Hornaday Award: The Toughest Award in Scouts?

Protect the outdoors! (Courtesy of the Boy Scout Handbook 1959)

Protect the outdoors! (Courtesy of the Boy Scout Handbook 1959)

Most people have heard of the Boy Scout's Eagle Scout award, with its 21 required merit badges, increasingly difficult stepping stone rank advancement and leadership responsibilities, and the capstone project of designing, coordinating, and leading an Eagle Scout service project. It's a tough award to earn, with only 4% of all Boy Scouts reaching Eagle Scout rank.  

Potentially even more demanding than the Eagle Scout award, and certainly rarer, is the Hornaday award. Just how difficult is the Hornaday award to earn? On average, only 12 Scouts per year earn the Hornaday award! To put that in perspective, the 4% of Scouts who rose to Eagle Scout last year translated into 56,841.

What is the Hornaday Award? 

Hornaday award (Photo courtesy of www.Souting.org)

Hornaday award (Photo courtesy of www.Souting.org)

Scarcely known outside the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), the Hornaday award was started in 1914 by William T. Hornaday, director of the New York Zoological Park and founder of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Hornaday wanted to encourage people across America to focus on wildlife conservation and developed the award to recognize those who made a significant contribution to natural resource conservation.

No stranger to conservation and protecting the outdoors, the Scouts adopted the Hornaday award in the early 1970s. To earn a Hornaday award, Scouts must choose a project that goes above and beyond, and many even exceed the commitments required for Eagle Scout service projects. From working to slow erosion along the Chesapeake Bay shoreline, to mapping innumerable invasive plants in a sanctuary, Scouts who earn the Hornaday award take on projects that are often left to the professionals and require huge time commitments. Many Scouts put thousands of hours into their Hornaday project, which typically translates into 2-3 years, sometimes 4-5 years, before they reach their project goal. A huge accomplishment, especially considering that most are simlutaneously working their way towards Eagle.  

Check out more about the Hornaday award and the type of projects that earned such prestigious recognition on the BSA website.