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World's Largest Buffalo.

World's Largest Buffalo

Field review by the editors.

Jamestown, North Dakota

In 1957 Jamestown celebrated its 75th anniversary, and the community of frugal farmers did not spend all of the money set aside for that event. A year later the first segment of I-94 reached Jamestown, and Harold Newman, a powerful local billboard man, said that Jamestown should use the leftover money "to create something so big and magnificent that passersby would have to stop in the city." Above all, he wanted something as impressive as the Talking Paul Bunyan Statue in neighboring Brainerd, Minnesota, which was 26 feet tall.

Buffalo from behind.

Elmer P. Peterson, an art teacher at Jamestown College, was hired to build the city's showstopper. The initial idea was for a giant shock of wheat, but it was rejected, and instead Peterson built a buffalo out of concrete slathered over a steel framework. By the time he was finished in mid-September 1959, the buffalo was 46 feet long, weighed 60 tons, and most important of all, 26 feet tall, the same size as Brainerd's Bunyan. Peterson was paid $800 for his work.

The buffalo stands next to Jamestown's I-94 exit, but for some reason it was built with its butt facing the interstate.

Peterson's sculpture inspired fellow North Dakotan Henry Leuher to build a giant Hereford bull in nearby Pettibone in the 1970s. Both Henry and his bull are now gone, but the buffalo remains. His gonads are in the same all-star category as Albert the Bull (Audubon, Iowa) and Babe the Blue Ox (Klamath, California).

In 2010, after more than 50 years of nameless fame, the buffalo was officially christened "Dakota Thunder."

Surrounding the buffalo are the Frontier Village and National Buffalo Museum, which has a herd of live bison, which for a time included the rare albino "White Cloud." When she died in 2016 the Buffalo Museum had her stuffed and permanently added to its displays (her albino son, "Dakota Miracle," fell into a ravine at Frontier Village and died in 2019; albino bison have poor eyesight). Live buffalo roam the hillsides beyond, but keep their distance from snapshot-craving tourists. When we asked why, the information booth kid explained, "They're not like dogs."

Also see: Titans of the North

World's Largest Buffalo

404 Louis Lamour Lane, Jamestown, ND
I-94 exit 258. Drive north. Turn right at the stoplight at the Frontier Village National Buffalo Museum green highway sign onto 17th St. SW/Louis Lamour Lane. Follow the road into Frontier Village, then bear left to arrive at the giant buffalo.
Gate open daily 9-6 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Steel Eagle, Wrestling AngelSteel Eagle, Wrestling Angel, Jamestown, ND - 1 mi.
Peggy Lee MuseumPeggy Lee Museum, Wimbledon, ND - 22 mi.
Walking Tour of the Solar SystemWalking Tour of the Solar System, Valley City, ND - 33 mi.
In the region:
Standing Rock, Nome, ND - 42 mi.

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