For Belarusians, zubr is much more than just an animal. It is one of the symbols of the country, a hero of folk tales and literature, a matter of pride. We even made him the mascot of the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk!
Zubr is otherwise called the European bison, or wisent. The European bison and his relative the American bison are the largest terrestrial animals in North America and Europe. European bison were hunted to extinction in the wild in the early 20th century.
Luckily, these animals were preserved alive in captivity in the Białowieża forest in Poland and Belovezhskaya Pushcha in Belarus, and have since been reintroduced into several countries in Europe.
The population of zubrs in Belarus has been growing, including in the natural reserves and in the wild. The herds tha live in the west of the country can cross the border into Lithuania and sometimes would approach villages in winter.
The animals are well adapted to winter, and actually can suffer more from the lack of food rather than snow and low temperature in the cold days. In the winter, bison forage for grass under the snow.
The European bison in Poland and Belarus have traditionally been fed hay in the winter for centuries, and vast herds may gather around this diet supplement.
Despite having rather formidable looks, these animals are actually good-natured and are usually loving parents.