Bos Americanus, American Bison or Buffalo, plate 56 from The Vivaporous Quadrupeds of North America, Volume 2

after John James Audubon, American, 1785 - 1851



Hand colored lithograph on wove paper

Image: 22 × 24 3/4 in. (55.9 × 62.9 cm)

Sheet: 22 × 28 in. (55.9 × 71.1 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Purchased through the Julia L. Whittier Fund



John T. Bowen, Philadelphia


Place Made: United States, North America


19th century

Object Name


Research Area


Not on view


Printed, upper left: No. 12.; upper right: PLATE LVI.; lower left: Drawn from Nature by J.J. Audubon, F.R.S.F.L.S.; lower right: Lith.d Printed & Col.d by J.T. Bowen Philad.a 1845; lower center: BOS AMERICANUS, GMEL/AMERICAN BISON OR BUFFALO./1/7 Natural Size/MALE.


Early scientific writing in the US explored the rich natural history of North America, defending the New World against claims that it was comparatively inferior to Europe. The renowned artist-naturalist John James Audubon devoted himself to cataloging American fauna in the early 19th century, producing this illustration of an American bison for a series of books on North American mammals. Despite being praised as the most distinct North American animal, the bison was already being hunted toward extinction in the 1840s, largely by white settlers and trappers.

The field of natural history evolved into several independent branches of science by the late 1870s, when Charles Ethan Porter, a moderately successful African American artist, made this delicate study. Porter’s stunningly detailed watercolor would likely have appealed to a growing number of amateur naturalists at this time.

From the 2022 exhibition This Land: American Engagement with the Natural World, curated by Jami C. Powell, Curator of Indigenous Art; Barbara J. MacAdam, former Jonathan L. Cohen Curator of American Art; Thomas H. Price, former Curatorial Assistant; Morgan E. Freeman, former DAMLI Native American Art Fellow; and Michael Hartman, Jonathan Little Cohen Associate Curator of American Art

Course History

ANTH 7.05, Animals and Humans, Laura Ogden, Winter 2022

GEOG 31.01, Postcolonial Geographies, Erin Collins, Winter 2022

ANTH 50.05, Environmental Archaeology, Madeleine McLeester, Winter 2022

ANTH 50.05, Environmental Archaeology, Madeleine McLeester, Winter 2022

ARTH 5.01, Introduction to Contemporary Art, Mary Coffey and Chad Elias, Winter 2022

ANTH 3.01, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Chelsey Kivland, Summer 2022

ANTH 3.01, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Chelsey Kivland, Summer 2022

SPAN 65.15, Wonderstruck: Archives and the Production of Knowledge in an Unequal World, Silvia Spitta and Barbara Goebel, Summer 2022

Exhibition History

American Works on Paper to 1950: Highlights from the Hood Museum of Art, Friends and Owen Robertson Cheatham Galleries, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, September 22-December 9, 2007.

Nineteenth Century American Prints, Carpenter Galleries, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, March 25-June 12, 1977.

This Land: American Engagement with the Natural World, Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 5–April 11, 2022.

Publication History

Barbara J. MacAdam, American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Muesum of Art, Hanover: Trustees of Dartmouth College, 2007, p. 153, no. 124.


Goodspeed's Book Shop, Boston, Massachusetts; sold to present collection, 1954.

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