Wentworth’s Elk

Omaha Barracks in January of 1873 was the home of “A Novel Team, Two Elegant Elks . . . Trained to Travel in Harness,” according to the January 21, 1873 issue of the Omaha Daily Bee. Their captor and trainer was government scout Conrad “Little Buckshot” Wentworth from the Loup Valley. The Bee said: “Last summer ‘Little Buckshot’ of Company M, Second Cavalry, while out in the vicinity of the Loup river, caught four young elks, two bucks and two does. The animals were brought into the barracks at the time the company returned, and they are now nine or ten months old.

“Buckshot has lately been training them all to drive in harness, having had a harness, with a peculiar bit, made for them by the saddler at the barracks, and he has also had rigged up for them a sleigh. The two bucks are now pretty well trained, and can be driven like a team of horses. ‘Buckshot’ recently drove them to Florence and back, considerably astonishing the natives of that rural place. It is said that he can drive them so as to make better time than Goldsmith Maid or Lucy [famous trotting horses].

In a few days he intends to bring them into town and take a lively whirl through our principal streets, so that our citizens can have a good look at the knobby team. The two does, too, are fast reaching a high state of training, and ‘Buckshot’ expects soon to drive a four-in-hand. The happy family are kept in the stables at the Barracks, and run around loose a greater part of the time, there being but little fear that they will jump the guard, for they seem to have a great affection for the boys in blue. We understand that they will, in the course of a few months, be sent on to New York as a present to some parties there.

“‘Little Buckshot,’ who captured them and owns them, has been a member of Company M for about nine or ten months. He was formerly a scout and hunter on the plains and while thus engaged he won for himself quite a reputation, and is well known throughout the Western country.”

Harold W. Foght’s The Trail of the Loup described Wentworth as “well at home in all the western Indian tongues and dialects and his knowledge of the different tribes and their customs was simply wonderful. In stature he was rather below medium height. As he appeared in those early days dressed in his handsome suit of buckskin, with long curly hair with braided scalp-lock or riding the prairie mounted on his famous pony, ‘Billy,’ he presented a picture never to be forgotten.”

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