Home > Deaf History > Buffalo Bill was half deaf

Buffalo Bill was half deaf

August 10, 2007

Written By Bug

William F Cody as Buffalo Bill

William F Cody is known to most of us simply as Buffalo Bill. He was all the “heroes” of the American West Buffalo Bill. He worked on the wagon trains, he hearded cattle, he rode for the Pony Express, he trapped for behaver, he hunted buffalo, he prospected for gold, he hunted down horse thieves and, most importantly of all, he scouted for the army during the Indian wars.

Later in his life, he lost his hearing in left ear because of cold winter. That winter was terrible so Buffalo Bill suffered frostbite on one of his ears. The damage left him permanently partially deaf on that side. He also had grown his hair long as well as grown a moustaches and goatee.

Did Buffalo Bill know sign language? Nobody really know the answer. He wrote in a book saying that he went to the place in the very heart of Indian Country. He happened to sit and watched the meeting where the greatest Indian councils were held. It had became the most famous meeting-place of the plains. He wrote: ” I used to sit for hours and watch him and the others talk to the Indians in the sign language. Without a sound they would carry on long and interesting converstations, tell stories, inquire about game and trails, and discuss pretty much everything that men find worth discussing.”

Also it was said that Buffalo Bill’s knowledge of the tongues of the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Crow Indians and his marvelous proficiency in the universal sign language made him an extremely desirable acquistion to the service. Universal Sign Language? Actually, there is no “universal sign language” or real ” international sign language.” In Europe, Deaf people would called it as “international sign language” (ISL) if other Deaf visitors from other countries come together and try to communicate with each others so they use a lot of gestures, mimes, facial expression, some signed words, etc. It is not really a language, more a vocabulary of signs that they all agree to use at international meetings. I suspected that he knew some Indian Sign Language.

Categories: Deaf History
  1. mother goose
    August 10, 2007 at 8:16 am

    I am so excited when I see the topic, Buffalo Bill because
    my oldest daughter and I have studied about him, got the
    LIVE old film of Buffalo Bill from Denver Library. We watched
    him on the video…he was real person. WOW, he’s so amazing.
    But I never knew that he was partially deaf on one side, thank
    you soo much for posting it on this page! I asked my mom
    if I could have a big long framed picture (black and white)
    of all the indians standing in a row…after the funeral of Buffalo Bill.
    The indians gave the long framed picture to my great-grandma, Amanda because
    she worked so hard to cook special for them after they arrived
    from Buffalo Bill’s funeral. The indians and my great-grandma had been
    friends for many years. I am hoping that my uncle would give me
    the picture…I have asked my mom about it, she’s not sure about it.

  2. August 10, 2007 at 9:25 am


  3. August 10, 2007 at 9:45 am

    Kudos for tracing famous people in history to find out about deafness….there are plenty out there! =)

  4. drmzz
    August 10, 2007 at 9:50 am

    Universal meaning tribes signed the same. I find it hard to believe. Anyway, interesting.

  5. JFLMad
    August 10, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    Yes I am aware of it.

    but is he Wild Bill? I don’t think so cuz I recall his name was James Hickok. Must be 2 different one and not that what I thought heh. but interesting story thogh.

  6. August 10, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Buffalo Bill: William Frederick Cody with moustaches and goatee. He was an American soldier, bison hunter, and showman. Born in Iowa on February 26, 1846 and died in Denver January 10, 1917. Died of kidney failure

    Wild Bill: James Butler Hickok with moustaches but no goatee. He was a U.S. town marshal but he got fired from his job. He was a professional grambler. Born in Illinois on May 27, 1837 and died in Deadwood, South Dakota on August 2, 1876. Died of gunshot wound.

  7. JFLMad
    August 10, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    Thanks for the clarify and brief important points of their lives.

  8. DeafSiouxSherry
    August 21, 2007 at 3:26 pm


    I am a part of Sioux, also I am deaf too. I don’t care if Buffalo Bill was a part of deaf?
    Why did he murdered all of my sioux kins? It was only a last sioux person of our genereal.
    Why should I excited or honor Buffalo Bill? NO WAY! Save our sioux generations!

  9. Cowboy
    August 21, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    It was his defense. I know a lot about bloody indians and good indians, don’t try to assume that Buffalo Bill was bad. He had a lot of indian friends. He was close to them than white people, for your information.

  10. Lisa Marie
    August 21, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    I am sorry, Deafsiouxsherry. It makes me really sad to hear about indians’ history. I have a little blood of Cherokee and Chippawa (spelling).

  11. lisa marie
    August 21, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    Thank u for ur reply.
    Finally I met 3 great cousins 1st, 3rd and 6th in ND. They took us in the picture.
    Keep up our generation. Ur generation will be in, too. Deafsiouxwee

  12. September 5, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    Strange, I went Buffalo Bill’s museum, 3 straight days at Cody, Wyoming, to understand all about him, his loss of wife, 4 children, truly had a warm heart. He did NOT kill all or most of Siuox, Iruqois, etc unless they (opposite threatened one another especially EAST, Irquois however) it’s possible for B.Bill did kill them, even kill Grey Soliders/Blue soliders too, some reasons. What I see in his late life, irritate me is, he was truly very lonely, move-on so forth, last grip (barely) to live with very little love in heart!

  13. November 24, 2007 at 8:22 am

    Thank you.i am deaf from Ghana.good bye
    my name is sylvanus apaloo.
    P.o.BOX.Bt 561
    Ghana,COMM 2,00233

  1. No trackbacks yet.
Comments are closed.