Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Belgians and Buffaloes

Well, after decades of painstaking research, the mystery of why Belgians are called Buffaloes may have been solved.
It seems that back around the turn of the century (from the 19th to the 20th), Buffalo Bill Cody took his Wild West Show to Belgium (among other European countries), where the people of Ghent took to him in a big way.
The football team there - K.A.A. Gent - took as its nickname the Buffaloes, and their logo is an Indian chief in profile.
It seems that many of the Belgians moving to the Detroit area came from that part of Flanders, and brought their team affiliation with them.
A mystery neatly solved.


Ursula Rodgers said...

Wow, I arrived here through Googling and I wanted to tell you thanks for posting about the Belgium-Buffalo connection. I just spent 6 months living in Ghent and thought it was seriously odd that their soccer team was the Buffaloes, not even getting started on the mascot!

I didn't realize it was also used as a nickname for Belgians in the US.

Charlie van Becelaere said...

Thanks, Ursula.
I think you'll find that Buffalo as a nickname for Belgian is a very regional thing. It seems to happen only on the East side of Detroit and its suburbs, where there is a fairly large Belgian population.
Folks on the West side of Detroit typically don't know it either.

Beth Monteith said...

My mother was 100% Buffalo…born in Rock Island, Illinois in 1909. (surname DeMeere) I know of a Buffalo Club of Belgians in Minnesota, so the name wasn't just confined to Detroit's East Side. It could, however, be just Flemish Belgians used the term, and not Walloons, which could account for other Belgians not knowing of it. (that's a guess)

Deborah Knight said...

Thank you for the explanation. I've always known that Belgians are "Buffaloes." That's what my Grandpa called them. He was Canadian, but during Prohibition he used to run liquor to -- you guessed it -- the east side of Detroit!

Anonymous said...

I am of Belgian descent and grew up in Superior, Wisconsin. There were many events that we attended at the Belgian Club also known as the Buffalo Club. It is still in existence!

Unknown said...

I grew up in the Northern suburbs of Detroit. I am of 100 % Belgian descent. Both sets of my grandparents settled on the East side of Detroit after they arriv d from Belgium. They always referred to us as Belgium Buffalos. They were Flemish Belgiums. I always wondered where that originated from. Thank you for the info.

Chris said...

I always thought it was because we are stubborn! Ha Ha.

Charlie van Becelaere said...

Chris, I think my wife might agree with you!