"buffalo" is sometimes considered to be a
for this animal, as it is
only distantly related to either of the two "true buffalo", the Asian water buffalo and
African buffalo. However, "bison" is a Greek
word meaning ox-like animal, while "buffalo" originated with the French fur trappers who called these massive beasts bœufs, meaning ox or bullock—so both names, "bison" and "buffalo", have a similar meaning.
Though the name
"bison" might be considered more
scientifically correct, as a result of
standard usage the
"buffalo" is also considered correct
and is listed in many dictionaries as an
name for American buffalo or bison.
reference to this animal, the term "buffalo"
North American usage
when the term
was first recorded for the American mammal. It thus has a much longer history than
the term "bison",
which was first
recorded in 1774.
So why do we call
American bison “buffalo”? There is some speculation that
this simply came from Europeans associating them with
African and Asian buffalo, giving them the same name.
But this seems unlikely as American Bison strongly
resemble the European wisent bison, much more so than
the African or Asian buffalo. A more likely scenario is
that they were named such because the American “buffalo”
were primarily prized by Europeans for their hides. “Buffe”
or “bufle” were commonly used as names, at that time,
for any animal that
provided a good hide for buff