The Horse Slaughter in Palo Duro Canyon

About twenty-five miles from where I live, is the site of an event on the American Frontier that inked a permanent red stain on history.

The date was September 28, 1874. The man was Colonel Ranald Mackenzie.

A month or two before this, the Comanche, Apache, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Kiowa led by Lone Wolf had gathered in the bottom of Palo Duro Canyon seeking refuge. They’d been pushed from every corner of Indian Nation and were hunted like animals.

Surely, the soldiers wouldn’t find them in a place where trails were few and hidden well. The canyon’s steep walls protected them. Here they could rest and heal.

But Colonel Mackenzie had a fire in his belly to destroy the Indians. He’d marched several army regiments across Texas, intent on driving the Indians onto their reservations. However, the Indians had won almost every skirmish and that deeply angered him. He was determined to get them this time and be the one to end the Texas Plains wars.

He could see their camp from above and ordered his men to find a way down. They did. An Indian guard fired a warning signal right before the soldiers shot him. The tribes scattered, escaping up the walls of the canyon to safety and few were killed. Mackenzie made a huge bonfire of all their belongings they had to leave behind.

Then Mackenzie turned to their horses of which there were somewhere around 2,000. He ordered the horses shot.

Two of the majestic animals fell to their guns every minute—125 an hour.

Their screams echoed off the canyon walls. Once they were all dead, Mackenzie rode off and left the carnage with never a backward glance. Their bones lay in the same spot for dozens of years until the bone pickers came and picked them up to sell.

To this day people claim that when the wind shrieks down the walls of the canyon, they can still hear the horses screams.

In the fall of 1995, U.S. Calvary reenactors met with members of the Comanche tribe in Palo Duro and gave them 2 horses as an apology.

Some things you can’t fix and some wrongs you can never right. This was one in my opinion. Regardless of Mackenzie’s hate toward the Indians, killing the horses ranked him below the lowest of the low. Nothing on earth justifies what he did.

I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to someone. Tell me what you’d like more blogs about. People? Events? Old West towns? Food?

Next Monday I’ll post a happier subject– the release of Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms and give two away. So tell your friends.


The Horse Slaughter in Palo Duro Canyon — 24 Comments

  1. To answer your question, yes more please. You are teaching in small bits pieces of history that I for one hadn’t heard about. Just mix it up a little with some fun facts to soften the heartache of the tough ones, like this blog. Sure glad the tribes got away, but what a waste and what horror they would have felt hearing the horses. Some people should not be in charge. He had list one to many battles.

    • Hi Veda…..Thank you for the answer. I knew this one would be hard but I wanted to talk about it. This just rips my heart out. I,too, am glad the Indians got away. It could’ve been even worse. As it was this broke the tribes’ spirit. They surrendered and were taken to reservations.

      Much love and hugs!

  2. Good morning Linda- my heart is broken reading this. Mackenzie should of gone to his own hell after this act. Those poor horses, as you know my love for horse is so embedded in my heart and soul. I agree Mackenzie is lower than lie. Great article. I love all your history blogs about town, events, and people from our old west. Keep them coming. Love you Dearly.

    • Hi Tonya…..I figured this would affect you deeply because of your love for horses. Mackenzie’s men hated having to kill them. They begged for some to be spared and were finally given them. But so many perished. Just a horrendous act. I do believe Mackenzie is roasting in hell. Thank you for answering my question. I’ll keep on finding things of interest.

      Love and hugs!

  3. Good morning you wonderful MS WARRIOR you! If I knew this event from history I sure did forget it. My years in the Hereford/Amarillo area were very hard yeats in my youth and I have huge blanks in my memory from that time period. What a horrific bit of history this is. It is unforgivable! Unfathomable. Run the horse off, why kill them all.
    I want to learn more and more historic events in blogs! Keep on bringing things like this.

    • Hi Stephanie, Miss Warrior Friend. I’m sure as a young girl you had no interest in history. I think it’s pretty awesome you used to live in this area. The horse slaughter in Palo Duro Canyon was beyond anything I’ve ever heard of. There are no words to say what a deeply offensive act this was on every level of human decency. I do think the bad Karma he created for himself made him pay. Ten years after this he became mentally deranged and was stripped of everything. He died at only 49 years old. Yes, ma’am, I’ll keep bringing history to you.

