Southwestern Classics On-Line | Lone Star Junction
Previous Chapter | Guide to Life and Literature of the Southwest | Next Chapter

Guide to Life and Literature
of the Southwest

Buffaloes and Buffalo Hunters

THE LITERATURE on the American bison, more popularly called buffalo, is enormous. Nearly everything of consequence pertaining to the Plains Indians touches the animal. The relationship of the Indian to the buffalo has nowhere been better stated than in Note 49 to the Benavides Memorial, edited by Hodge and Lummis. "The Great Buffalo Hunt at Standing Rock," a chapter in My Friend the Indian by James McLaughlin, sums up the hunting procedure; other outstanding treatments of the buffalo in Indian books are to be found in Long Lance by Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance; Letters and Notes on . . . the North American Indians by George Catlin; Forty Years a Fur Trader by Charles Larpenteur. Floyd B. Streeter's chapter on "The Buffalo Range" in Prairie Trails and Cow Towns lists twenty-five sources of information.

Buffaloes, by Harold Bugbee

The bibliography that supersedes all other bibliographies is in the book that supersedes all other books on the subject -- Frank Gilbert Roe's The North American Buffalo. More about it in the list that follows.

Nearly all men who got out on the plains were "wrathy to kill" buffaloes above all else. The Indians killed in great numbers but seldom wastefully. The Spaniards were restrained by Indian hostility. Mountain men, emigrants crossing the plains, Santa Fe traders, railroad builders, Indian fighters, settlers on the edge of the plains, European sportsmen, all slaughtered and slew. Some observed, but the average American hunter's observations on game animals are about as illuminating as the trophy-stuffed den of a rich oilman or the lockers of a packing house. Lawrence of Arabia won his name through knowledge and understanding of Arabian life and through power to lead and to write. Buffalo Bill won his name through power to exterminate buffaloes. He was a buffalo man in the way that Hitler was a Polish Jew man.

It is a pleasure to note the writings of sportsmen with inquiring minds and of scientists and artists who hunted. Three examples are: The English Sportsman in the Western Prairies, by the Hon. Grantley F. Berkeley, London, 1861; Travels in the Interior of North America, 1833-1834, by Maximilian, Prince of Wied (original edition, 1843), included in that "incomparable storehouse of buffalo lore from early eye-witnesses," Early Western Travels, edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites; George Catlin's Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Conditions of the North American Indians, London, 1841.

Three aspects of the buffalo stand out: the natural history of the great American animal; the interrelationship between Indian and buffalo; the white hunter -- and exterminator.


The American Bison, Living and Extinct, Cambridge, Mass., 1876. Reprinted in 9th Annual Report of the United States Geological and Geographical Survey, Washington, 1877. Basic and rich work, much of it appropriated by Hornaday.


The Hunting of the Buffalo, New York, 1925. Interpretative as well as factual. OP.


The Border and the Buffalo. Topeka, Kansas, 1907. Personal narrative.


Billy Dixon, Guthrie, Oklahoma, 1914; reprinted, Dallas, 1927. Bully autobiography; excellent on the buffalo hunter as a type. OP.


The Plains of the Great West and Their Inhabitants, New York, 1877. One of the best chapters of this source book is on the buffalo.


The American Bison, New York Zoological Society, New York, 1938. Not thorough, but informing. Limited bibliography. OP.


(1849-1938) may be classed next to J. A. Allen and W. T. Hornaday as historian of the buffalo. His primary sources were the buffaloed plains and the Plains Indians, whom he knew intimately. "In Buffalo Days" is a long and excellent essay by him in American Big-Game Hunting, edited by Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell, New York, 1893. He has another long essay, "The Bison," in Musk-Ox, Bison, Sheep and Goat by Caspar Whitney, George Bird Grinnell, and Owen Wister, New York, 1904. His noble and beautifully simple When Buffalo Ran, New Haven, 1920, is specific on work from a buffalo horse. Again in his noble two-volume work on The Cheyenne Indians (1923) Grinnell is rich not only on the animal but on the Plains Indian relationship to it. All OP.


Charles Goodnight, Cowman and Plainsman, 1936. Goodnight killed and also helped save the buffalo. Haley has preserved his observations.


Extermination of the American Bison (Smithsonian Reports for 1887, published in 1889, Part II). Hornaday was a good zoologist but inferior in research.


Buffalo Jones Forty Years of Adventure, Topeka, Kansas, 1899. A book rich in observations as well as experience, though Jones was a poser. OP.


Wyatt Earp, Boston, 1931. Early chapters excellent on buffalo hunting.


Buffalo Bone Days, Sykesville, Pa., 1939. OP. A pamphlet strong on buffalo bones, for fertilizer.


(and others). Journals, Detailed Reports, and Observations, relative to Palliser's Exploration of British North America, 1857-1860, London, 1863. According to Frank Gilbert Roe, "a mine of inestimable information" on the buffalo.

Panhandle-Plains Historical Review

Canyon, Texas. Articles and reminiscences, passim.


The Oregon Trail, 1847. Available in various editions, this book contains superb descriptions of buffaloes and prairies.


Buckboard Days (edited by Eugene Cunningham), Caldwell, Idaho, 1936. Early chapters. OP.


The North American Buffalo, University of Toronto Press, 1951. A monumental work comprising and critically reviewing virtually all that has been written on the subject and supplanting much of it. No other scholar dealing with the buffalo has gone so fully into the subject or viewed it from so many angles, brought out so many aspects of natural history and human history. In a field where ignorance has often prevailed, Roe has to be iconoclastic in order to be constructive. If his words are sometimes sharp, his mind is sharper. The one indispensable book on the subject.


The Quirt and the Spur, Chicago, 1909. Rye was in the Fort Griffin, Texas, country when buffalo hunters dominated it. OP.


Apauk, Caller of Buffalo, New York, 1916. OP. Whether fiction or nonfiction, as claimed by the author, this book realizes the relationships between Plains Indian and buffalo.


The Last Buffalo Hunter (as told by Norbert Welsh), New York, 1939. OP. The old days recalled with upspringing sympathy. Canada -- but buffaloes and buffalo hunters were pretty much the same everywhere.

West Texas Historical Association

(Abilene, Texas) Year Books. Reminiscences and articles, passim.


A privately printed letter of eight unnumbered pages, dated from Fort Stockton, Texas, June 30, 1930, containing the best description of a buffalo stampede that I have encountered. It is reproduced in Dobie's On the Open Range.

Previous Chapter | Guide to Life and Literature of the Southwest | Next Chapter
Southwest Classics On-Line | Lone Star Junction

Online Edition Copyright © 1997 Lone Star Junction. All rights reserved.