European bison were hunted to extinction in the wild, with the last wild animals being shot in the Bialowieza Forest in Eastern Poland in 1919 and in the Western Caucasus in 1927, but have since been reintroduced from captivity into several countries in Europe, all descendants of the Bialowieza or lowland European bison. They are now forest-dwelling. They have few predators (besides humans), with only scattered reports from the 19th century of wolf and bear predation. European bison were first scientifically described by Carolus Linnaeus in 1758. Some later descriptions treat the European bison as conspecific with the American bison. It is not to be confused with the aurochs, the extinct ancestor of domestic cattle.
In 1996 the IUCN classified the European bison as an endangered species. It has since been downgraded to a vulnerable species. In the past it was commonly killed to produce hides and drinking horns, especially during the Middle Ages.