The bison is now a US national animal

Oh America, land of the free, and also apparently land of the bison.

The bison was named the official mammal of the United states today under legislation signed by none other than President Barack Obama.

"A bi-what?!" we hear you splutter into your morning tea. The bison is a large, even-toed ungulate found in Western Europe, Central Asia and North America. It's sometimes referred to as a "buffalo".

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Despite their cuddly appearance, bisons are actually pretty dangerous. Their unpredictable temperament, coupled with large, sharp horns and a powerful kick make for an animal you don't want to mess with. When they ran wild, bison were second only to the Alaska brown bear as a potential killer, even more lethal than the grizzly bear.

Policy-makers spearheading the effort said the once nearly extinct animal deserves the elevated stature because of its economic and cultural significance in the nation's history.

Two bison
(Lloyd Blunk/AP)

Millions of bison once roamed the Great Plains. About 500,000 now live in the US but most have been cross-bred with cattle, and are semi-domesticated. About 30,000 wild bison roam the country, with the largest population in Yellowstone National Park.

Don't worry if you're a fan of the bald eagle (and who isn't?), both the eagle and the bison will take joint position as the national animal.

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