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James "Scotty" Phillip


PIERRE, S.D. – James “Scotty” Philip is known as the man who helped save the American bison from extinction in the 1900s. For this, he is one of South Dakota’s Great Faces.
Born in Scotland, Philip immigrated to the United States as a teenager and first called Kansas home. Philip, like many men in the mid-1870s, was lured to the Black Hills of South Dakota by the prospect of finding gold. His time in the Black Hills only lasted one year before he moved to Wyoming to first work for the government and later work as a cowboy.
Philip eventually became acquainted with the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. He married Sarah Larribee, who was a Cheyenne. The couple moved to a ranch in 1881 near the present day city of Philip, S.D, which was named after James Philip in 1907.
The Philip ranch quickly grew, and soon he was known from the Black Hills to the Mexican border for driving 15,000 to 23,000 head of cattle.
In the late 1890s, the American bison – commonly called buffalo – was at risk of becoming an extinct species. To prevent the extinction of bison, Philip purchased a small herd of about 50 head.
When Philip died on July 23, 1911, his herd had grown to nearly 1,000 head and was one of largest herds in the world. Bison from his herd were distributed across the United States to stock national and state parks, including Custer State Park.

 South Dakota’s Great Faces weekly press release series is a project of the South Dakota Office of Tourism, designed to highlight people who have had significant impacts on South Dakota, particularly in the visitor industry. Click on the special “South Dakota’s Great Faces” link at to access the complete list of articles.

Media Notes:

Information for this release was obtained from the South Dakota Hall of Fame and The Black Hills Visitor Magazine.


Wanda Goodman
Media & PR Manager
Phone: 605-773-3301