Buffalo Hunt Knives

IMG 3073

Code:  AM11, AM12

These two knives are typical of those used in the great Buffalo hunts North American in the late 1800's.  Their size, 15 inches long for the largest one, suggests they were used for large game.  Such knives, typically smaller, were also used in fur trade, circa late 19th - early 20th century.  There are a variety of such knifes, each with a blade suited to a particular purpose in the skinning and butchering of game.  Although I have not yet identified the maker of these knives, their overall design is similar to those once manufactured by the Green River Works in Oregon.  This company supplied many high quality knives to fur trappers and traders in the Northwest US and to those headed for the Great Plains.  I obtained these knives from an estate sale in Oregon, which may or may not be a clue.


Sixty million buffalo (American bison) once roamed the Great Plains in vast herds stretching as far as the eye could see.  The French fur traders originally called them "les boeufs", but English explorers had a hard time with the pronunciation so they simply called them "the buffs" or "buffle" which eventually changed into the common name we know today, "buffalo".

At the peak of the hunt, around 5,000 hunters and skinners were at work.  Hunters had to brave the elements, attack by Native Americans, and be strong enough to perform the back-breaking work.  Good tools, including specialized knives, made the job somewhat easier.

Buffalo were hunted nearly to extinction by 1889.  The immediate cause was completion of the first transcontinental railroad.  This enabled large quantities of the valuable hides to be shipped to eastern markets.  Except for a few herds protected on private or government property, the buffalo were exterminated.


John R. Cook, The Border and the Buffalo: An Untold Story of the Southwest Plains (Topeka, Kansas: Crane, 1907; rpt., New York: Citadel Press, 1967). William Temple Hornaday, The Extermination of the American Bison (Washington: GPO, 1889).

Category: Knife