‘This is where the adrenaline starts’, for riders at the Annual Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup

Published: Sep. 30, 2022 at 4:57 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - The 57th Annual Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup Friday brought in nearly 20,000 visitors and 50 cowboys and cowgirls herding 1,300 buffalo.

“The head wrangler he told me this is where the adrenaline starts, and he wasn’t kidding,” admitted first-time rider, Todd Hornbuckle.

The snap of a whip, the yelling of the wranglers, and the hooves pounding against the ground are all the experiences on-lookers feel as they watch the herd of buffalo cross the valley in front of you. “It’s just indescribable, coming down through their chasing them buffalo,” exclaimed second-time wrangler, Craig Deverauf.

“The anticipation whenever people start to hear the whips and the noise. And everybody starts to stand, and they start to get a little rowdy and you can kind of tell that the crowds going to get a thrill,” said LeAnn Piggott, who has been attending the roundup since 2015.

As a rider, part of the experience is being next to the buffalo, never knowing whether a buffalo could turn back at your horse. “I’d be lying if I didn’t say a little apprehensive,” said Hornbuckle.

To start the annual roundup was a prayer for the riders. “As we always do as Indian people, we pray for these buffalo as well too,” said Dave Flute, South Dakota Secretary of Tribal Relations.

Bison are sacred to Indigenous people, serving as food and shelter. For Native Americans, the buffalo are referred to as pté oyate, a way of life. Gov. Kristi Noem said she believes this strengthens the relationship among the nine tribes in South Dakota. “It gives us the opportunity to focus on what this herd has always meant to our tribes and gives us the chance to share their history,” said Noem.

The bison herd at Custer State Park is one of the oldest herds in the nation, started by Scotty Phillip. He bought 36 buffalo for the state park. This is now one of the purest buffalo herds, that many breeders admire. Noem believes that rounding up the bison is a deep part of South Dakota’s story. “It shows that we appreciate our history, but how innovative we are and how modern we are in the fact that this herd is going to be sustained and maintained in this park,” said Noem.

The annual roundup of the prime herd left some comparing the chase to their daily work. “I’d say it was a little more exciting than cows for sure,” chuckled Hornbuckle.

About 400 of the buffalo will be auctioned off in November.