Wolf Point’s Wild Horse Stampede (sponsored in part by the Montana Office of Tourism) was a huge success this year, and among the event’s many exciting attractions was a massive sculpture of a bison skull, titled Herd Bull. Measuring 21 feet between the tips of the horns, this enormous painted bronze is on tour through the fall, reminding viewers of the bison’s importance in American – and particularly, Native American – culture.
Sioux artist Benji Daniels of Oswego financed the project himself, casting the sculpture in bronze and coating it in gray patina to create an aged appearance. The cast was made using the original Herd Bull, a two- and-a-half-ton sculpture welded out of recycled sheet metal. It was completed in 1990 by Daniels and fellow artist James J. Hancock, and has sat prominently on the front lawn of the Montana Historical Society in Helena since 1995.
Around 2001, Daniels had the sculpture temporarily moved to Billings so that a mold of it could be made; however, the casting would take place more than a decade later. (The process of making a bronze sculpture is very costly, especially for something eight feet tall and fifteen feet long.) In 2014, Daniels secured enough to finance the completion of his project and the sculpture was cast in 304 separate pieces by Billings Bronze. From there the pieces were assembled and painted to create the replica of Herd Bull. (The sculpture’s horns, however, disassemble from the rest of the skull to make it easier to transport on a trailer.) Daniels believes his impressive bison skull to be the largest in the world.
Part of Daniels’ reason for funding the project is because he feels it sends a strong message. The bison is one of the most powerful symbols in Native American culture, and Herd Bull acts as a colossal reminder that both the bison and the Native American way of life are threatened.
Daniels also has a fascination with bison. In fact, he took scuba lessons in his youth just so he could go diving for bison skulls at the bottom of the Missouri River. Of the several that Daniels discovered and collected, one was found by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to be over 10,000 years old.
Daniels’ cross-country tour will allow him to share his heritage and his love of bison with people from all over the United States. Among the many places he plans to visit is the 75th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally this August. He hopes to have other locations and dates available soon online.
Daniels would also like interested buyers to know that the Herd Bull replica is for sale. Although he’s willing to sell it to anyone, he hopes that someone in
northeastern Montana decides to purchase it. He would like to see it go to a local.
In the meantime, the Herd Bull replica can be seen on tour and the original can be viewed at the Montana Historical Society in Helena. For more information about the Herd Bull tour, visit herbullbronze.com or the Herd Bull Facebook page. Serious inquiries about booking a spot on the tour can be made by calling 406-982-3837.
To learn about the original Herd Bull iron sculpture at the Montana Historical Society, visit mhs.mt.gov or call 406-444-2694.
Other magnificent and historically significant sculptures can be found inside Helena’s Montana State Capitol Complex; information on that can be found by calling 406-444-3111.