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What Is The Difference Between Cattle, Bison, Buffalo, And Yak? (In-Depth)

What Is The Difference Between Cattle, Bison, Buffalo, And Yak? (In-Depth)

Among the largest and heaviest wild animals, bison, buffalo, and yak top the list. They all have almost the same appearance, weight, and diet, though one of the major things that differentiate them is their genus. 

Let’s discover what else sets them apart.

The attribute that helps you recognize bison is their massive hump. The yak also shares this similarity with the bison, but his hump isn’t as massive as the bison’s. On the other hand, buffaloes have plain shoulders with no hump.

Another difference between bison and buffalo is their horns’ size and unique shape, and so the list goes on. 

While cattle (cows) are domesticated bovine mammals, they are most commonly used for their dairy products. Cattle are used to transport people and goods and are raised for meat, leather, and other byproducts.

So, if you’re interested in learning more about yak, cattle, buffalo, and bison, keep reading. Without any delay, let’s dive into it!

What Type Of Animals Are Cattle?

“Cattle” is a common generic term for all milk- and meat-producing species.

They are one of the most important animals for farmers in the world. Interestingly, humans rely on them for protein and nutrition. Except for Antarctica, they are found on almost every continent.

A team consisting of UCL and other universities discovered that the cattle alive today are descended from only 80 animals.

There are three categories into which cattle are divided:

  • Domestic cattle breeds
  • Other domestic bovids (yak and bison)
  • Wild cattle (yak and bison) 
Beef Steak

Bison and yak fall into both the other domestic bovids and wild cattle categories.

Cattle can be further divided into dairy cattle, beef cattle, and non-mutton (cow) cattle.

  • Dairy cattle are those used for milk production.
  • Beef cattle produce meat for human consumption.
  • Non-mutton cattle are used in other ways (for example, leather).

Where Do Cattles Live?

Cattle can be kept in pastures or on ranches. Pastures allow the animals to graze on grasses, while ranches allow them to roam around freely without being tethered by a lead rope.

A ranch is also commonly referred to as a “cow camp” or “cow-calf operation” when it involves raising young calves that will eventually be sold as replacement cows or bulls once they reach maturity at around two years of age.


Bison is one of the most prominent members of the domesticated bovids and wild cattle species. This species lives in herds of up to 1,000 animals and can weigh up to 2,000 pounds.

They can be found in the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. Bison have been hunted for centuries because they were thought to be a major threat to farms and ranches.  

Is Bison a Cow Or Buffalo?
A Bison

There are many places around the world where you can find it, including North America. Other places where you can find them are Europe and Asia. Since they’re herbivores, their diet includes plants and grasses. You can also feed them roots, berries, and seeds. 

Another interesting fact about bison is that they can tolerate both hot and cold weather. 

How Many Real Bison Are Alive?

The number of bison from 60 million has decreased to 400,000. A great population of bison has been killed since the 1830s.

Nowadays, less than half of the bison population doesn’t survive the severity of the cold in Yellowstone. 

Learn how 60 million bison became 1000 in a century


Buffaloes and cows are most commonly found domestic animals in the areas of South Asia and the African continent. Buffaloes are relatively small compared to bison.

Buffaloes belong to the genus Bubalus. They are the primary milk production source. A buffalo gives more milk as compared to a cow. Apart from milk, buffaloes are also a source of meat and leather.

Buffaloes are relatively easy to breed and commonly have a large population. South Asia has agricultural countries; therefore, buffaloes and cows are also used in farming there.

They can range from 300 to 550 kg. Buffaloes are usually found in grey or charcoal colors, whereas cows are usually brown, white, or a mix of patches of black, white, and brown.

Can a Hindu Eat Buffalo Meat?

The beliefs of the Hindu religion prevent the followers of the religion from eating buffalo (beef) meat. The Hindu population living in India considers cows and buffalo sacred animals. 

Other communities, such as Muslims, have no religious boundaries, and they’re allowed to eat beef. Unfortunately, the Indian-Muslim community has been subjected to violence multiple times upon consuming beef meat. 

It’s worth mentioning that India is one of the largest sellers of beef meat. In 2021, India was the 6th largest exporter of beef.


Yak is a domesticated animal that was tamed and used as a means of transportation, food, and clothing by nomadic tribes in regions of Asia.

Yak has been a popular choice for farmers since ancient times for its strength and ability to survive harsh conditions on the steppes of central Asia.

Yaks have short, coarse hair that is used to make woolen fabrics. They also have long eyelashes that protect their eyes from blowing sand while they graze in the desert.

Since they don’t sweat like other animals, yaks are well suited to hot climates.

Yaks are among the most prominent members of the genus Bos

Yak milk is very nutritious and rich in protein, calcium, and fat. The milk can also be used to make yogurt and cheese. Its meat has a strong taste similar to beef, but it is much cheaper than beef because it takes less time to raise a yak than it does to raise cattle.

What kind of animal is Yak?
Domestic Yak

Is Yak Friendly to Humans? 

Yak is only friendly to those with whom they’re familiar.

Humans and yak have lived in a friendly partnership for centuries. Though you should be aware of female yak. They are most likely to attack when they feel unprotected for their kids. 

Yak vs. Bison vs. Buffalo 

Average Weight350-600 kg (domesticated)460-990 kg (American Bison)300-550 kg
Domesticated inTibetCentral North America South Asia and Africa
Alive Population Below 10,000Approximately 500,000Around 800,000-900,000
Used For Riding, milk, meat, and clothing Riding, milk, meat, and clothing Farming, milk, meat, and clothing 
Differences Between Yak, Bison, and Buffalo

Final Words 

  • Cows are considered cattle. Moreover, cows and yak belong to the same genus, bos.  
  • Bison belong to the bison genus while buffalo belong to the babulas genus.
  • Humans depend on these animals from an early age in life. These animals are considered one of the main resources of nutrients due to their contribution to making cheese and milk-related products.
  • Yak, bison, and buffalo are the primary red meat sources in the world.

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