Buffalo Bill

Buffalo Bill (1846–1917) In American history and folklore, the popular name of William Frederick Cody, scout and showman. Born in Iowa, Buffalo Bill’s family moved West, where he had various jobs as “herder, hunter, pony express rider, stage driver, wagon master in the quartermaster’s department, and scout of the army,” to quote from his press agent.

In 1867 Cody took up the trade that gave him his nickname, hunting buffalo to feed the construction crews of the Kansas Pacific Railroad. By his own count, he killed 4,280 head of buffalo in 17 months. It is said that he won the name “Buffalo Bill” in an eight-hour shooting match with a man named William Comstock, to determine which of the two Buffalo Bill’s deserved the title.

In 1883 he organized Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, which increased his reputation, as did a series of dime novels by Prentise Ingraham and Ned Buntline (pen name for the writer E. Z. C. Judson). More a product of publicity than of folklore, the hero appears in two Hollywood films, Buffalo Bill and Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson, in which Buffalo Bill and his friends discuss his legend and life.


Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow-Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante