Animals have been a part of the television industry pretty much from the start, especially in Westerns where horses were a necessity. One of these Westerns was the highly popular "Bonanza." When the show ended in 1973 after 14 seasons, actor Lorne Greene, who portrayed the patriarch, Ben Cartwright, found that he had become very attached to his horse. He was gravely concerned that the buckskin, cleverly named Buck, would end up in the "glue factory."

Buck with Lorne Greene
Buck with Lorne Greene

Image via History Daily

When the show began production in the late 1950s the four actors who were to play the main characters went out to a place called Fat Jones Stable to pick out their own horses. Greene picked out Buck -- a bright, athletic, agile horse who turned out to be an excellent actor. Not only that, he looked great on camera. Since the show was going to be filmed in color it was important for the horses to be colorful and Buck also filled that necessity beautifully.

Buck with Lorne Greene
Buck with Lorne Greene

Image via Bonanza Boomers

A true buckskin, similar to a Siamese cat, is defined as the color of tanned deer hide with black points. Overall the color can run from yellow to dark gold with dark brown to black points (mane, tail, and legs). A buckskin is also a perfect ranch horse -- even for the Ponderosa. Buck was a fine specimen and stood 15 hands high at the shoulder.

Buck with Lorne Greene
Buck with Lorne Greene

Image via Bonanza Boomers

At that time Greene was not an experienced rider having been on a horse only a few times before. At first he was given a different buckskin to ride named Dunny.  That horse should perhaps have been named Dummy. When Greene was trying him out at full gallop they were about to hit a fence. Greene reined left and the horse turned right. Greene was nearly thrown from the horse. This led him to choosing the gentler and smarter horse.

Buck "Horsing" Around With The Other Actors
Buck "Horsing" Around With The Other Actors

Image via Bonanza Boomers

Buck and Greene spent a lot of hours together on the set. While Greene never grew completely comfortable in the saddle in general, he learned to trust Buck beyond all other horses. And Buck began to develop his own legion of loyal fans -- so much so that he even had his own action figure made by the Breyer company. These toys are now collector's items. Check Buck out on Amazon.

Buck Action Figure
Buck Action Figure

In his hours off the set Greene was well-known to be an avid activist in enviornmental causes and was involved in several conservation causes. He was also known to be quite kind and generous. Despite all of this everyone in the "Bonanza" cast and crew knew that he was not overly fond of horses. That was what made his action at the end of the series in 1973 such a surprise.

Buck and Greene Publicity Shot
Buck and Greene Publicity Shot

Image via icollector

Greene, concerned about the fate of his equine partner, bought Buck to make sure that he would end up in a good place where he would be treated well. Greene then donated Buck to a therapeutic riding center. It was there that Buck lived out his life helping disabled and mentally challenged kids to learn to become trusting and to develop balance and coordination. Buck's talent for working with someone who did not love horses stood him in good stead for working as a therapeutic riding horse.

I remember watching Bonanza and Buck from the safety of my dad's lap when I was small. Buck was my favorite horse, but I wished that Hoss would ride him because Hoss was also my favorite. My small heart wanted my two favorites to team up. These Sunday evenings are some of my favorite memories of my father.

Gentle Buck finally passed away in 1992 at the extremely venerable age of 45. That is extremely old for a horse. It is amazing what the power of love can do.

Sources: History Daily, Bonanza Boomers, Wikipedia, Amazon

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