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Caucasian wisent

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The Caucasian wisent (Bison bonasus caucasicus) was a subspecies of European bison that inhabited the Caucasus Mountains of Eastern Europe.

Caucasian wisent
An image of a killed Caucasian bison from E. Demidoff's book Hunting Trips in The Caucasus (1889)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Bovinae
Genus: Bison
B. b. caucasicus
Trinomial name
Bison bonasus caucasicus

It was hunted by the Caspian tiger and the Asiatic lion (until the 10th century) in the Caucasus, as well as other predators such as wolves and bears.


Decline and extinctionEdit

Taxidermied specimen, Museum of the Zoological Institute, Russia

In the 17th century, the Caucasian wisent still populated a large area of the Western Caucasus. After that human settlement in the mountains intensified and the range of the Caucasian wisent became reduced to about one tenth of its original range at the end of the 19th century. In the 1860s the population still numbered about 2,000, but was reduced to only 500-600 in 1917 and to only 50 in 1921.[2] Local poaching continued; finally, in 1927, the last three Caucasian wisent were killed.[3]

Hybrid survivorsEdit

A hybrid in Poznań Zoo

Only one Caucasian wisent bull is known to have been kept in captivity. This bull, named Kaukasus, was born in the Caucasus Mountains in 1907 and brought to Germany in 1908 where he lived until 26 February 1925. While in captivity, he bred with cows from the lowland subspecies Bison bonasus bonasus.[4] Thus, he became one of the twelve ancestors of the present lowland-Caucasian breeding line of the European wisent pedigree book.[4]

Wisent reintroductions in the CaucasusEdit

In 1940, a group of wisent-American bison hybrids were released into the Caucasian Biosphere Reserve and later in 1959 in the Nalchik Forestry Game Management Unit (Kabardino-Balkariya). Later some pure-blood wisent of the lowland-Caucasian breeding line were released there to form a single mixed herd together with the hybrids.[2] In 2000, these hybrids were described as a different (without scientific basis) subspecies, the highland bison Bison bonasus montanus (Polish).[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Pucek; et al. (2004). "Bison bonasus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2017-3. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
  2. ^ a b Zablotskaya, Lidia V.; Zablotsky, Mikhail A.; Zablotskaya, Marina M. (26–30 September 1988). "Origin of the Hybrids of North American and European Bison in the Caucasus Mountains". Proceedings of the Second Conference of Bison Specialist Group. Sochi: SSC/IUCN.. Presented in Russian originally; translated into English in 1990, but never published in that form
  3. ^ Bashkirov, I. S. (1939). "Caucasian European Bison". Caucasian European Bison. Moscow: Central Board for Reserves, Forest Parks and Zoological Gardens, Council of the People’s Commissars of the RSFSR: 1–72. [In Russian.]
  4. ^ a b Puzek, Z.; et al. (2002). European Bison Bison bonasus: Current State of the Species and an Action Plan for Its Conservation. Bialowieza: Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences.
  5. ^ Rautian, G. S.; Kalabushkin, B. A.; Nemtsev, A. S. (2000). "A New subspecies of the European Bison, Bison bonasus montanus ssp. nov". Doklady Biological Sciences. 375 (4): 563–567.

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