World's Largest Buffalo

5 Facts About the World's Largest Buffalo

by Hannah Nyland


If you’ve heard of Jamestown, North Dakota, you’ve almost certainly heard of Dakota Thunder, the World’s Largest Buffalo and fixture in the town since 1959. But how much do you really know about him?

1) The statue was built by Elmer P. Petersen, a local art teacher. Petersen was hired by prominent billboard man Harold Newman, whose stated goal for the project was "to create something so big and magnificent that passersby would have to stop in the city."

2) How was the statue built? Peterson fashioned a wire mesh framed from steel beaming and a reinforcing rod, then covered it with gunnite – a type of sprayed cement. Dakota Thunder ultimately cost $8,500 to make, the equivalent of $70,000 today.

3) Dakota Thunder stands at 26 feet tall, 46 feet long, and weighs 60 tons. For reference, that means he weight about as much as five average-sized African Elephants, or 30 average-sized automobiles!

4) For fifty years after his creation, the World’s Largest Buffalo had no official name. He was finally christened Dakota Thunder following a contest to name him in 2010, a contest that drew over 3,500 entries. Michael Shirek of Devil’s Lake, ND was the one to submit the winning name.

5) Dakota Thunder inspired the creation of a giant Hereford bull in Pettibone. The bull was built by Henry Leuher; after his death, the statue was moved as a result of its decay and the complaints of Leuher’s wife, who was not happy about sightseers intruding on her property.