GREAT FALLS, Mont. - They roamed the plains by the hundreds, even thousands. But in Great Falls you'll only find a few.
A unique fundraising effort stampeded the Electric City with color in 2005. Now over 15 years later, they are still catching the eyes of community members and tourists.
If you've been to Great Falls you've probably seen buffalo statues around town. But have you ever wondered what is their history?
"It was kicked off at the museum in September of 2003 to make the museum part of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial celebration - to create art for the masses and people around the community and create interest for the Russell Museum," said Kitty Wright, Co-Chair of the Buffalo Hunt Project and former board member of the C.M. Russell Museum.
It aimed to educate, engage, and excite the community about the rich cultural and artistic legacy we have right here in Great Falls.
"The buffalo was the icon of the west... with the buffalo skull being part of Charlie Russell and his paintings and also the fact that he had over 400 paintings with buffalo in them... The buffalo was the only animal we could bring to augment the museum and so it was a no-brainer," said Wright.
Covered with portraits, animals, symbolism, and more - these painted buffalo still stir up art appreciation.
"I simply think having these bison, which are a reflection of western art, around town, reminds people of the culture, the rich culture we have in Great Falls focused on art," said Tom Figarelle, executive director of the C.M. Russell Museum.
The original sculptor was Joe Halko of Choteau.
He brought the creation to life in Buffalo, Minnesota.
Then the 26 bison and 4 calves made their way back to the Electric City to be painted.
"There were different artists involved and each buffalo represents the values of that artist and the mediums they liked to work with and the styles they like to represent," said Figarelle.
"I knew it was a success the morning they were out on the street I drove by 1st interstate bank and I saw a 4-year-old child hug one of the buffalo... It brought art in a fun way to the people in the community and tourist that came to Great Falls," said Wright.
For a list of the last known locations, click here.
For more information on the buffalos and the artists, click here.