Hornaday Smithsonian Buffalo

The Hornaday Smithsonian Buffalo and Dean & Donna Strand Western Art Gallery

The Hornaday/Smithsonian Buffalo and Dean and Donna Strand Western Art Gallery is located at the Museum of the Northern Great Plains complex. The Gallery is home not only to the world famous Buffalo display but also houses a small but impressive collection of western art by 19th Century artists including John Mix Stanley and Granville Stuart, and contemporary artists including Bob Scriver and Bob Morgan.

The Hornaday Smithsonian group of six buffalo “Bison Bison” is the most significant collection of an American symbol in the United States.

The animals were collected in 1886 by William T. Hornaday for the National Museum in Washington D.C. It was feared that bison were about to become extinct and none had been preserved in the national collection. They were taken from the last of the wild herd found between the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers, the same area as the last buffalo hunt of the Blackfoot in 1879 before they were forced to the reservation. Twenty-four animals were taken by Hornaday, but only these six mounts were put on exhibition at the Smithsonian in 1887.

During their seventy years of prominent display, the big bull was the model for several national symbols and government issues. Coins and paper currency, the Great Seal of the Department of the Interior, postage stamps and the National Park Service badge bear the likeness of the big bull in the Hornaday Collection.

The group was dismantled, returned to Montana, and placed in storage in 1955. After years of neglect the mounts were completely restored and returned to public display in 1996. The mounts are exhibited in their original poses and positions just as they appeared in the Smithsonian.


1205 20th Street
Fort Benton, Montana