My book Bowie Knife Fights, Fighters, and Fighting Techniques is available from Paladin Press. This blog contains additional information about the bowie knife, as well as the fighting knives of other nations.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Man vs. Bear Bowie-Knife Story

A "man with bowie knife versus bear with claws" story from California was published in Baily's Magazine of Sports and Pastimes (1861):
A very dreadful occurrence took place whilst I was at these diggings. A splendid athletic negro, full six feet two inches tall, and of amazing strength, was at work here. One morning he went to a favourite spring in the forest for some clear water, armed only with a bowie knife; when passing carelessly along, a she-bear rose at him, and he had only time to draw his knife and throw up his arms, when she closed. With one hand he seized her throat in his giant grasp; held her at arm's length, and with his right hand plunged his knife again and again in her side; but the bear was mangling him horribly all the time, yet he never loosened his hold or relaxed his knife-thrusts, and so they fought on in dreadful conflict, the beast tearing off his flesh, and the man standing nobly to the fight, until both sank from loss of blood, and struggled on the ground for bare life; the bear's blood was welling from her wounds, and soddening the grass where they lay, making 'the green, one red.' The negro finding the bear growing feeble, and himself faint, exerted his remaining strength, and struck home his knife into her vitals; then relinquishing his throat-hold for the first time, he rolled over to escape her claws in her desperate death-throes. His cries for help had attracted some diggers working near, who arrived when it was over, and found the negro dying and the bear dead; and her two small spiteful cubs sitting amazed at their dead dam. The man still breathed, and tearing off their shirts, the diggers bound up his wounds: placing him on a litter made of branches, they conveyed him to camp, where he was attended by a digger doctor: and for the moment he rallied, so well indeed, as to give us briefly this account; but he gradually sank away, and in two days more we buried him on the hill side: a crowd of diggers followed, and we laid him down amongst others who had passed away in the wilderness, and set a cross over him, though he was certainly a black, and most likely not even a Christian.

Peace be to his ashes; he was a brave man.

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