It’s not always about humans….



Sometimes in television shows, it is not just the humans who make the show.  For example ‘Bullet’ in the Roy Rogers show, Mister Ed (a Palomino named Bamboo Harvester… there is no accounting for names), Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Moose (the Jack Russell from Frasier).   In researching about westerns from the 50’s and 60’s, I ran into some interesting information about the horses from Bonanza.  Who can forget Little Joe on his beautiful Paint horse.  So here is some horse trivia for you animal lovers.


Perhaps the unsung stars of “Bonanza” are the horses themselves. They are not like that of those who could perform such miracles as opening doors, sniff out the bad guys and untie knots, like Champion and Trigger. Not the typical horse that was used to perform in some of the most well known Westerns on T.V. The stars of the series were happy with their horses, because the main purpose was to carry the rider and were cast just for this part.

Because Bonanza was the first TV Western to be filmed in color, the mounts for the Cartwright family were chosen with an eye to how they would stand out in this new medium.  But each actor also had considerable input into the selection of his horse.



I had trouble finding much information on Chub, the horse Dan Blocker rode.  Chub was a half quarter horse, half horoughbred who was selected not only for his temperament but for his ability to carry a man of Dan Blocker’s imposing size.  Chub stood 15.3 hands tall and weighed close to 1300 pounds.  The horse’s most distinctive feature was the crooked blaze down his face.   Chub remained with the series during its entire run and outlived Blocker.









 Michael Landon selected a beautiful Paint horse for his new mount, in the show he is called Cochise, named after the famous Indian.  He stood 15. 3 hands high and weighed 1,150 pounds.  Michael rode Cochise the first six years of Bonanza, who had two stunt Paint horses double him, the first season.

By the seventh season, the stories centering on Joe began shifting outdoors and stronger and highly-trained stunt Paint horses had to be used, where in the first six years, his first Paint, called Cochise would just do simple chores at Paramount Studios and locally in Southern California.  The seventh and eighth seasons had more rugged outdoor shots at Lake Tahoe and Lone Pine and other locales, so two more riding Paints selected by Michael along with the stunt Paint was selected and ridden by Bob Miles doubling Joe in long shots, and Mike would do his close-ups on his riding Paint.  This is something that stuntmen and actors work out before filming, and they go to the stable and choose the Paint horses for the scenes called for in the scripts, every season.

(and yes, I did leave out what happened to his favorite Paint, Cochise as it is too terrible to write about)






 When Bonanza's producer, David Dortort and actor Lorne Greene looked over a dozen animals in 1959, they found a beautiful Buckskin horse, aptly named ‘Buck’ and fell immediately in love with him. 

The series was cancelled in 1972.  Lorne bought the horse from the stable because he was fond of the animal and was fearful something bad would happen to him.  That year, Lorne donated the horse to the Fran Joswick Therapeutic Riding Center in San Juan Capistrano, California, where he would spend the rest of his life. The facility is specially for mentally and physically challenged children and the children loved Buck.  He had many good years as a therapeautic riding horse until his passing in 1992, at the ripe age of 45 years old.  Buck's legend lives on as does his following!









Adam’s horse in the show was named Scout.  But Scout was not the original horse selected for the role.  In fact the first two horses, Candy and Beauty, both proved to be fractious in front of the cameras and had to be sent back to the stables as not right for the part.  When Scout was brought in, he proved to be not only well behaved but a good match for actor Pernell Roberts.  Scout was a gelded 7/8 thoroughbred who weighed in at 1100 pounds.  Roberts rode Scout for three seasons.  Near the close of that third season, Scout and Dan Blocker’s horse got mired in the mud during filming, causing an accident.  Whether related to the accident or not, within a month Scout was acting up, tossing his head around and generally refusing to behave during filming as he had before.  By the start of the fourth season, Scout had been sent back to the stables and replaced with a horse that was almost identical in appearance.  The only difference was that the new horse had four white socks as opposed to the three sported by the original Scout.


OK OK…. You know how hard it is for me to stop ‘going there’…..


A bit more movie horse trivia - and who doesnt like Tom Selleck.


It was on the set of Quigley that Tom Selleck would meet his lifelong friend, Spike, an American Quarter Horse.


“The horse didn’t have movie experience, but there was something about him. First of all he fit me. Being as tall as I am, I have to have a 16-hand, or at least a 15 and 3/4-hand horse or, my feet dangle, and it just doesn’t work. But it wasn’t just about size. There seemed to be a sense of respect between us. I knew almost immediately that I wanted that horse.”

 After filming concluded, Spike’s owners gifted him to Tom. The horse, now well into his 20s, still lives at Selleck’s California home and even starred for a second time as Tom’s mount in The Last Stand at Saber River in 1997.

                                                                     © Michelle Young 2012