Buffalo rawhide shield

Pawnee, early 19th century AD
From the American West, North America

Shields such as this were constructed from rawhide taken from the thick neck region of the buffalo. They could deflect arrows and even balls fired from a muzzle-loading flintlock gun.

They were decorated by the owner with designs of spiritual significance to bring them success and protection. They would act as protection in war and during horse raiding. The design, perhaps representing the sun and moon, would have been come to the owner in a vision.

This shield has a soft skin cover in which it would have been stored. This is painted with the war exploits of the owner.

This shield may be the example recorded as collected by Duke Paul Württemberg in September 1823 from a Pawnee chief identified as Schakè-ru-leshar.

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Buffalo rawhide shield

  • Shield with cover on

    Shield with cover on


More information


J.C.H. King, First peoples, first contacts: (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)


Diameter: 58.000 cm

Museum number

AOA 5202


Gift of Sir A.W. Franks


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