Distribution

Current and historical ranges

As a result of human transport and introductions, both wild and domestic species of Bovidae are distributed worldwide, except for Antarctica. However, the family is native only to Africa, North America, Europe, and Asia.

For almost all species of Bovidae, their current range is generally similar to their historic range. However, most are not as numerous and many species have become increasingly confined to pockets, forming a more patchy distribution within their former range. The reductions in abundance and distribution are almost always due to human activities, which remove or reduce populations or which destroy or dramatically alter habitats. Many species throughout the world are now found only in protected areas such as national parks and game reserves. For example, North American plains bison (Bison bison) were found across the Great Plains from the western mountains to the eastern forests. They were slaughtered by the thousands in the nineteenth century and reduced from an estimated total population of more than four million to fewer than 2,000. Today, numbers have increased to several thousands through concerted conservation efforts, but they are very much restricted to a few local protected sites within their historical range. Similarly, saigas (Saiga tatarica) once occupied much of the steppes of central Asia, but were severely depleted through human exploitation. After protection, they regained much of their former range, only to once more be decimated by hunters killing them for their horns for use in the medicinal trade.

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