‘Bonanza’: The Horse Attack Episode Was Based on Real-Life Events

by Madison Miller
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“Bonanza” was an entirely fictional show. The popular Western was on for 14 seasons and details the life of the Cartwright family in the 1860s.

While the series is considered fictional, there were some very real elements. In fact, the series is known for the pressing moral dilemmas that would surface and the characters would be forced to overcome. Beyond that, other scenes from the show would often draw on real-life circumstances or events.

There was an episode of the show called “The Gift” from season two. During this episode, a man appears on their land saying that Native Americans are killing between the fort and Yuma.

Joe is wrapped up in conflict but manages to escape on his horse. However, one of the “bad guys” shoots the horse out from under Joe. Little Joe is forced to use his last bullet to put the dying horse out of misery. He runs off on foot.

Michael Landon’s Horse from ‘Bonanza’ is Killed

That story in particular is not similar to what happened in real-life. However, Michael Landon’s horse that he used for the show did in fact get killed. The horse’s name was Cochise.

At the time, and even now, it’s troubling to hear. Especially since the four main characters and the horses they would ride had become an iconic part of the series. The characters were always galloping through the Ponderosa and getting into fights, all while on horseback.

According to MeTV, during the second season of the show, an intruder broke onto the set. The horses were not shot but instead mutilated. The person had stabbed several of the horses. As a sad result, Landon’s horse passed away in October 1964.

Landon offered a reward to anyone who had information on the event. An intense investigation also took place. However, he never did find out who had purposely injured the horses of “Bonanza.”

Little Joe’s horse on the show was replaced by a similar black and white pinto. He would eventually tag along for different appearances at events around the country. He rode several different horses throughout the rest of the series’ run. This horse replacement happened to be a biter. It put one woman, Emma Thompson, into the hospital after biting the tip of her finger off at a Houston rodeo.

The horses from the show were rented from Fat Jones Stables in North Hollywood. Each of the horses was distinctly different so viewers watching in black-and-white could distinguish between them.

As for the other horses, Adam rode Sport, a chestnut brown horse with a white stripe on its nose. Hoss rode Chub, a dark-brown horse with three white socks on his hooves. Ben rode Buck, an all-tan horse with a dark mane and tail.

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