The American Bone Wars and the battle to be the most famous dinosaur hunter in the world

By Nicky Dee, dinosaur expert and author of The Bone wars.

The American Bone Wars and the battle to be the most famous dinosaur hunter in the worldThe Bone Wars took place in America in the 1800s at a time when the search for dinosaurs really began to get exciting.

Two men led the hunt. Cope and Marsh started out as close friends but their palaeontological obsession drove them apart. Greed led to some pretty sneaky tactics, such as spying, fakery and bribery, as each The American Bone Wars and the battle to be the most famous dinosaur hunter in the worldtried to beat the other to the next big dinosaur discovery.

Ultimately, these two men changed the face of American science forever.

Here are a few facts you may not know about dinosaurs and the infamous American Bone Wars:

  • Megalosaurus, which means ‘great lizard’ was the name given to the first dinosaur ever discovered. It was found in a quarry near Oxford in England.


  • The excitement of this discovery soon spread across the Atlantic to American where Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope got caught up in the frenzied search for more larger-than-life creatures.


  • In the late 1800’s people wanted to be famous, not for being a footballer or a movie star, but for being a scientist!


  • The Greatest Dinosaur Graveyard in the world is a place called Como Bluff in Wyoming, USA, where massive fossils were literally scattered across the ground, waiting to be discovered.


  • At the beginning of the Bone Wars (1860’s) a handful of dinosaurs had been discovered, by the end (1890’s) over 144 had been named (although a few have been discounted since).


  • Ever heard of the Brontosaurus v Apatosaurus debate? Marsh named both in 1870’s, claiming they were different species.  In 1903, it was decided that they were the young and old of the same species and as Apatosaurus had been discovered first, its name was to be kept. Then… in 2015, a new group of scientists decided they were indeed different species!  Hurrah for Brontosaurus, the name ‘thunder lizard’ was back!


  • To this day, there are many fossils which were collected by Marsh and Cope still covered in plaster field jackets – the wrapping used to transport them – sitting in American museums, waiting to be opened!


  • Charles Knight was a famous sculptor who worked with Cope to create the first clay model of a Stegosaurus, literally putting ‘flesh on the bones’ of the dinosaur. This model helped people to see what it may have looked like when Stegosaurus walked on Earth.


  • Marsh discovered the very distinctive Triceratops during The Bone Wars, although in his rush to find and name as many dinosaurs as he could, he initially thought that the skull belonged to a bison, a type of buffalo! He soon realised his mistake and reclassified it adding a new dinosaur to his tally.


  • Amongst Cope’s 64 discoveries is Since Cope’s initial discovery in the 1889, a vast bone bed (a collection of many fossils found in one place) was discovered at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico in 1947 by George Whitaker.  It is claimed to be the greatest ever find of a dinosaur from the Triassic Period, in North America.


Nicky Dee is a dedicated dinosaur expert and HUGE fan!ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nicky Dee is a dedicated dinosaur expert and HUGE fan! Having fallen under the spell of these ever-popular prehistoric creatures, Nicky became so obsessed that she changed her career to write books about dinosaurs full-time. Her desire to give children the most up to date information in a fun and engaging way led to the creation of the series, which spans the 180 million years when dinosaurs ruled the world.

‘The Bone Wars’ by Nicky Dee is a factual book written specifically for children. But it’s not a text book – it reads like an adventure novel and is illustrated throughout with cartoons that help to exemplify the facts of the story.

For more information, see:


Bibliographic data:

Series Title: The Bone Wars

Author: Nicky Dee

Price: £6.99

Age range: 6 – 10

Binding: Paperback

ISBN: 978-0-9935-2938-2

BIC Category: YNNA

Dimensions: 12.9 x 0.9 x 19.8

Rights: World

Publisher: Dragonfly Group Ltd

Distributor: Orca Book Services Ltd


Other books by Nicky Dee:

What’s so Special about Ankylosaurus?

What’s so Special about Coelophysis?

What’s so Special about Diplodocus?

What’s so Special about Leaellynasaura?

What’s so Special about Megalosaurus?

What’s so Special about Stegosaurus?

What’s so Special about Triceratops?

What’s so Special about Tyrannosaurus rex?






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