Flying Bison, also called "Sky Bison", lived in the Air Temples and before the war were supposedly the only way to reach them (other than Dragons perhaps). Flying bison have five stomachs, flat, beaver-like tails, brown eyes, shaggy, white fur, and a brown stripe that runs along their back, from tail-tip to forehead, where it terminates in an arrowhead. They have six-legs with three toes on each foot. These creatures are the main means of transportation for Air Nomads. According to a behind-the-scenes interview with the show's creators, they are a hybrid between a bison and a manatee.
All Flying Bison can use Airbending to fly, utilizing their broad tails to steer through air currents and also to defend themselves. As shown in "Appa's Lost Days", they are also able to use their mouths and possibly their noses to Airbend. A fully-grown Flying Bison can easily weigh ten tons. They are revered by the Air Nomads, whose tattoos deliberately emulate their arrow-shaped markings, for inspiring the Airbending art, similarly to how Badgermoles inspired Earthbending and the Dragons with Firebending. It was customary for young Air Nomads to choose a Flying Bison to be their lifelong companion. Aang chose Appa at the Eastern Air Temple when he was a baby, by giving him an apple.
To direct his Flying Bison Appa to take flight, Aang uses the command "Yip-yip". To summon one from a far location, one may use a Flying Bison whistle. Though fairly docile, these creatures can be fearsome when aroused to fight, as is shown in the episode "Appa's Lost Days". The most notable and possibly last surviving Flying Bison is Appa, Aang's companion and major means of long-distance transportation.
In the Northern Air Temple, Airbenders held a championship for "Sky Bison Polo" as mentioned in the episode "The Northern Air Temple". This game was played in the air, Airbenders rode their bison and tried to force the ball with their polo mallet into an opponents goal.
A Flying Bison is first seen in "The Boy in the Iceberg".
A Flying Bison is a cross between a bison and a manatee. The real life bison shares a similar history to the flying bison in that they were a very abundant species until foreigners came and hunted them down, reducing their numbers to near extinction. Both have also been commonly misidentified as a buffalo.
- Sky Bison are usually comfortable in the air, hence their reputation, and consequently, their name.
- They can be presumed to be at least moderately claustrophobic, since Appa is shown to be uneasy in confined spaces, for example, in The Cave of Two Lovers and in The Southern Raiders. Aang is often reluctant to lead Appa into any sort of underground cave.
- Appa is also shown to be quite afraid of fire. See The Cave of Two Lovers or Appa's Lost Days.
- Due to the fact that the original Airbenders learned to Airbend from watching the Sky Bison, it is possible that a new race of Airbenders could be established this same way. Therefore, due to being the last of his species, Appa could potentially help start a whole new race of Airbenders
Behind the Scenes Edit
The movement animation of the flying bison was heavily influenced by the similarly-shaped six-legged Catbus in Hayao Miyazaki's movie My Neighbor Totoro. The series's creators have professed their fandom of Hayao Miyazaki in many interviews.