skip navigation
Go to the Texas Memorial Museum homepage. Go to The University of Texas at Austin homepage.
Austin's First Science Museum

Support the Museum

Steppe bison

Steppe bison

Bison priscus
TMM 962-1
Found near Fairbanks, Alaska
Lived from 500,000 to 10,000 years ago

Steppe bison lived in the dry grasslands of Canada, the United States and Mexico 500,000 to 10,000 years ago. The steppe bison was a large animal whose horns could span up to four feet across. This is the “skull cap” of one animal, including part of the horns. This is a special specimen to scientists because the horn sheath, or outside covering, is preserved in the fossil. Horn sheaths break down quickly after an animal dies, so they are not often found in fossils. Horn sheaths are made of keratin, the same material in your hair and fingernails.

Can you see the ridges on the dark brown horn sheath to the right? Those ridges helped prevent twisting when one bison locked horns with another. Steppe bison did not clash heads like sheep. Instead, the males fought a battle of strength by locking horns and pushing and twisting!