What Is A Buffalo Bill? (Explained)

Buffalo Bills prepare attacking Miami Dolphins in a football game


When it comes to choosing a name for an NFL team, or any sports team, the decision is important.

The name not only represents the team, but it also has to be marketable.

To be marketable, it has to be memorable and refrain from being offensive.

If you’re a fan of the Buffalo Bills, you may wonder just what a buffalo bill is or where the name came from.

Here’s how the Buffalo Bills chose their name and what it even represents.


What Is A Buffalo Bill?

New Era Field Home of Buffalo Bills Football Team


Buffalo Bill was a famous performer who had his roots in the Civil War.

During the Civil War, he was a scout.

His job was to investigate the area ahead of the army and report any enemy troop movements that he spotted.

He was part of the Union and also fought during several skirmishes that the U.S. Army had against Native Americans.

He eventually ended up opening up his own show called Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.

It featured tricks and performers that brought the wild west to more civilized parts of the country.

The idea of being a frontiersman and therefore a bit wild struck a chord with the NFL team from Buffalo who was looking for a sort of frontier-themed name.

They ended up running a contest and James F. Dyson came up with the nickname of the Buffalo Bills.

The owner of the team at the time, James Breuil, loved it and officially renamed the team the Buffalo Bills.

The name has stuck since.

The Buffalo Bills are an NFL team based out of Buffalo, and they share their name with a famous veteran of the Civil War named Buffalo Bill.


How Did The Buffalo Bills Get Their Name?

Buffalo Bills Helmet on display.


To understand exactly how the team from Buffalo ended up becoming the Buffalo Bills, it’s worth examining the story in its full.

It all comes down to Buffalo having two NFL teams.

Originally, they were the Buffalo All-Americans and were part of the charter organization.

However, that franchise ended in 1929.

In its place was another franchise called the Buffalo Indians.

It formed in the early 1940s.

At some point, they changed their name from the Buffalo Indians to the Buffalo Tigers.

That franchise didn’t succeed either and ended up folding shortly after.

A new organization then formed, and this is the one that ended up becoming the Buffalo Bills.

It was part of the All-American Football Conference.

At its start, they were the Buffalo Bisons.

However, the owner of the team, James Breuil, wanted something that was more frontier-like.

It just so happened that he was also the owner of Frontier Oil Company.

He wanted to marry the two together.

To come up with names for this theme, the team created a contest.

Whoever came up with the winning name for the team would earn $500.

James F. Dyson saw the contest and submitted his essay about why the team should rename itself to the Buffalo Bills.

He cited the team as being a bunch of “Buffalo Bills.”

They were a bit wild and untamed but effective.

Breuil loved it, and the name became official.

Unfortunately, the franchise wouldn’t last long.

It’d end up folding in 1949.

Ralph C. Wilson then bought the team and breathed new life into it.

He liked the name, so he kept it as the Buffalo Bills.

The team has had the name since.


Who Was Buffalo Bill?

Hunting period. Male with a gun


Buffalo Bill was many things.

His real name was William Frederick Cody.

Among his claims to fame are being a buffalo hunter, a Civil War veteran, a rider on the Pony Express, and an actor.

Although celebrities were already a thing by the time he was alive, he was one of the few who managed to reach global celebrity status.

That was due, in large part, to his Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.

His show also became known as the Congress of Rough Riders of the World.

The show essentially depicted a stereotypical and melodramatic version of the American West.

Its goal was to entertain and shock the audience rather than give a historic portrayal of the frontier lifestyle.

Buffalo Bill lived a long life and was quite successful financially until poor management and poor investments made him lose his fortune.

He was born on February 26, 1846, and died on January 10, 1917.


What Was The Pony Express?

Pony Express Sign at Mini Hollywood, Almeria, Andalusia, Spain


A vital part of Buffalo Bill’s life is his time working for the Pony Express.

Although he was never recorded as an official employee of the organization, several tales include him with it.

Buffalo Bill also wrote in his autobiography about trips he made with the Pony Express.

The Pony Express was a mail delivery system.

