‘Bonanza’ Star Dan Blocker Was an Absolute Hoss From the Day He Was Born

by Joe Rutland

For anyone who has seen Bonanza, then you know that Dan Blocker, who played Eric “Hoss” Cartwright, was a big man. Apparently, that was evident even from the time of his youth. Yes, the tall, heavyset native of Texas would find a place in the hearts of TV viewers. But these numbers will astound you a bit. When Blocker was born on Dec. 10, 1928, he weighed 14 pounds. A toddler usually isn’t too big but he was already shooting upward at 5 feet tall and 105 pounds. That’s as a toddler, friends.

But wait, there’s more. As a 12-year-old, Blocker was 6 feet tall and weighed 200 pounds. You could find him working as part of a grain truck crew. Then, we move along to high school. Woof. Blocker was a tall drink of water as they might say in Texas. He stood at 6 feet, 4 inches tall, and weighed 275 pounds. That’s already in high school, as we said. Oh, he had a 14 1/2 size shoe he was wearing.

Dan Blocker of ‘Bonanza’ Was Duking It Out With Older Boys As A Kid

“They called me ‘The Big’n’ and the citizens of O’Donnell [Texas] roped off a part of Main Street every Saturday night and pitted the local toughs against me,” Blocker told The Fort Lauderdale News in 1959, according to MeTV. At 13 years old, Blocker was taking on older guys and winning. “My dad used to say that I was the ‘onliest’ man in Texas that wears a No. 14 shoe,” Blocker said, “that I was too darned big to ride and too little to hitch to a wagon.” That sounds just like something Hoss would say on Bonanza, except that came right from Blocker’s own mouth.

While people will watch the classic TV Western in the land of reruns, it’s rather sad that the actor died suddenly. Blocker was definitely a part of this show and it might have stayed on NBC a bit longer. Still, Blocker died in 1972 at 43 years old. There were complications that he suffered after a surgical procedure. Lorne Greene, who played Ben Cartwright, would recall the “great tragedy” of the actor’s death.

“Dan Blocker is one of the great tragedies that take place in a person’s life,” Greene said while chatting with Ray Martin back in 1986. “A big, huge man, I referred to him as ‘my big son Hoss,’ 6-foot-3 anyway you want to measure it. He was a marvelous human being, a very bright, very bright man. Never hurt anybody in his life. And a little blood clot after an operation took him away. You expect a man like that [to not have] something horrendous to happen [to him].”