Famous Horses of Film &
well the days of my childhood, feverishly completing my chores
so I could be in front of the television 5 minutes before the
start of my favourite programs…all of which starred of course, a
horse. Each week a new adventure that would continue to thrill
me until the next adventure. Heroes each and every one of them.
What fate would have befallen their human partners if it were
not for the incredible devotion and courage of these equine
For many of these nameless horses we shall never know, but for
some, their names still ignite an excitement that brings us back
to our childhoods where every ending is a happy one so long as
our trusty steed is there to lead the way!
In January of 1933, radio station WXYZ
began broadcasting one of the most popular radio shows in
history, “The Lone Ranger”. In July of that same year, The Lone
Ranger was to make his first public appearance with his mighty
steed, Silver. For this event, a horse by the name of “Hero” was
the first horse to fill the shoes of the Silver.
Few people realize that there were actually two horses that have
portrayed Silver on film and on television. Silver #1 was a 12
year old, Morab Tennessee Walking Horse cross stallion over 17
hands tall who was chosen personally by Clayton Moore (The Lone
Ranger) himself in 1949 for use on the television series just
prior to its launch. His real name was “White Cloud” or from
some sources, “Traveler”. He did not know many tricks, but was
very gentle and had an impressively high rear which became the
hallmark of this dynamic duo. Silver #1 came from
the Hugh Hooker Ranch in the San Fernando Valley of California.
In 1949, the owner of the Lone Ranger Television show, George W.
Trendle purchased a four year old Morab Saddlebred cross by the
name of “Tarzen’s White Banner” from a farm in Peoria, Illinois.
He immediately renamed and registered the horse, “Hi-Yo Silver”.
In 1952 “Hi-Yo Silver” was shipped from Illinois to California
and became Silver #2 taking the place of Silver #1 in the
television series while John Hart briefly stepped into the role
of The Lone Ranger. Silver #2 was trained by the famous trainer
and handler, Glenn Randall who also trained Roy Roger’s Trigger.
Silver #2 had an opposite temperament from the first Silver
being a high strung stallion who was quite skittish of camera
The following year, Clayton Moore returned to take his place as
the Lone Ranger and continued to use Silver #2 but Silver #1
would often return to fill the role when scenes required a calm
and obedient horse. One such scene in which Silver #1 received
the Animal Award of Excellence required Silver to drag The Lone
Ranger to water. Silver #1 was used for fear that Silver #2
might shy from the camera sounds and step on Clayton. But for
all his skittishness, Silver #2 was the horse that Clayton
always toured with and used for publicity events.
Silver #1 was sold to the Ace Hudkin’s Stables where he lived
out his retirement. Silver #2 was retired in 1962 where he lived
with wrangler Wayne Burson and his wife until his death in 1974
at the age of 29.
There have been several horses ridden by Roy Rogers throughout
his film and television career and all of them were called
The original Trigger was foaled in 1934 on a ranch in San Diego
that was partly owned by Bing Crosby and was bred and owned by
Roy F. Cloud. His sire was a thoroughbred that was raced at the
Caliente Racetrack in Mexico. Trigger’s original name was
“Golden Cloud” and at the age of three was sold to Hudkin’s
Stables in Southern California.
Golden Cloud had a leading role being ridden by Olivia
DeHaviland who played Maid Marion in the 1938 Errol Flynn
classic, Adventures of Robin Hood (Warner Bothers, 1938). In
Rogers first met Golden Cloud while he was auditioning horses
for his first starring feature, Under Western Stars (Republic,
1938), but it wasn’t until 1943 that Rogers bought Golden Cloud.
Rogers once stated that "I got on him and rode him 100 yards and
never looked at another horse”. He described Trigger as "the
best thing that ever happened" to him. Sidekick, Smiley Burnette
suggested the name “Trigger” because the horse was “quick on the
Trigger #1 was trained by Glenn Randall and was said to be the
smartest horse in Hollywood. Trigger could untie ropes, sit in a
chair, fire a gun and add and subtract. Trigger would also walk
up hospital stairs to visit with the sick children and loved to
perform in front of people. Roy always made sure that Trigger
received star billing in all of his films…after all, what’s a
cowboy without his horse? Roy even proposed to Dale Evans while
sitting atop Trigger during a show in Chicago.
proud of the fact that throughout his more than 80 films, the
101 episodes of his television series, and countless personal
appearances, Trigger never fell. However, there was one occasion
when Trigger really put a scare into him. It happened while they
were driving up to a film location. As they came around a bend,
a car coming from the opposite direction forced Roy's car off
the road, causing the horse trailer to overturn. Roy jumped from
his car and ran back to the trailer, where he found Trigger
lying motionless. Roy spoke calmly to Trigger, and by using a
rope he was able to pull him from the trailer. At that point
Trigger opened his eyes and jumped to his feet. A relieved Roy
smiled when he realized that Trigger must have thought
this was just another movie stunt and that he was supposed to
Trigger won a P.A.T.S.Y. award (animal award equivalent for the
Oscar) and was also the 1958 Craven Award winner.
