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Visiting South Dakota for Buffalo Roundup

Buffalo Roundup
Buffalo Roundup

Cowboy customs, Native American culture, iconic landmarks and lesser-known treasures collide on a trip to South Dakota, as Claire Dodd discovers

It’s a surreal sight that seems lifted from the pages of history. On the low ground, riders in fringe, Stetsons, denim and leather stalk the long grass. High on the hill, a breakaway group heads up to find the herd. Next, silence. Then the thunder starts.

 

Pouring over the hill, there’s a cloud of dust with a black mass at its core. The earth vibrates as 1,300 stampeding bison – faces, horns, hooves – come into view. And, riding in the back of a flatbed truck, I’m right in the middle of it.

 

Every September for 53 years, and even beyond, South Dakota’s Custer state park has played host to the visceral visual spectacle that is the Buffalo Roundup.

 

Serving a practical purpose, the world’s largest publicly owned bison herd are gathered each year by around 20 cowboys and led to corrals for health checks. Last year, 20,000 people gathered in viewing areas on the surrounding hills to watch.

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