The Bison Story
Poland is famous of three things: 1. Vodka, 2. Pierogi, 3. Bisons. In this note I will focus on the third one, as with the latter an avarage foregin tourist might be at least a bit familiar with. Those who are not, must visit Poland first, an then go back to the text.
Bisons (European Bison - lat. bison bonasus) have existed in this region for ages. Poland is in bound with them as no other country in Europe. There is almost 1700 of European Bisons living in the wild, mostly in Białowieża Primeval Forest. They are the biggest mammals on the Continent. Bisin is considered to be the King of the Forest, as lion is King of Svannah. Even though they are not predators they still arouse respect in those who meet them, even in a zoo. This large, and beautiful animal represents might, vital powers, sensibility, and grace.
Weight of a bison varies from 440 to 920 kg, and its size can rech 188 cm in skein. Despite the huge weight and size they can run 40 km/h and they can jump over a string or a fence. The are not fearful, even turn aggressive when endangered. They developed ability of double-step, which helps them to move in the wilderness, and avoid being stucked in marshy areas. First step is like a ground detector which bison uses to determine whether the ground is solid or marshy. If it is solid the step is followed by a "normal" step, and so on. It takes a piece of second for a bison to use the double-step technique, so it is not so easy to notice for a regular observer. Even more interesting is their terrain orientation. It was observed that individuals released free to the Białowieża Forest, gather in the same area to survive winter, as their ancestors did, even though they had never been to the forest before!
The animal is rooted in the Polish culture so deep that its image is widely used in the mass culture and marketing products. So now we can finaly go back to vodka... Presumably, some of you have already tried, or at least heard about Żubrówka Vodka (Bison Vodka). The one with a grass sunk inside the bottle. There are some things worth knowing about it. Even though you can see a Bison image on the label, in fact it has not much in common with the animal itself. Żubrówka is a grass (Hierochloe odorata), growing in the Białowieża Forest. What more, bisons who eat grass and weed, don't eat Żubrówka Grass! The producer of the liquor just combined the fact that the grass grows in the forest, and added the bison image to make it look more authentic and region-related, as Żubrówka has been distilled there since 17th century..
For those who don't feel like drinking vodka, there is a beer labeled "Żubr". The brand has become famous thanks to adverts, where bisons play the main role. The word-play and amazing visual effects made them very popular, Just watch:
In the past, when Poland was kingdom, bison was an animal which could be hunted by the king only. Anyone who got caught breaking this law was sentenced to death, and executed in the public place. Unfortunately, the hunts were massive. During two-three day ride, king and his fellows used to hunt up to around 40 animals, which as one can imagine, quickly reduced the population. The species become endangered very quickly. Kings however, were aware of the situation, so that they set up a special royal service which main task was not only to protect animals before poachers, but also to keep an eye on the bison population.
If you are more curious about these wonderful animals, we can organize a special adventure to Białowieża Primeval Forest, during which You will have a chance to meet its grace.