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American Buffalo

In Search of a Lost Icon
Written by: Steven Rinella
Narrated by: Steven Rinella
Length: 7 hrs and 42 mins
4.9 out of 5 stars (283 ratings)

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Publisher's 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

What the critics say

“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) 

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What listeners say about American Buffalo

Average Customer Ratings
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Amazing Narration

Steven rinella did an amazing job narrating this book. would recommend to hunters and non-hunters

1 person found this helpful

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How an audiobook should be

Engaging, funny and extremely informative. Without a doubt the best audiobook experience I have partaken in.

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excellent

stunning detail it made you feel the cold harshness of the wilderness as if you were there with Steve throughout the entire journey.

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An incredible story of an incredible animal

Loved this book from start to finish, Rinella was an amazing story teller. Definitely worth the listen.

1 person found this helpful

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Entertaining and Educational :)

Loved the intertwined personal stories with historical information. I will listen to this story again.

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Great read.

Informative, educational, enthralling. Cannot wait to read again. Steven Rinella is someone I really look up to.

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History and Hunting. Excellent book.

Fantastic book and great story. The blend of history and storytelling really work well.

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  • JC
  • 2019-12-11

Great True Story!

Steve has an excellent narration voice, and the fact that it's his own work makes it all that more the better. A great tale of adventure and history. I enjoyed how the story jumped back and forth from Steve's quest for the histroy of the buffalo and his hunt for the buffalo.

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An incredible insight into hunting and history.

Steven Rinella presents his hunting expedition in a way that makes you feel like your there in the dying light, smelling the frost in the air and feeling the weight of your pack. I really appreciate how he examines the deeper meaning of hunting, the thrill and the trials, then fills it in with facts and myth both past and present. Particular to this book is the immense role bison have played in history, as well as to humanity. You come way from this realizing how bison have shaped nations and caused the destruction of others, and how human nature drove them to and from extinction. You gain a further respect for the myriad of lives that built the world we know, not only that of human and bison but any of the amazing creatures we have relied upon or exploited in the past. This is a truely wonderful world we live in, and it deserves every scrap of reverence we can give.

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awesome

Better than anticipated. Steve did a great job, I felt like I was right there with him . Excellent explanation of the history of the Buffalo .

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  • Hunter Cole
  • 2019-08-01

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.

21 people found this helpful

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  • mark a hall
  • 2019-08-12

love Steven Rinella

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

6 people found this helpful

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  • Chris
  • 2019-08-11

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.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-08-07

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

4 people found this helpful

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  • Robert Golia
  • 2020-07-20

Beautifully written but uncaptivating

Steven Rinella is one of the most well-spoken/educated outdoorsmen out there. He always properly articulates his feelings and makes even his wildest outdoor stories relatable with vivid imagery and analogies. All that said this talent seems to be wasted on the American Buffalo. Their importance to our landscape as well as American history seems overstated here. I often found myself captivated by Steven himself rather than the content of the book. For instance, the entire chapter regarding the history of the Buffalo on American currency could have been boiled down to an honorable mention rather than an entire chapter. I did not leave this book with a newfound appreciation for the animal as I believe the goal was here. I will however be on the lookout for his next books.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jean
  • 2020-01-27

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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  • Mr W.
  • 2019-12-12

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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  • Jmo
  • 2019-08-27

Very captivating

A very interesting and informative snapshot of a American Icon. Paints a very visual picture of the past and present. The authors passion is nothing short of a inspiration.

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  • marshall7707
  • 2019-09-28

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.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Emily Pearce
  • 2020-10-18

One of the best books Ive ever listened to

Such an amazing story and way to tie in history of a great animal. It also puts things into perspective regarding how one acquires food and how removed we are as a society from the process. How we don't appreciate where things come from. I listened to this with my husband while driving from California to Michigan so listening to this while driving across the west was pretty cool.