George Catlin, ‘Buffalo Hunt, Chase’, 1844, Kiechel Fine Art

Plate #5 from Catlin's "North American Indian Portfolio: Hunting Scenes and Amusements of the Rocky Mountains and Prairies of America" 1844.

"In this picture, we have the Indian mounted on his wild horse, which he has captured and thus converting it to his use, as the means of procuring his subsistence. For want of the fleetness and fangs of the ferocious brutes, Man has wisely been endowed with reason and invention which have enabled him to use the legs of the horse, and to construct deadly weapons, as the means of holding his ascendency over all the beasts of the forest, and of appropriating so much of their substance as is necessary for the clothing and subsistence of his family.

The wild horse is the swiftest animal of the American prairies; and the Indian, from his well-trained horse’s back, with his sinewy bow and lance, easily deals death to the quadrupeds of the country; having, from a lifetime of practice, rendered himself quite equal in the chase, to the most skillful of hunters; and in war, to the most efficient cavalry of lancers and bowmen in the world.

Here is seen the mode in which the Indian generally approaches the Buffalo, always on the right (or off side) of the animal, that he may throw his arrow or strike with his lance, to the left. The death is usually produced when the animal and the horse are at the fullest speed; and most often, as in this case, when the hunter has forced his victim from the herd, when he pursues it with less danger to himself and horse, and with much more certainty of producing the death. The Indians, in their native state, generally ride, in war and in the chase, without saddle, and always without bridle. They make, and use on most ordinary occasions, a very good saddle; but when preparing to go into this desperate chase, they halt half a mile or so from the herd, without danger of putting them in motion; when each hunter throws off his shirt, quiver, head-dress, shield, and whatever else of his dress that may become an incumbrance or hindrance to the free use of his limbs; carrying in the left hand, firmly clenched, his bow and some half dozen arrows, with his heavy and cruel whip attached to the wrist of his right arm.

The very great disparity in size between the horse and the buffalo, in this instance, which is much more than is usually, nevertheless correctly illustrates the actual difference that often occurs between an Indian pony of thirteen or fourteen hands, and a huge bull, as is here represented, weighing, as they sometimes do, 1800 or 2000 pounds."

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