Altai Mountains, Mongolia
Head and body length, 217-300 cm; shoudler height, 134-188 cm; tail, 30-60 cm
3,000, half in captivity and half in free-ranging herds
Grasslands and open woodland areas with grass
Altai Mountains, Mongolia Altai Mountains, Mongolia
Look at that face. Now imagine it charging toward you at 60 kilometers per hour, preparing to throw a body weight of some 900 kilograms into a head-first collision. The prospect is enough to make even other European bison weak in the knees. During the August-October mating season, the brawniest bulls win mating rights by intimidating rivals. Fights are rare, but awesome to behold. Europe's largest terrestrial mammal once ranged at will throughout the continent, but by 1919 was declared extinct in the wild. A few did remain in captivity, and it is from just 12 animals that today's populations—still threatened by human disturbance—descend.