| 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. Not the typical horse that was used to perform in old-time Westerns. 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 the show was filmed in color and because the different personalities of the Cartwrights, the horses that were selected would be distinct before the cameras and still relate to their riders. The horses weren't owned by the actors. They were rented from Fat Jones Stables in North Hollywood. The firm specialized in renting horses and horse-drawn rolling stock to movie and TV productions since 1912.
In 1970, the stable sold off a good deal of their livestock, which included the Paint horses rode by Michael Landon, for a sum of $19,000 dollars. He was supplied with new mounts for the final three seasons of the series. The era of Western films was coming to a final curtain. Fat Jones Stables closed their business in 1975.
James Arness rode Buck in Gunsmoke (his name revealed in the July, 1958 issue of The Western Horseman), was a Buckskin gelding owned by the Fat Jones Stables. Reportedly, James Arness kept the horse as a pet, housing him in his own private stable, and only using Buck when filming the series. Another source (TV Mailbag Column by Thomas Mead), claimed Buck had been called Marshal by Arness.
Mr. Arness is more then happy to discuss Buck at his official website www.jamesarness.com on the Internet. Incidentally, one of the eight Budweiser Clydesdale horses was named Buck. Michael Landon once related in an interview on The Tonight Show, that Lorne did not like horses and could be heard mumbling in disgust when he had to mount or ride one. On many occasions, Lorne would say, "Whoa, you son of a bitch", when he would bring Buck to a dead halt.
Note: The real names of the horses the Cartwright sons rode were Streak,
Slippers and Tomahawk.