Miller explained that this action filled scene depicted a buffalo “wounded in the flank” but
not disabled, not at all desirous of giving up the contest,–on the contrary he is ripe for mischief,–full of rage, and is making savage onslaughts on his enemies who are on their part tantalizing him in every manner with feints, mock attacks, and general bagatelle [small details],–retreating as he gives battle, and barely escaping some of his awkward plunges. One has approached and flung a lasso, with the intention of throwing him down; –they keep up this “fun” until the poor creature is nearly exhausted, and then dispatch him.
It is this pluck on the part of the Buffalo that commands the admiration of the savage;–he will fight until he cannot stand on his feet. A flank shot tending to bring out all his energies & game qualities. (Ross, 1968, text accompanying plate 99)
This sketch is perhaps the earliest version of this scene which Miller copied a number of times.