase the population                  

The 6 Key Differences Between Moose vs Bison

Bearded Animals
Bison are distinct from moose by their fur, horns, and size

©iStock.com/Jillian Cooper

The greatest differences between moose and bison are their size, morphology, and social behaviors. Bison are not as long or tall at the shoulder as moose, but they are much stockier and way a lot more. In some cases, a large bison can double the weight of a moose, weighing about as much as a sedan!

Moose have long, thin legs and a very angular shoulder hump that tapers off quickly. Bison have shorter legs that still allow them to reach high speeds and support their weight. Bison shoulder humps are larger, rise far above the bison’s head in terms of height, and taper off down the length of their backs.

Moose are not social creatures, and they’ll only be seen together with their children or during mating season. Bison are highly social creatures that live in vast herds with one another. These differences make it easy to tell them apart.

Moose vs Bison: Size

Bison are larger than moose in most measures. Moose top out at 1,500lbs but bison can weigh up to 3,000lbs or more. Moose can stand 6.9ft at the shoulder and grow to a length of 10ft, but bison can reach a total height of 11ft when counting their hump. Bison will also reach a length of about 9 feet! The largest bison on record weighed 3,800 pounds while the largest moose was “just” 1,808 pounds.

All in all, bison are stockier than moose, but they are thicker, heavier animals that are among the largest in North America.  

Moose vs Bison: Morphology

Moose Size Comparison - Moose in Field
Moose have a smaller hump than bison, and it quickly tapers off

©Michael Liggett/Shutterstock.com

Moose have longer, thinner legs than bison and a large hump that tapers off on their back rather quickly. Bison legs are shorter yet still powerful, allowing them to run up to 40 mph when charging.

Bison humps are very large, looming several feet above their heads and slowly tapering off down the length of their bodies. When comparing the two creatures in light of their differences, the hump will be a great point of comparison that will help you differentiate the animals.  

Moose vs Bison: Horns and Antlers

Moose have a massive rack of antlers while bison have short, black, upturned horns on their heads. The moose’s antlers are very unique, so spotting them is a surefire way to identify the animal.

Moose antlers are palmates, meaning they are the shape of open hands. These antlers do not have any gaps in them; they’re completely filled in but still pointy and sharp on the end. A moose uses their antlers to demonstrate their social rank and to fight other creatures, especially other moose.

The largest moose antlers can reach over 6ft in length since they grow outward from the moose’s head instead of directly upwards like other members of Cervidae, like deer. Also, moose shed their antlers, but bison don’t lose their horns.

Moose vs Bison: Location

American bison in the middle of the road
Bison can be found in areas with open, flat land while moose prefer the safety of forests

©iStock.com/IngerEriksen

Moose and bison live in North America, but bison’s range is far smaller throughout the world compared with moose. Bison live in North America and have relative species in eastern Europe. Moose live in North America, Europe, and Eurasia.

Both animals share a range, but their habitats are different. They both roam the colder, northern areas of the countries they inhabit. However, bison are herd animals that need large, open plains to travel. You’ll see bison in flatter areas, but moose tend to stick to arboreal forests and some sub-arctic tundra.

Moose vs Bison: Fur Color and Length

Bison and moose bot have dark brown fur and rarely depart from color except. Moose have short to medium-length fur that helps keep them warm in the cold winter weather and when they’re swimming.

Bison have short fur on their back and hindquarters. However, their fur becomes long and shaggy as it reaches their hump. The entire front half of a bison is covered in very long, shaggy, coarse fur except around their nose and mouths.

You could tell these animals apart by their fur alone.

Moose vs Bison: Social Behavior

Two wood bison bulls fighting each other in the snow.
Bison are herd animals, but moose are not

©massimofusaro/Shutterstock.com

Moose are not social creatures, but bison are very social animals. Moose only live with others when they are mating or when females are raising their young. Bison live in large herds with others and use that connectivity for protection, food sourcing, and procreation. Although bison were once terribly endangered, their population is recovering.

Bison and moose are two of the most iconic animals in North America. They’re very large, gorgeous creatures that can be seen in some of the most remote places. Although it might be tempting to get close to these mammals for a picture if you encounter them in the wild, the best idea is to give them a respectful distance instead.  

 


The Featured Image

What do moose eat
Bull moose (Alces alces) feeds on fall foliage (Dwarf Birch) in the Denali Nat'l Park, Alaska.
© iStock.com/RONSAN4D

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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer with 8 years of experience. I've written in a variety of niches such as video games, animals, and managed service providers. I graduated from Rowan University in 2014 with degrees in English and Education. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games, reading, and writing for fun.

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