It only ran for a short while because it was particularly expensive and couldn’t generate enough of a profit to continue.

While it was running, however, it was one of the fastest ways to get mail in the western part of the United States.

Outside of the Pony Express, the main ways of getting mail were by stagecoach and steamboat.

Stagecoach deliveries could take 24 days or more to arrive.

Steamboats were about the same, but they were only able to deliver mail to those who lived on the water or a large river.

As such, there was a need for a faster form of delivery, especially as tensions started to brew during the Civil War.

People needed information quickly to determine what action to take.

That was when the Pony Express formed.

It featured riders who would take mail and other deliveries and ride anywhere from 75 miles to 100 miles a day.

They’d ride from one station to the next, making deliveries and trying to stay clear of Native American ambushes and outlaw ambushes.

Buffalo Bill was one of those riders who made very brave deliveries despite being part of the organization at the tender age of 14.

Since his father had died early in his life, William was already used to carrying his own weight.

All the same, working for the Pony Express was a dangerous venture.


What Happened To Buffalo Bill While He Was Working For The Pony Express?

Western cowboy portrait


There are several stories surrounding Buffalo Bill’s time while he worked at the Pony Express.

Actually, there are several daring stories and legends of the Pony Express riders in general.

However, one of the most famous stories is when Buffalo Bill had to make a delivery and came across a band of Native Americans who started to attack him.

He rode for the nearest station only to find that the station keeper was dead.

The horses at the station were also gone.

With the Native Americans hot on his trail, he ran to the next station and town.

There, he managed to put together a band of fighters who then snuck up on the Native Americans while they were camping.

They killed them and then took back the horses that they had stolen.

Buffalo Bill was able to make his delivery in the end.

Another fantastical story is when he had a delivery of cash to make.

Buffalo Bill suspected that he’d get stopped by an outlaw gang.

To ensure he could make the delivery, he ended up putting the cash under his saddle.

Then he filled his saddlebags with meaningless paper.

While he was riding his route, he ended up getting stopped by a gang of outlaws.

He quickly threw down his saddlebags for them to look through and made his escape.

The gang found worthless paper while he was able to deliver the cash to the rightful person.

Being a rider with the Pony Express meant that you had to be an excellent horse rider as well as have your wits about you.

It wasn’t a job for those who scare easily or couldn’t embrace danger.


Was Buffalo Bill A Scout For The Union Army?

Soldier holding machine gun with national flag


Yes, Buffalo Bill served as a scout for the Union Army.

His first missions revolved around scouting for Kiowa and Comanche peoples.

While the Union was trying to put down the Confederates, they were also facing skirmishes with the local Native American populations.

Buffalo Bill helped the Union army become aware of encampments or roving bands.

Later in the war, he ended up officially joining the army.

He joined the Seventh Kansas Cavalry.

They primarily had engagements in the Missouri and Tennessee area.

While he was a scout for them, he spent his time locating Confederate troops and making the army aware of them.

This type of information was crucial to the Union army because it helped them determine if they were able to engage the enemy or sneak around them.

Since the Civil War still engaged heavily in conventional warfare, having the right ground, or terrain, was an important part of the war.

If the army found itself in a kill-box situation, they likely wouldn’t want to engage in battle.

It also helped them know if they were going to accidentally run into the enemy.

This could prove fatal if they weren’t prepared or didn’t have the supplies for a fight.

As such, Buffalo Bill played a crucial role in the Civil War.


Why Is Buffalo Bill Called Buffalo Bill?

Emblem A Professional American Football Team Buffalo Bills Based in the Buffalo Metropolitan Area in the sports stadium.


The NFL team, the Buffalo Bills, wouldn’t have the name that they do today if Buffalo Bill hadn’t had the name of Buffalo Bill.

Considering that Buffalo Bill was a rider on the Pony Express, a scout for the Union army, and a showman, you may wonder where the Buffalo part comes in.

That comes down to when Buffalo Bill was working as a scout for the U.S. Army.

This occurred after the Civil War.

