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American Buffalo

In Search of a Lost Icon
Narrated by: Steven Rinella
Length: 7 hrs and 42 mins
Categories: History, American
5 out of 5 stars (50 ratings)

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Summary

From the host of the Travel Channel’s The Wild Within.

A hunt for the American buffalo - an adventurous, fascinating examination of an animal that has haunted the American imagination. 

In 2005, Steven Rinella won a lottery permit to hunt for a wild buffalo, or American bison, in the Alaskan wilderness. Despite the odds - there’s only a two percent chance of drawing the permit, and fewer than 20 percent of those hunters are successful - Rinella managed to kill a buffalo on a snow-covered mountainside and then raft the meat back to civilization while being trailed by grizzly bears and suffering from hypothermia. Throughout these adventures, Rinella found himself contemplating his own place among the 14,000 years’ worth of buffalo hunters in North America, as well as the buffalo’s place in the American experience. At the time of the Revolutionary War, North America was home to approximately 40 million buffalo, the largest herd of big mammals on the planet, but by the mid-1890s only a few hundred remained. Now that the buffalo is on the verge of a dramatic ecological recovery across the West, Americans are faced with the challenge of how, and if, we can dare to share our land with a beast that is the embodiment of the American wilderness. 

American Buffalo is a narrative tale of Rinella’s hunt. But beyond that, it is the story of the many ways in which the buffalo has shaped our national identity. Rinella takes us across the continent in search of the buffalo’s past, present, and future: to the Bering Land Bridge, where scientists search for buffalo bones amid artifacts of the New World’s earliest human inhabitants; to buffalo jumps where Native Americans once ran buffalo over cliffs by the thousands; to the Detroit Carbon works, a “bone charcoal” plant that made fortunes in the late 1800s by turning millions of tons of buffalo bones into bone meal, black dye, and fine china; and even to an abattoir turned fashion mecca in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, where a depressed buffalo named Black Diamond met his fate after serving as the model for the American nickel. 

 Rinella’s erudition and exuberance, combined with his gift for storytelling, make him the perfect guide for a book that combines outdoor adventure with a quirky blend of facts and observations about history, biology, and the natural world. Both a captivating narrative and a book of environmental and historical significance, American Buffalo tells us as much about ourselves as Americans as it does about the creature who perhaps best of all embodies the American ethos.

©2008, 2009 Steven Rinella (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

“This is some of the best writing on our great national beast since George Catlin - and that was in 1841. A real triumph.” (Bill McKibben, author The Bill McKibben Reader)
 

“This is a big-game hunting story like no other: Steven Rinella is in search of an animal, quite literally. But also historically, existentially, and maybe even spiritually. Follow him on this curious armed quest - and, like him, you will quickly find yourself immersed in the fate of our mightiest and most talismanic beast.” (Hampton Sides, author of Blood and Thunder)

“Moving and downright funny...Rinella writes with authority about the process of turning a living creature into steak, and easily renders an enormous amount of historical and scientific information into a thoroughly engaging narrative.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) 

What members say

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great read

Well I read the review and have sent his show meat eater on Netflix and decided to give it a go.
Definitely was not disappointed it's a fascinating history of the Americas and the history of the Bison.
Definitely worth a go.

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Amazing

Great story and narration so glad it was finally made available in the UK Audible Store.

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Brilliant.

From start to finish it was riveting
It was if I was there on the trail with him
I've a new found respect for the hunt and the buffalo
Thanks.

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brilliantly written and narrated, 10/10

Brilliant book and narrated perfectly by the man himself made the story and history more intriguing and keeps you listening, really enjoyable.. would recommend. Only negative I have with the book is that I wish it was longer as I enjoyed it far to much for it to end

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-08-19

Phenomenal

As a biologist, a hunter, and an amateur natural historian, this book fills me up inside. Unburdened by the callous and removed nature of academic literature, yet more detailed and factual than some textbooks, Rinella’s writing provides a comfortable means of learning the bison’s multifaceted in North America. The philosophical ponderings scattered throughout the book capture the mindset of the hunting and angling naturalist as well as any other attempts I’ve seen.

Another noteworthy aspect of this audiobook has nothing to do with the writing, but with the narration. So often audiobooks are narrated with the passion and emotion of an actuary spouting off statistics. Rinella does not follow this trend, and brings a feeling of authenticity and sincerity to the reading while still speaking clearly.

I will be recommending this book to anyone and everyone I know that has a passion for the outdoors, natural history, biological understanding, and good campfire stories.

17 people found this helpful

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  • mark a hall
  • 12-08-19

love Steven Rinella

this was a great book that kept me engaged from beginning to end. Told very well.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-08-19

Rinella’s back yard charm shines

A great meshing if the past and present, Rinella tells the story of the American Buffalo in a way that makes you feel as though it’s a buddy from home.

Without over dramatization, Rinella captures his adventure and the 200+ year adventure of the Buffalo in an engaging and page turning fashion. The use of his hunting/back country analogies gives the story a feel of a great fishing story with the detail and precision of a well read author.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-08-19

amazing book!!!

I bought this book in paperback several years ago. As I follow the meat eater show, podcast and read alot of his articles he published, when I saw it was he brought the book to audible I couldn't help myself. listening to smooth jazz that is Steve's voice is like listening to what I could only imagine what velvet would sound like if it had a soumd instead of a feel. I would recommend this book 100% to hunters, buffalo enthusiasts, nonhunters, vegans I mean you name it I'd tell them to read/listen to the book. ita excellently wrote and well narrated. 10/10 would listen, but dont take my word for it listen your self

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  • Jean
  • 27-01-20

Interesting

The book is well written and researched. Rinella provides a lot of information about the American Buffalo from biology, Native American history and culture, to the history of the early western migration. There is also action and adventure as the author goes on a buffalo hunt alone in a National Park in Alaska after winning the hunting lottery. I am amazed at how much information Rinella packed into just under eight hours. If you want to know about the American Bison, this book is for you.

The book is seven hours and forty-two minutes. Rinella does a good job narrating his own book.


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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-12-19

Rinella & American Buffalo

Rinella not only authors American Buffalo which is to me a spiritual examination of our American past but he manages to bring you into the past & even alongside him on his personal adventures. Amazing & Real!

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  • marshall7707
  • 28-09-19

If you enjoy hunting and the outdoors this is A+

The author is a great narrator. I enjoyed this more than his podcast which I like more than almost all other outdoor, hunting or fishing podcasts.

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  • Mitchell John Lamos
  • 18-02-20

Exceptional book!

This book is fantastic Rinella did an amazing job at both writing and reading the book. He puts so much emotion into it you feel like you were beside him.

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  • Todd
  • 17-02-20

Great Book

Steve did a great job tying his Alaska hunt with the story of the buffalo in North America. I learned a lot and was entertained.

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  • Mike Wells
  • 14-02-20

An adventure story told by a buddy.

Steven Rinella has a wonderful ability to merge technical discussions of taxonomy, and the processing of a Buffalo that he has killed, with a casual, "backyard cookout" style cadence. Very much like hearing a friend tell you about an amazing experience he once had.

Those interested in adventure stories, biology, ecology, and the incredible majesty of the natural world, will love this book. I especially enjoyed the parts detailing how paleo-Indians and their Native American descendants revered, hunted, and butchered Bison.