I Like Dirt

A small herd of bison with their heads down, grazing on the sparse vegetation available in the winter. Snow-capped mountains and a hazy, cloudy sky are in the background.

It’s no surprise that bison get super itchy with the mangy coat they wear. It’s super thick and curly and it sheds in large chunks. On their front legs, their hair is so wooly, thick, and long that it has its own special name: pantaloons. They often roll around in the dirt and flail their legs around, creating a huge dust cloud. This behavior, called wallowing, helps them shed their winter coat, relive skin irritations, avoid biting insects, mark their scent, and cool off in the summer months. Because bison are so large, the disturbance and compaction from their rolling create impressions in the ground that can hold water and create habitat for plants that require moister conditions. Bison reuse the same wallowing spots and sometimes multiple bison wallow together. This creates larger wallows that can even be seen from an airplane.

So, don’t be alarmed if you see a 2,000-pound animal rolling around—bison just like dirt.

Description by Brittany Wagler. Image by Rhiannon Jakopak.