      Much love and hugs!

    • Thank you, Becky. I’ll do my best. Lord knows, history is endless. I’ll never run out.

      Love and hugs!

  4. Linda oh how makes my heart so sad it breaks my heart for the Indians and those poor horses for I am sure Mackenzie went on to catch the Indians for they would probably most been on foot after leaving that many horses behind. I love these blogs with historical facts about the Texas and the West. I also love the ones When you share a little of yourself. Love you dear sweet lady

    • Hi Glenda……You’re right. They did get the Indian refugees but they surrendered and were taken to reservations, their spirits broken. A sad end to a people who only wanted to live peaceably on some land that would grow crops to feed their families. Okay, I’ll keep posting a mixture of subjects. I don’t think I’m very interesting though.

      Much love and hugs!

    • Hi Marla……I’m glad I could share this piece of history. I love bringing these to you. I don’t think we can really have a future until we understand the past and learn from it.

      Much love!

  5. Oh my! What a travesty against everything good and right. The man was nothing more than a psychopath killer in a uniform. The horses were innocent. What a sad tale. I’m sure on some nights when the wind is just right, you can hear the screams through the canyon. Wow! What a sad piece of history. Thank you for sharing the unknown tidbits you find.

    • Hi Jan…..Yes, I do believe he was a psychopath. I found an article this afternoon and Karma got Mackenzie sooner than I thought. Ten years after this incident, he was suddenly found to be mentally deranged and stripped of everything. He died at the age of 49 penniless in an insane asylum. I’m sure he’s still burning in hell. You can’t escape God’s wrath.

      Much love and hugs, sister!!

  6. Linda Broday, you ask a difficult question but after thinking it over, I realized how much I am enjoying these historical tidbits that I never knew. So my vote goes to more historical lore. Thank you so much for all that you do. I am so enjoying your books. Sending my love

    • Hi Cricket….Historical articles it is. I enjoy sharing what I know and some new things I learn. Thank you for liking my books and the stories that spin from my imagination.

      Much love!

  7. Sad historical episode! I like that you share historical stories, though. I enjoy all of your posts, most especially the ones about people.

    • Hi Cheryl C……Thank you for coming and weighing in. I’m so blessed to have you like what I write and the blogs I put up.

      Much Love!

    • Hi Darla……Thank you for coming. I’ll try to include historical events in with my ones about people and places.

      Much Love!

  8. I love historical reports you share! Some are harder than others, but they have their place in history. By knowing the heart wrenching events, hopefully, lessons learned keep us from repeating them. To scour the ugly stains from history is nothing more than an attempt to sugarcoat the truth. There is a saying, I cannot remember who said it, that was something similar to, those who don’t learn from their mistakes in the past are destined to repeat it.
    As for what I like in your column, love historical lessons, book and character info., insights into your or other select authors lives and/or inspirations, book recommendations…. to list a few. Love to hear from or about you, Ms Linda! Hope you are feeling and doing better!! You remain in my prayers.

    • Hi Teresa……I love that quote and it’s so true. If we don’t learn anything from past mistakes, we’ll repeat it again. I feel blessed that you love my stories and my blogs. Thank you so much for coming over. I’ve been slower this week answering comments because of the amount of time I’m limited to spend on the computer.

      Much Love!

  9. This just CRUSHED ME!!!

    I know there’s evil in the world. And this is just another example of the depths evil will go to….

    If you choose to blog – blog what you want! 🙂 But my vote is for anything history/eduational related, whether it’s towns, people, events.

    • Hi Michelle…..This crushed me too. And it made me furious. I’d like to dig that man up and stomp on him. Karma (the good Lord) did get him and he paid a high price. A few years after this he got syphilis and lost his mind. He ended up in a mental hospital and was stripped of everything he had. We reap what we sow. Personally, I think he’s burning in hell right now.

      Much love and hugs!