The famous American hunter William Frederick Cody, aka Buffalo Bill, first came to Italy in 1890. He landed in the port of Naples, the city where he performed his first Italian shows. He then headed with a circus caravan to Rome following the Appian Way and stopping in the area of Cisterna di Latina where it is said that when he arrived in Rome he bickered with his wife Duke Onorato Caetani about his great ability to tame and ride horses. The duke who knew full well that the local butteri could not be outdone challenged him. A challenge that saw the Cisterna butteri compete in Rome’s Prati di Castello with the legendary Buffalo Bill in the ability to saddle and mount some American colts, without being thrown from the saddle, inside the arena built for the Wild West Circus Show.

According to the chronicles of the time, on the first day Buffalo Bill and his men put on a great show and our cowboys did not make the audience jump to their feet, while on the second day, in a pouring rain, after an initial attempt ours finally won “at home,” and it is said that Buffalo Bill took it so badly that he left without paying the full stakes. Certainly William Cody was a sporting soul and in fact the chronicles tell of bottles uncorked in honor of the cowboys and it seems that he paid only half of the bet as the first cowboy failed to tame the horse in time while only the second cowboy, Augustarello Imperiali won a second taming in that spectacle that became legend is told today in a thousand different ways.   In the famous challenge Duke Onorato Caetani , or rather his wife Ada Wilbraham, to whom the first care of the beautiful Ninfa garden was owed, and Buffalo Bill had bet a good 1,000 liras, which was a lot of money at the time so much so that a salary of 10 liras a month was already considered good. It also seems that the challenge brought a lot of money into the organizers’ coffers as the challenge itself was moved to the next day than the one that was pre-announced. Having lost the bet, it is said that Buffalo Bill decided to pay half of it because of the failure of the first cowboy but it is still said that he did not pay and even avoided paying even the bill for the rent of the land, a news, however, that has not been confirmed by the chronicles and seems rather strange given that it was precisely the Roman newspaper “il Messaggero” that promoted the sale of tickets.


Augusto Imperiali

On 8th March 1890 in the surroundings of Rome there was the famous challenge of taming foals against the “butteri” cowboys of Agro Pontino led by Augusto Imperiali.

Augusto Imperiali (Cisterna di Latina, Aug. 27, 1865-Dec. 18, 1954) on March 8, 1890, at Prati di Castello (now the Prati district of Rome) showed up to attempt the feat with the butteri Francesco Costanzi, Cesare Fabbri, Achille fasciani, Achille Laurenti, Angelo Petecchi, Bernardo Quinti, Filippo Valentini and last but not least the most experienced butteri Alfonso Ferrazza. It was raining hard in Rome that day and the ground looked just like a swamp. The cowboys who lived in the Pontine marsh felt they had an advantage. The Americans were masters of rope choreography and the applause fin oa that day was all for them. After an inglorious ordeal by Ferrazza, who n failed to tame in time the Romans witnessed Augustarello jump from the stands into the arena directly on the foal’s back. He began whispering between his oryxes and in a few minutes tamed him making a show of it to the applause of the audience .


“Holding the reins with his right hand and waving his hat with his left, he made a beautiful and elegant gallop around the entire camp. The enthusiasm was sky-high. The audience applauded loudly. The enthusiastic cowboys jumped, danced, threw their hats in the air in honour of their hero”. (Noses, 2006)

The event was obviously followed by a large crowd of the local population and all the italian press, so much so that the roman newspaper “Il Messaggero” published on March 10, 1890:
“The little morello, held with ropes, struggles frantically; he gets up on his back legs, pulls ramps. Cowboys always dodge them with the rapidity of experienced men. They finally manage to put the saddle on him with the undertail, and in one jump one of the cowboys is on top of him. It’s Augusto Imperiali. New storm of applause. The cowboys, enthusiastic about their success, jump, dance, throw their hats to the air, just to imitate everything the Americans have seen them do. Augusto Imperiali gallops around the field, holding the reins with his right hand and shaking his hat with his left. All the rants of the horse are unable to move him from the place for a single moment. He descended to the ground, and called to approach the first places where he received the warmest congratulations from everyone, including the Duchess of Sermoneta and her children”. (Il Messaggero)

Augusto Imperiali, nicknamed “Augustarello” from that moment on he became famous, and like a true hero his victory became part of the historical memory of Cisterna di Latina, so much so that a statue was dedicated to him and his figure inspired songs and books and even a biographical comic strip.



The “buttero” cowboy Augusto Imperiali, symbol of an Italy that is not afraid of anyone, died in 1954, at the age of 89 and is buried in the cemetery of Cisterna.

Buffalo Bill, pseudonym of William Frederick Cody (Le Claire, February 26, 1846 – Denver, January 10, 1917), was an American actor and hunter but also a soldier, explorer and theatre entrepreneur. He became an American national hero after a brief hand-to-hand combat with the Indian chief Yellow Hand in 1876, during which he said: “Here is the first scalp for General Custer!”.

He also performed in some Italian cities, including Naples, Turin, Genoa, Alessandria, Udine, Milan, Bergamo, Brescia, Verona, Bologna, Florence, Arezzo, Cremona and Rome, also going to Trieste at that time in Austria.

On March 8th 1890 Buffalo Bill lost, in Prati di Castello, the famous challenge in the colts’ tame against the cowboys of Agro Pontino led by the Cisternese Augusto Imperial.


By Igor Wolfango Schiaroli

Igor W. Schiaroli is specialized in new media and technology. He has expertise in publishing and media sector. He is an independent journalist and a writer but primary a technologist and an economist too. He has passion and curiousity about science and travel. He had major roles for Italian and International Media and Telecommunications companies.

2 thoughts on “When the Latina cowboys defeated Buffalo Bill”
  1. I am interested in obtaining prints of Buffalo Bill and the Butteri as seen in this article. If you can help direct me to the proper place, I would appreciate it. Thank you.

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