The way I see it, buffalo is so firmly embedded in popular usage as to render the bison vs buffalo argument moot. Me . . . I'm gonna go with bison or buffalo as the mood strikes me. It's just too much of a hassle to get technical about it.
It was in southern and eastern Asia at the end of the Pliocene epoch that the first known ancestors of the Plains Buffalo appeared. Although smaller and slighter in stature than its present day progeny, this ancestral buffalo bore all the characteristics found in the modern genus Bison. During the next million or so years -- the period known as the Pleistocene epoch or the Ice Age -- bison grew in size, migrating from central Asia east to Siberia and west into Europe. Later in the Pleistocene a new form of bison, the steppe wisent, made its appearance. Although it spread forth to occupy traditional bison habitat in the Old World, the steppe wisent also crossed Beringia, the Bering Strait land bridge, moving from Siberia into the New World -- the buffalo had arrived in North America.
Once in America, the steppe wisent evolved into new forms to exploit its new environment. One offspring of the steppe wisent, Bison latifrons, became the largest of all New World buffalo. Latifrons, from the Latin meaning wide forehead, bore horns measuring some nine feet from tip to tip, fully three times the horn-span of modern day buffalo. Bison evolution over the next 20,000 or so years - - from the middle period of the Pleistocene epoch to the present - - involved downsizing. Giant-horned latifrons was replaced by a smaller buffalo, Bison antiquus, who was in turn succeeded by a yet even more compact model, Bison occidentalis. Occidentalis originated in Asia where it evolved from the steppe wisent, and like its progenitors spread across northern Asia, Europe, Siberia, and North America.
As the Ice Age drew to a close, buffalo populations in both hemispheres evolved to meet the demands of their new environment. Both the modern Old and New World bison evolved out of common parent stock, Bison bison occidentalis, which inhabited Siberia during the latter phases of the Pleistocene epoch. This evolutionary process resulted in present day Old and New World bison that are remarkably similar in skeletal structure, general appearance, and even in shared genetic materials. In fact; European-American bison hybrids yield fertile male and female offspring. Despite this physical or taxonomical similarity, the European bison, known as the wisent, was once considered a separate species from the American bison (plains bison/buffalo). Today, however, both are considered members of the same species -- the wisent is now classified as Bison bison bonasus and the plains buffalo as Bison bison bison.
Just remember. . . .
Matty told Hatty about a thing she saw.
Had two big horns and a wooly jaw.
Wooly bully, wooly bully.
Wooly bully, wooly bully, wooly bully.
[This message has been edited by Hal Neumann (10/31/2010)]