The OTHER Stars Of Bonanza

One of the great TV Westerns of the 60s, perhaps of all time, was Bonanza.  I remember it being a must-see at our house on Sunday evenings.  And my parents enjoyed it as much as me and my siblings.  I learned a lot over the years about the stars who played those larger-than-life Cartwright men, but it was only recently, when I stumbled across an article on the topic, that I learned about the other, less celebrated stars – namely the horses.  I thought I’d share some of what I learned with you all.

First of all, none of the actors owned their horses – at least not while the show was filming.  They weren’t owned by the studio either.  They were owned by Fat Jones Stables, an operation that had a long history – all the way back to 1912! –  of providing horses to movie and television productions.

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.

Let’s take the horses in the order of their rider’s family position:

Ben Cartwright:  His horse was named Buck, logical since he was a Buckskin.  The horse was 12 years old at the start of the series, weighed in at about 1100 pounds and stood a little over 15 hands tall.   It was said that Lorne Greene did not care much for horses, but when the series ended its 14 year run, he purchased Buck from the stable because he was concerned with what might happen to the animal otherwise.  That same year, Lorne turned around and donated Buck to a therapeutic riding facility that worked with mentally and physically challenged children and youth.  Buck spent his remaining years there and by all accounts was a big hit.  Buck lived to the ripe old age of 45.

Adam Cartwright:  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.

Hoss Cartwright:  I had trouble finding much information on Chub, the horse Dan Blocker rode.  Chub was a half quarter horse, half thoroughbred horse 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 a sturdy 1250 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.

Joe Cartwright:  Michael Landon selected a Paint named Tomahawk to be his mount on the show.  The horse’s ‘character name’ was Cochise.  Standing 15.3 hands tall and weighing in at 1150 pounds, it was second in size only to Hoss’s mount.  Tomahawk was with the show for more than five seasons.  During the sixth season tragedy struck in a truly terrible incident.  A demented intruder broke into the Fat Jones Stables and stabbed several of the horses, among them Tomahawk.  The vet was able to save some of the victims but several of the injured animals had to be euthanized, including Tomahawk.  Landon was both saddened and outraged by what happened and offered a sizable reward for the capture of the responsible party, but the perpetrator was never identified.  In subsequent episodes a number of Paints were used to play the role of Joe’s horse Cochise.

 

So there you have it – some trivia about the four horses who carried the Cartwrights.  Did any of this surprise you?  Do you have any particular memories of the show and did you have a favorite from among the animals?

Winnie Griggs
Winnie Griggs is the author of Historical (and occasionally Contemporary) romances that focus on Small Towns, Big Hearts, Amazing Grace. She is also a list maker, a lover of dragonflies and holds an advanced degree in the art of procrastination.
Three of Winnie’s books have been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, and one of those nominations resulted in a win.
Winnie loves to hear from readers. You can connect with her on facebook at www.facebook.com/WinnieGriggs.Author or email her at winnie@winniegriggs.com.
Updated: January 5, 2018 — 2:30 am

25 Comments

  1. Oh, Bonanaza! I have great memories of Saturday morning re-runs. I loved Adam Cartwright, but Cochise was my favorite horse, always loved Paints. That is heartbreaking about Tomahawk, how horrible.

  2. What a fun look at the unsung heroes of Bonanza. What would the Cartwrights be without their horses? Great stuff! One of my first cowboy crushes was on Adam Cartwright. I was so sad when her left the show. He still lives on for me as my favorite Bonanza brother. And now I can cheer for Scout, too. 🙂

  3. How I loved Bonanza, Winnie! I remember that it came on on Sunday nights after Walt Disney, and I would BEG my mom to let me stay up and watch it–sometimes she would agree. I was in love with Adam and wanted her to call me Adam (I think I was 7 or 8 when I went through this phase). LOL Loved this insight into the horses of the show–how awful about Michael Landon’s horse, Tomahawk, and the other poor animals that suffered that crazed assault. I didn’t know anything about that–so glad you brought all these facts out! This was very interesting.
    Cheryl

  4. Thanks for a look at their horses. Our daughter saw Bonanza in reruns and developed a love of Paints because of Little Joe’s horse. I remember when Tomahawk was stabbed and died. I had not heard that more than one horse had been attacked at the time.
    I can’t believe Buck lived to 45. I knew horses lived well into their 20’s but didn’t realize they could live that lone. I am glad Lorne Greene had the foresight to purchase him. The horse was obviously well cared for and enjoyed his “retirement” job.
    Dan Blocker’s horse, Chub, was always my favorite. I always liked dark horses with a blaze.
    As a kid, I always wanted a horse. My mom gaveme one for my 16th birthday, a porcelain figurine on the top of my cake. That was as close as I got. That is fine with me. I had a horse at a neighbor’s farm rear up when I was leading it down a ramp. I hadn’t realized how big they were and how dangerous the hooves could be. Cured me of any desire to have one. My daughter has had horses for the last 10 years or so, but doesn’t ride anymore.

    Thanks for an enjoyable post. Hope you had a good Easter.