The original Trigger passed away of old age in 1965 at the age
of 33. Roy could not bear the thought of burying him so he had
him mounted where he now stands on display at the Roy Rogers and
Dale Evans Museum in Branson, Missouri.
Trigger #2 was called “Little Trigger” and was an accomplished
trick horse who appeared in many shows with Roy. It was Little
Trigger that was featured with Roy on the cover of Life magazine
in 1943 and who starred in the film Son of Paleface with Bob
Hope in 1952. Little Trigger also stood in for Trigger #1 in
many of Roy’s films.
Trigger #3 was Trigger Jr. His registered name was “Allen’s Gold
Zephyr” and he was foaled in 1941 in Soudertown, Pennsylvania.
Trigger Jr. died in 1969 and was also mounted where he now
stands at the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in Branson,
Buttermilk was a buckskin Quarter Horse gelding who had been
saved as a colt from being sold to the slaughterhouse. He had
been badly abused and was quite mean spirited. The cattle farmer
who had rescued him began training the horse they had named
Taffy and in no time at all became a friendly and affectionate
cutting horse. Glenn Randall, the famous Hollywood horse trainer
saw Taffy at a competition, purchased him and he soon became
“Buttermilk”, Dale Evans beloved mount. Buttermilk appeared in
all but 6 of the Roy Rogers Show television episodes that aired
from 1951 to 1957. Buttermilk died at the age of 31 and like his
stablemates was mounted and can be seen at the Roy Rogers and
Dale Evans Museum in Branson, Missouri.
I cannot remember a Saturday morning that I did not wait in
front of the television to see what great adventure Fury would
take me on! The series was made from 1955 to 1960, but was shown
well into the 70’s. Fury was shown all over the world and
sometimes under the name”Brave Stallion”. Fury was probably the
most famous and prominent of all horses as a star earning over
$500,000.00, second only to Lassie as the greatest money earning
animal in Hollywood. In over 150 episodes the story of Joey, an
orphaned boy who is befriended by Jim Newton, a man who recently
lost his wife and son in an auto accident unfolds. Jim captures
a wild stallion after three years of trying and names the
stallion Fury. Joey befriends Fury and saves Fury’s life which
|Fury will only allow Joey
to ride him. Each episode takes Joey and Fury on a new adventure
where a lesson is to be learned each and every time. What better
premise for a show can there be?
Fury was born “Highland Dale” on March 4, 1943 in Missouri. He
was a registered American Saddlebred. Fury was just 18 months
old when he was discovered and purchased by Ralph McCutcheon, a
famous Hollywood trainer.
At 26 months of age Fury starred in the 1946 version of “Black
Beauty”. In 1955 he starred in “Outlaw Stallion” for which he
received the Award of Excellence. In 1956 he starred in “Gypsy
Colt” for which he earned The P.A. T. S. Y. Award. This film
required an enormous amount of tricks. Some of the tricks that
were written into the script for him to perform were, opening
doors with his mouth, running to the schoolhouse to pick up his
young owner, poking his head into windows, and allowing himself
to be chased by a group of motorcyclists.
1957 Fury starred alongside Elizabeth Taylor in “Giant”. In the
closing scene of the film, Fury’s performance left viewers in
awe as he completely stole the acting honours from the human
Fury earned a Second Place P.A. T. S. Y. Award for his
performance and became the biggest equine star in Hollywood. He
also earned a Second Place P.A. T. S. Y. Award for his
performance in the 1958 film, “Wild is the Wind” and a Third
Place P.A. T. S. Y. Award for his television show, Fury.
Fury appeared in several episodes of
“Bonanza”, “Lassie”, and “My Friend Flicka” as well as appearing
in an episode of “Rin Tin Tin” and the “Monkees”.
Fury’s owner and trainer, Ralph McCutcheon claimed that Fury was
not a trick horse…he was a trained horse. He said the difference
was that a trick horse would perform stunts as if he had
memorized them, but a trained horse understood what it was
taught. Ralph said he would explain to Fury what was required,
give him a rehearsal and then he would do it and get it right
the first time. Fury was never distracted by noises or unusual
movements around the sets. It is said that Ralph could be off
camera and tell Fury, “Go pull the boy by his shirt and pull him
backwards”. And Fury would do it. Fury was trained using the
reward system…his favourite reward…carrots!
