Bison bonasus hungarorum


Kingdom Animalia

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Phylum Chordata 
Class Mammalia 
Order Artiodactyla
Family Bovidae
Genus Bison
Species Bison bonasus
Subspecies Bison bonasus hungarorum
Authority Kretzoi, 1946
TEW Status Extinct (EX), Year assessed: 2010
IUCN Status Not Evaluated
English Name Carpathian Bison, Carpathian European Bison, Carpathian Wisent, Hungarian Bison, Hungarian Wisent
Dutch Name Karpatenwisent
German Name Karpatenwisent
Hungarian Name Kárpáti Bölény, Erdélyi Bölény, Erdélyi Európai Bölény
Norwegian Name Karpatisk Visent, Ungarsk Visent
Polish Name Żubr Węgierski
Slovak Name Zubor Uhorský, Zubor Karpatský
Taxonomy There is not much known about this so-called subspecies of European bison. It is even possible that it is not a valid subspecies, because to introduce a subspecies on the very limited material at hand by Kretzoi seems very doubtful.
Characteristics The Carpathian bison was similar to the Caucasian subspecies, Bison bonasus caucasicus. It differed from the Lowland bison (Bison bonasus bonasus) by its smaller size, a slender constitution, a flat frontal skull surface, short and curly fur, and a brush at the tail. All adaptations to a highland environment. Kretzoi writes that the difference with the Caucasian bison is that the Carpathian bison is much smaller. Its shoulder height compared to the pelvis is much lower, almost like cattle. Another difference would be that the ends of the horns are turned backwards. However, the form of the horns can still be found in some populations, like in Sweden and the Wolin National Park. Polish bison specialists declared this just a variety. However it cannot be excluded that the horns do originate from a Carpathian subspecies. Some scientists also think that it is quite possible that the European bison and Aurochs Bos taurus primigenius (extinct wild cattle) interbred, what might have given a cattle-like back. It would have been possible, as it is known that previously there have been European bison hybrids with cattle produced in various zoos.
Range & Habitat The Carpathian bison lived in the Carpathian mountains and Transylvania. The Carpathian Mountain chain stretches in an arc from the Czech Republic in the northwest to Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine and Romania in the east, to the Iron Gates on the Danube River between Romania and Serbia in the south (Wikipedia contributors, 2008).

Image: map showing the possible previous range of the Carpathian bison (in red). Created by Peter Maas for The Extinction Website. This image has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 3.0 Licence.

History & Population

Three subspecies of European bison are recognized at this moment, namely the Lowland bison Bison bonasus bonasus (Linnaeus, 1758), Carpathian bison Bison bonasus hungarorum Kretzoi, 1946 and the Caucasian bison Bison bonasus caucasicus Turkin et Satunin, 1904.  

In 1946 M. Kretzoi writes that it is possible to claim that the Carpathian mountains once was populated with a subspecies of European bison. It was based on a skeleton from a female European bison with no horns, on the skull of a male bison with one horn, and comparing these remains with paintings in Vienna from the 17th and 18th centuries.  

The Austrian capital Vienna has a theatre for animal fights, until it burned down in 1796. European bison were a popular adversary in the theatre, as mainly dogs were used for animal fights. Hungarians supplied European bison for the fights. They caught them in Siebenbürgen.  

In 1790 the “game master” in Vienna was worried about the long transports of European bison from Lithuania. He was been told that the last European bison in the Carpathian mountains had died.
Extinction Causes Hunting, and probably destruction of their habitat.
Museum Specimens A skeleton of a female and a skull of a male should exist, as Kretzoi based this subspecies partly on these remains.
Relatives The closest living relatives of the Carpathian bison are the surviving European bison Bison bonasus from the Lowland-Caucasian Breeding line. Another very close relative is the only surviving pure subspecies of the European bison, namely the Lowland bison, Bison bonasus bonasus. The American bison Bison bison is another living close relative. The European-American bison hybrids living in the Caucasian mountains also contain genes from one Caucasian bison bull. These hybrids are recently described as a different subspecies, the Highland bison Bison bonasus montanus.
Links Bison Newsletter 1/95 (Excerpt)
Articles & Reports

Puzek, Z., et al., 2002, European Bison Bison bonasus: Current state of the species and an action plan for its conservation. Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Bialowieza.  

Rautian G.S., Kalabushkin B.A., Nemtsev A.S. 2000. A new subspecies of the European bison, Bison bonasus montanus ssp. nov. (Bovidae, Artiodactyla). Doklady Biological Sciences. 375, 4: 563-567.

Wikipedia contributors (2008), 'Carpathian Mountains', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 15 August 2008, 12:22 UTC, <> [accessed 6 September 2008]

Last updated: 11th April 2010.

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