  5. OMG Winnie I just gasped when I saw that your post was about Bonanza. In the past 2 years I have become obsessed with the show, the Cartwrights, the horses, all of it!!!

    I started watching because of my love for Michael Landon on Little House, and that Cochise is a stunner! But as I watched it was Lorne Greene that stole my heart. I’m only 33 but find Pa sexy as hell LOL

  6. Thanks for this post, Winnie. I still love buckskins because of Ben Cartwright & Buck.

  7. Fun information, Winnie. Wow, 45 years for Buck. He lived a long time for a horse. You know it was because he was well taken care of and loved.

  8. Loved this post, Winnie. Bonanza was a wonderful show, watched it for years, but I didn’t know anything about the horses. Your story makes me want to watch the show again – I think there’s an “oldies” channel that still runs it.
    That musical theme still makes my blood race!

  9. Kristen, Karen and Cheryl – Adam was my favorite Cartwright brother as well. And yes, it was shocking and heartbreaking to find out what happened to Tomahawk

  10. Patricia – Glad you enjoyed the post. Sounds like you have some fun memories associated with horses

    Melissa – yes, the show holds up well, even today in reruns. My own daughters enjoyed watching it during their college years

    Tracy – I agree, Buck was a magnificent animal

  11. Paty – it’s unusual for a horse to live to be 45 – sort of like a person living to 100. I’m glad Lorne Greene was so thoughtful about what would become of him after the show ended

    Elizabeth – oh I agree. Whoever composed that theme music for the show did a great job. I can still ‘hear’ it and see that opening shot of the burning map.

  12. Oh how very interesting but how very sad about Little Joe’s horse. That was one I thought I recognized lol. I guess it’s like the Lassies – you see what you expect to see.

  13. Winnie, how interesting. I never knew the names of their horses. And how sad that some horrible person broke into the stables and stabbed several of the horses. Very tragic. Cochise was a beautiful animal. I, too, watched Bonanza. But back then my eyes were glued on Adam and Little Joe. They were sure handsome. *sigh*

    You always find the most intriguing blog subjects.

  14. Catslady – you’re right about seeing what you expect to. All of the actors and horses had stunt doubles and I doubt many folks noticed the substitution.

    Linda – yep, gotta love those handsome cowboys. Our fascination starts from a very young age

  15. What a brilliant blog, Winnie! I remember the horses well, the whole show, in fact. I was pretty small but I remember the treat of going to my Uncle Albert’s house to see it because he had a color TV!

    My heart breaks at what happened to that beautiful paint and other precius horses. Whenever I use a “paint” horse in my stories, I think of Little Joe and his horse. Thanks for this treat today.

    Did you all know in very early episodes, the Cartwrights actually sang the opening theme LOL?

  16. Winnie,

    Thank you for this amazing post. I love it. I love horses and this really brought back memories. My favorite horse on Bonanza was Tomahawk, Joe’s Painted One.

    It made me sad to read what happened to Tomahawk. A shame the person responsible was never caught.

    Thanks for the post and where did you find this info?

    Walk in harmony,
    Melinda

  17. Tanya – The Cartwrights SANG the theme song – how did I miss that? Must go to youtube and see if I can find it.

    Melinda – glad you enjyed the post. I found most of it on a trivia site dedicated to Bonanza, then used a search engine to find dig around for more.

  18. I enjoyed reading this. I loved watching the reruns of Bonanza. I didn’t realize that Fat Jones Stables was who own the horses. That was sad what happen to Tomahawk. I have always loved the markings of paints but I also like buckskins too. Cochise and Buck were my two favorite horses of the show.

  19. Wonderful post, Winnie! Little Joe’s paint was personal favorite. So sorry to read about that awful attack . . . There’s just no explaining something like that. The horses added so much to the show!

  20. Becky and Victoria – so glad y’all enjoyed the post. And it sounds like Littlke Joe’s horse was a favorite with a lot of viewers

  21. Ah, for me, I was in love with Joe in part because of his horse. I loved that paint!

    Thanks so much for the info. I didn’t know this at all and I am a big Bonanza fan.

    Peace, Julie

  22. Julie – I think Tomahawk was one of the most quickly recognizable horses on the show. Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for leaving a comment.

  23. I was a little young to be “in love” with Little Joe like my older sisters, so my favorite was Hoss–because he was funny! My whole family gathered to watch Sunday nights as well. I was always fascinated by the opening–the burning map and the galloping horses. Thanks for this bit of trivia!

  24. thanks for the Post~
    I Love the show and it will always be one of my most treasured westerns. Cochise was always my favorite horse on the show thats to bad what happened to him, its just awful. I think all the Cartwrights were special but Little Joe was certainly my Love on the entire series and was my favorite actor of all time. His mischievous grin will never be forgotten or any of his adventures.
    I just seen Breyers version of cochise which they created for the 50th anniversary of the show, certainly a collectors item!

  25. I read (in an article) that James Arness bought (or took home after all the filming) Buck from Fat Jones. Any truth to this statement?

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