Why is Right Hand drinking called Buffalo?

Answered by Willie Powers

The origin of the term “Buffalo” in relation to right hand drinking can be traced back to the Wild West era, a time when gunslingers and cowboys roamed the frontier. During this period, the use of one’s right hand, also known as the shooting hand, was often a matter of life or death.

In the rough and lawless towns of the Wild West, disputes and conflicts would frequently arise, leading to quick-draw gun duels. These duels were intense and often ended in fatalities. In such high-pressure situations, the ability to draw and fire a gun swiftly and accurately was crucial for survival.

To gain an advantage in these duels, gunslingers would often practice extensively with their shooting hand, honing their speed and accuracy. The right hand became synonymous with skill and prowess in gunfighting.

Now, let’s delve into the connection between right hand drinking and the term “Buffalo.” In the Wild West, saloons were popular gathering places for cowboys, miners, and gunslingers. These establishments were notorious for their rowdy and sometimes dangerous atmosphere.

It was customary for patrons to keep their dominant hand, typically the right hand, free and unencumbered to quickly access their weapons if needed. This practice became known as right hand drinking, as individuals would hold their drinks with their non-dominant hand to keep their shooting hand free.

The term “Buffalo” came into play as a code word or a signal among the patrons of these saloons. When someone wanted to indicate that they were engaging in right hand drinking, they would order a drink and casually mention or whisper the word “Buffalo” to the bartender.

This code word served multiple purposes. Firstly, it alerted the bartender to serve the drink in a way that allowed the patron to hold it with their non-dominant hand. Secondly, it discreetly conveyed to others in the saloon that the person was skilled in gunfighting and was prepared for any potential conflicts that may arise.

Over time, the term “Buffalo” became associated with the practice of right hand drinking, and it became ingrained in the culture of the Wild West. It became a symbol of the rugged and dangerous lifestyle of the gunslingers and cowboys who frequented saloons.

While this folk origin of Buffalo Club may not be historically documented, it captures the essence and spirit of the Wild West era. It reflects the importance placed on one’s shooting hand and the need to keep it free and ready for action in a time when survival often depended on split-second decisions and lightning-fast reflexes.

The term “Buffalo” in relation to right hand drinking is rooted in the gunslinging days of the Wild West. It symbolizes the practice of holding drinks with the non-dominant hand to keep the shooting hand free for potential conflicts. While the exact origins may be shrouded in folklore, the term has become a part of the rich history and legend of the Wild West era.