History Nebraska Blog

Monarch’s Sad Fate

The sad end of a retired member of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West was announced by the Omaha Daily Bee on December 5, 1906. However, the article, headlined “Death Warrant for Monarch,” referred not to a human, but to an animal. Monarch, “the finest specimen of buffalo ever in captivity,” was considered too dangerous for Riverview Park, his home in Omaha since leaving the Wild West, and he was soon to be slaughtered.

This detail from a poster for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West depicts men on horseback and running buffalo. NSHS RG3004.PH190 (above).

The Bee said: “Monarch was raised by Buffalo Bill and carried with him through all the countries of Europe, but he became unmanageable and as it took a large part of the gate receipts of the Wild West show to square away the depredations which were occasioned by this immense buffalo, Colonel Cody decided to sell him. He was sold to the city of Omaha for $300 and was placed in Riverview park.”

However, Monarch behaved so badly there, rushing at the fences and threatening to trample spectators, that he was reportedly sold back to Wild West agent William McCune. By December 13 the Bee reported that Monarch had been purchased by William Buthorn, owner of the Heidelberg Cafe, who planned to slaughter the animal, and gave Omaha’s mayor, “Cowboy Jim” Dahlman, the dubious honor of shooting him. The Bee noted:

Omaha mayor Jim Dahlman in cowboy garb. NSHS RG2990.PH0-1 (left).

“The mayor did not fail. He planted himself some thirty feet from the animal, leveled his big rifle and fired. Monarch turned to look for a second at his slayer, then walked around in a circle just once, dropped to the ground and died within ten minutes without writhing. Mr. Buthorn will have the head mounted and placed in the Heidelberg and the meat he will sell.”

Monarch may have passed from the scene, but stories of his exploits during his Wild West days appeared in the press. In a particularly memorable incident in Germany, according to the Bee, Monarch “got loose, and, rushing through a small general store, scattered the china and other things exhibited for sale. He went right through the store and was cornered in a lot at the rear, with no way of escape except to go back through the store. When the little German storekeeper was asked what the damage was he bobbed his head up from behind the counter, where he had dodged for safety, and shouted, ‘Nothing, nothing, if you will only take the brute away!’”

– Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

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