Bob Dylan: Trail of The Buffalo (traditional)

bob dylan woody guthrie

Come round you old time cowboys, and listen to my song
Please do not grow weary, I will not detain you long
Concerning some young cowboy, who did agree to go
Spend the summer pleasantly on the trail of the buffalo

Well I wrote that song to the tune of Buffalo Skinner. An old cowboy song.
~Bob Dylan about “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” (to Ray Coleman, May 1965)

From Wikipedia:

“The Buffalo Skinners”
The Hills of Mexico, “On the Trail of the Buffalo”
Music by traditional
Language English

“The Buffalo Skinners” (“The Hills of Mexico”) is a traditional American folk song. It tells the story of an 1873 buffalo hunt on the southern plains. According to Fannie Eckstorm, 1873 is correct, as the year that professional buffalo hunters from Dodge City first entered the northern part of the Texas panhandle. It is thought to be based on the song Canaday-I-O.

According to extensive research carried out by Jürgen Kloss in 2010-2012, this song is one of the many variants of John B Freeman’s ‘Buffalo Song’ .

buffalo skiners

Although the 19th century buffalo hunts which took place on Great Plains of the United States and Canada are now legendary, this primitive trade lasted barely twenty years between 1870 and 1890. However, during this time massive herds of buffalo, or American bison as they should be known, were hunted almost to extinction.
~Derek Barker (The Songs He didn’t write)

Well I found myself in Griffin, in the year of ’83
When a world-famous drover come a-walkin’ up to me
Sayin’, “How d’ya do young cowboy. how’d you like to go
Spend the summer pleasantly on the trail of the buffalo?

Other notable versions

Woodie Guthrie:

Pete Seeger:

Johnny Cash – New Mexico:

Tim O’Brien:

Well me being out of work right then, at this drover I did say
“This a-goin’ out on the buffalo range depends upon your pay.
But if you pay good wages, transportation to and fro’
Think I might go with you on the hunt of the buffalo.

Bob Dylan

yes I will pay good wages and transportation too
If you’ll agree to work for me until the season’s through
But if you do get homesick and try to run away
You’ll starve to death on the prairie and also lose your pay.

The first known performance of this song was recorded in the East Orange, New Jersey home of Bob and Sidsel Gleason in early 1961. The tape was made by the Gleason’s son Kevin.
—Dylan probably toyed with the idea of playing ‘Trail Of The Buffalo’ in concert in 1987 – he certainly rehearsed it on at least one occasion – however, the song did not make its initial latter-day appearance until the first month of the Never Ending Tour (Holmdel, New Jersey, June 25, 1988). After this debut, it made sporadic appearances every year for the next five years, with 1991 being the most prolific.
~Derek Barker (The Songs He didn’t write)

It was performed around 20 times in 1991 (most prolific year). The last performance of this song was @ Palais Theatre in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia – 2 April 1992.

Let’s dive into the goodies…..

Well with all this flatterin’ talkin’, he signed up quite a train
Some ten to twelve in number, some able-bodied men
Our trip it was a pleasant one as we hit the westward road
Until we hit old Boggy Creek in old New Mexico

The Home of Bob and Sid Gleason – East Orange, New Jersey – February or March 1961:

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)


Old Orchard Beach Ballpark – Old Orchard Beach, Maine – 3 July 1988 (audio)

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • G.E. Smith (guitar)

1990 ? Somewhere

Sporthalle – Essen, Germany – 18 June 1991 (video):

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • John Jackson (guitar)


4 thoughts on “Bob Dylan: Trail of The Buffalo (traditional)”

  1. Long ways back, I also had an album of Jim Kweskin singing this WOuld be a good addition on this great list.

  2. I was really only familiar with the Basement Tapes version, as far a Bob Dylan versions go. Good call by Marcus on the connection between “Isis” and “Hills of Mexico”.

  3. love this Hague 89 version – I always wondered if Dylan based “Isis” on this song … similar theme

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