Bull Boat

Transportation in the American West was most easily accomplished on the water. The Bull Boat was developed by the American Indians. It allowed Indians and early explorers to navigate even shallow waters.

The Bull Boat was constructed from buffalo hide and tree branches. The hide, with the animal's hair intact, was soaked in water and then stretched around cottonwood or box elder branches bent into a hoop formation and tied. The boat was usually made with the hair facing inward. As the hide dried, it would naturally draw tight to the frame. An oar was created from carved wood.

The Bull Boat served many purposes. American Indians hauled wood, floated quietly into enemy camps to steal horses, and brought meat to their camp after hunting in bull boats. Mountain men used a variation of the Bull Boat to navigate shallow waters and transport fur. The Bull Boat also served as a ferry. The multiple uses of this boat connect it with the history of the American Indians and the explorers of the West.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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