Mass Kills

Published on April 15, 2013 by Carol

Love this article and want to save it to read again later? Add it to your favourites! To find all your favourite posts, check out My Favourites on the menu bar.

A long plunge to the rocky canyon below—then
death for the buffalo. Painting by Nola Davis.

With skillful planning, organization, and luck, prehistoric hunters could occasionally succeed in killing dozens or even hundreds of animals at a time, using little or no weaponry. Archeologists call sites where some of these kills occurred, “jump sites.” To the animals, however, it was a “plunge of death.”

dna testing, dna ancestry testing, ancestry, genealogy, indian genealogy records, paternity testing, turquoise jewelry, native american jewelry

The “jump” kill involved what seems like a simple plan. Hunters would frighten or spook a herd of buffalo off of a cliff or high bluff. But to make the plan work required strategy. The right site had to be located, the animals had to be directed to the spot, and they had to be stampeded over the edge.

At the Bonfire jump-site in southwest Texas, archeologists found the bones of hundreds of buffalo that plunged over a cliff to their death on a massive pile of rocks. Native American hunters in the area had used the kill site as early as 12,000 years ago! It is clear, however, that prehistoric hunters did not stage mass kills frequently. They were once-in-a-lifetime events for the hunters. There was evidence of perhaps only four successful jump-kills at the Bonfire site over its long history. Many other times hunters must have tried and failed to trick the buffalo into “falling for” their plan.

There were other methods for mass kills. Prehistoric hunters also herded buffalo into enclosed areas, such as box canyons, or into corrals made of poles where they would kill the trapped animals.

Butchering the Kill

After the jump, hunters and women from the prehistoric group would begin the massive task of skinning and butchering the animals. They dragged the animals’ enormous hides away from the butchering area to later be tanned, or softened, by smearing them with fresh buffalo brains. Hunters ate the best meats, including the tongues, on the spot, and often drank the animals’ warm blood.

Hundreds of pounds of meat would be sliced into thin strips that were spread out on wooden racks to be smoked or dried by the sun. The dry strips (jerky) could then be stored for later use, often as an ingredient in pemmican (an early trail mix). Enormous leg bones were crushed to get at the rich marrow inside, and bone bits were boiled to capture the fat in a greasy broth. The butchering, smoking, and skin curing process lasted weeks, but the payoff was huge. Hundreds of pounds of meat, bone for tools, hide for cover and clothing, hair for ropes, sinews for cording—the list of useful items from a buffalo seems endless!

Source: Native-languages Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
Cite This Source | Link To Mass Kills
Add these citations to your bibliography. Select the text below and then copy and paste it into your document.

American Psychological Association (APA):

Mass Kills Unabridged. Retrieved May 26, 2015, from website:

Chicago Manual Style (CMS):

Mass Kills Unabridged. Native American Encyclopedia (accessed: May 26, 2015).

Modern Language Association (MLA):

"Mass Kills" Unabridged. Native American Encyclopedia 26 May. 2015. <>.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE):, "Mass Kills" in Unabridged. Source location: Native American Encyclopedia Available: Accessed: May 26, 2015.

BibTeX Bibliography Style (BibTeX)

@ article {NativeAmericanEncyclopedia.com2015,
    title = { Unabridged},
    month = May,
    day = 26,
    year = 2015,
    url = {},
You might also like:

Tags:  , ,

Facebook Comments

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Latest Articles
Did You Know?

The Copper Complex of the Great Lakes and the thousands of artifacts found in the region illustrates that Native Americans and Aboriginal peoples were utilizing Copper Tools over 7,000 year ago.

In the Spotlight
Most Favourited Posts
Photo Galleries
Native American Tribe WalapaiNative American Tribe ZuñiNative American Tribe BloodNative American Tribe Tsawatenok