Fury lived a happy life with Ralph and eventually retired to
Sand Canyon Ranch, Santa Clarita, California where they both
lived out their lives together.
My Friend Flicka
My Friend Flicka was a 1941 children’s novel written by Mary
O’Hara which tells the story of a boy, Ken McLaughlin, who
adopts a beautiful wild filly against the wishes of his father.
The novel inspired the making of a feature length film in 1943
starring Roddy McDowell and a television series which debuted in
In the series, Flicka (Swedish for “Little Girl”) was played by
a chestnut Arabian mare named “Wahama”. Her stunt double was
played by a quarter horse gelding named “Goldie” and both were
trained by the famous Les Hilton. The role of Ken McLaughlin was
played by Toronto born, Johnny Washbrook. During the 50’s
Johnny and Wahama made
many public appearances and Wahama loved the attention. The
series was very popular and has even been run recently on the
On October 1st, 1961 CBS aired the first of a series that would
become one of the most popular series of the 60’s. Mister Ed,
foaled in 1949 in El Monte, California was a parade and show
Palomino named “Bamboo Harvester”. He was bought by the Mister
Ed Company and trained by the Famous Les Hilton. He was an
intelligent and easy horse to work with who only needed a bit of
peanut butter to keep him “talking”. The series about an
architect named Wilbur and the horse who only spoke to him
lasted until 1966. Wilbur had to keep the secret that Mister Ed
could talk although Mister Ed did on a few episodes speak to
children. Mister Ed told Wilbur, “Who would believe a kid saying
a horse can talk?”
Many famous stars appeared on the Mister
Ed Show including George Burns (the shows producer), Zsa Zsa
Gabor, Donna Douglas, Clint Eastwood and even baseball player,
Leo Durocher. During the many episodes that aired Mister Ed
talked on the telephone, rode a surf board, flew an airplane,
drove a delivery truck, wore a “Beatle” wig, flew a kite,
delivered newspapers, and played baseball.
Mister Ed won several awards for his work.
He won first place P.A.T.S.Y. Awards in 1962 and 1963. A second
place P.A.T.S.Y. Award in 1964 and third place P.A.T.S.Y. Award
in 1965. The categories included all types of animals, not just
In 1968, at the age of 19, Ed began to suffer from a variety of
health problems, including a broken leg. He was quietly put
down, but no one really knows where or when. Another horse who
had filled in for Mister Ed from time to time by the name of
“Pumpkin” died in Oklahoma in 1979. Many believed that it was
Mister Ed who died in Oklahoma. Though his death is still a
|mystery, one things for
sure…Mister Ed will always be remembered as Wilbur’s amazing
When Anna Sewell wrote her classic Black Beauty, The
Autobiography of a Horse in 1877 she could not have imagined the
impact it would have had on so many of us. Nor could she have
imagined that her story would be recreated over and over again.
There have been 8 feature length films including an animated
version and at least 4 television series all of which are the
creation more of the people who made them than a rendition of
Anna Sewell’s classic. However, each one is a horse story and
each one features a black stallion who undoubtedly can make a
poor script seem right.
|Fury starred as Black
Beauty in the 1946 version of the story and he makes this film
well worth seeing.
In 1994 Black Beauty was once again a feature film. This time
the star was an American Quarter Horse Stallion named “Docs
Keepin Time”. Docs went from a rather unsuccessful racing career
to being one of Hollywood’s most sought after equine performers.
In the film, Black Beauty, Docs had to perform many tricks such
as working without a rider, rearing and nodding and shaking his
head. He even had to keep his cool while being trapped in a
flaming barn. Docs Keepin Time has also played the part of the
rearing horse in the Busch Beer commercials, performed in a rock
video and was the star of the television series, “The Black
Stallion”. He also played the part of “Gulliver” in the film,
The Horse Whisperer. We are sure to see more of Docs Keepin Time
in the future.
Hidalgo was a film which asked a lot of its leading horse. There
were 5 horses used for Hidalgo, but the main horse, a Paint
named “T.J.” stole Vigo’s heart. At the film’s wrap, Mortensen
purchased T.J. and took him home!
There have been many more famous and not so famous horses that
have thrilled us from our theatre seats and from in front of our
TVs…more than I could ever begin to mention. If only they knew
how many hearts they touched and how many lives they changed.
May they all find Happy
Trails and many a green pasture!
GiftHorse Gallery has found a
collection of collectables inspired by these Superhorses,
Here to see what we have found.
For more information on B-Western Movies, the Heros, Heroines
and their Horses follow this link:
For more information on these famous
horses and others not mentioned follow this link:
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re-familiarize yourself and your family with these classics
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