He was a civilian at the time, but because of his particular skills at being able to remember the terrain of the area he had passed through, he became an in-demand scout for several missions.

He was also a dispatcher.

One of the missions he had was to help construction crews who were building the Union Pacific Railroad.

It was a massive project that sought to connect the United States even more.

Since it stretched for miles, the construction crews tended to need more food than they could get from supplies.

To ensure they didn’t starve, Buffalo Bill went out to scout and hunt.

He started hunting buffalo since they were plentiful in the Great Plains region.

Allegedly, Buffalo Bill ended up killing 4,280 buffalo during this period.

Not only was he now known as a champion buffalo hunter, but he also got the nickname of Buffalo Bill.

Considering that the buffalo would eventually become scarce in the Great Plains area, one might wonder if Buffalo Bill’s hunting abilities helped speed that process along.

Hunting buffalo wasn’t the only reason that Buffalo Bill got his name.

Once he started up his wild west show, he needed a stage name.

Buffalo Bill just so happened to be the perfect fit.


What Was The Buffalo Bill Wild West Show?

Cowboy Sheriff arrests bandit


The Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, which later became known as the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show and Congress of Rough Riders of the World, was a show that depicted certain scenes of the American West.

Part of the show depicted gun tricks and a gun show.

The famous Annie Oakley was part of this particular show.

There was also usually a part with Native Americans dressed in feathers who either acted or play-fought in staged battles.

Battles were also depicted in the show.

For example, the show depicted the infamous Deadwood stagecoach capture.

Sometimes, they were even able to depict a recreation of a buffalo hunt.

The show was sensational and while there was some acting involved, it wasn’t a show that people came for to see the acting.

They mostly came for the drama, suspense, and danger.

It was a colorful show that brought the wildest parts of the American West to people everywhere.

It even famously crossed the ocean and performed at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.

The tour went on throughout Europe where people gathered to see the dangers of the wild west.

The show was primarily held during the winter.

This allowed Buffalo Bill to continue to work as a scout and hunting guide during the summer.

However, he was always part of the show when it got started once more.

His final public appearance occurred two months before he died.


How Are The Buffalo Bills Like Buffalo Bill?

Josh Allen during an NFL game at Raymond James Stadium


Because the Buffalo Bills get their name from the famous actor and scout, Buffalo Bill, you may wonder how they’re similar.

Here are a few ways that the Buffalo Bills capture the essence of Buffalo Bill.


1. Endurance

One of the ways that the NFL team, the Buffalo Bills, encapsulate Buffalo Bill is with their endurance.

Buffalo Bill had great endurance that he displayed throughout his life.

As a rider for the Pony Express, he had to ride long hours on the saddle.

As a scout, he had to work long hours to ensure the safety of the unit behind him.

Even as an actor, he had to work long hours and continued to do so even when he needed help getting on his horse in his old age.

The Buffalo Bills have this type of endurance.

They keep pushing until they reach the goals that they set.


2. Wild

Buffalo Bill also represents the wild west in all its dangerous and bloody glory.

While he was able to bring a tamed version of the wild west to audiences, he lived in the real west.

He faced real dangers and was able to tame them to a point.

The Buffalo Bills share this sort of wildness.

They sometimes do things completely left-field that end up working out.

Their ability to play by the rules but also be a bit sneaky is an element of this wildness.


3. Flair

There’s no question that the Buffalo Bills also share in Buffalo Bill’s penchant for flair.

Buffalo Bill had a reputation for wearing flamboyant clothes.

He’d end up wearing those clothes no matter if he was scouting or performing.

It only helped build up the legend surrounding him.

The Buffalo Bills are no different.

They have a bit of flair and love for what they’re doing.

It makes the game more enjoyable to watch and makes the team a bit different than anyone else.

A bit of showman flair binds the Buffalo Bills with their namesake.



The Buffalo Bills are an NFL team named after the famous wild west veteran and scout, Buffalo Bill.

Like Buffalo Bill, the Buffalo Bills display courage, endurance, and flair.

The Buffalo Bills may also hope to become as legendary as Buffalo Bill, himself, one day.

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