Roy Rogers, the several Triggers ... Pal ... Dale Evans and Buttermilk
Roy Rogers rode a number of horses during his film and television careers --- they were all billed as "Trigger". In over a quarter century performing in public, he used three main Palominos:
1. The original, known on movie sets as "the Old Man".
2. Little Trigger, featured on the cover of Life magazine in 1943 and exclusively in SON OF PALEFACE (Paramount, 1952).
3. Trigger, Jr., a Tennessee Walker stallion used mostly on personal appearances and in the movie that bears his name.
The original Trigger was born in 1934 on a ranch in San Diego. (Trigger's registration form information was first published in The Old Cowboy Picture Show newsletter by Leo Pando in 2004. It was made available by fan George Mudryj and the President of the Palomino Horse Association, Steve Rebuck.)
Roy Rogers expert Robert W. Phillips originally believed Trigger was foaled on a San Diego ranch partly owned by Bing Crosby. Breed expert Pat Mefford has never been able to confirm this and notes Crosby's ranch was in Ventura.
Trigger was born from breeding stock owned by Captain Larry Good. The colt's second owner was Roy F. Cloud Jr., a breeder originally from Noblesville, Indiana. Cloud managed a ranch in San Diego and it was he who first named the Palomino colt Golden Cloud. At around three years of age, the horse was sold to the Hudkins Stables which provided livestock for the movie industry in southern California.
Trigger's bloodlines are not confirmed on his registration form. When discussing Trigger's origin in countless interviews, Rogers usually said he was "half thoroughbred and half cold-blooded; his sire was a race horse at Caliente, and his dam was a cold-blooded Palomino." According to the registration form the dam's color was chestnut. Pat Mefferd believes Trigger was at most one quarter thoroughbred.
Before Roy Rogers bought him outright, the Golden Cloud appeared in a few movies as a cast movie horse including the Errol Flynn classic ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (Warner Brothers, 1938) ridden by Olivia DeHaviland/Maid Marian. Co-editor of The Old Cowboy Picture Show newsletter, Leo Pando, was the first to spot the Golden Cloud ridden by Gilbert Roland in the black and white film JUAREZ (Warner Brothers, 1939) starring Betty Davis and Paul Muni. Eagle-eyed Trigger fan Larry Roe was first to notice the Golden Cloud in the Joe E. Brown comedy SHUT MY BIG MOUTH (Columbia, 1942).
Roy Rogers became aware of the Golden Cloud in 1937 when he was auditioning horses for his first starring feature, UNDER WESTERN STARS (Republic, 1938). Legend has it that sidekick Smiley Burnette suggested naming the Palomino "Trigger" after someone commented that he was "quick on the trigger."
(Courtesy of Lee Flippin)
Above are Roy Rogers, the original Trigger, and Carol Hughes in a scene from Roy's first starring adventure, UNDER WESTERN STARS (Republic, 1938).
It wasn't until 1943 that Rogers bought Trigger from Hudkins Stable for $2,500 (bill of sale provided by Joel 'Dutch' Dortch through his connection to Roy 'Dusty' Rogers Jr. and first published in The Old Cowboy Picture Show newsletter by Leo Pando in 2003). Glenn Randall, who trained Rogers' Palominos, was instrumental in the purchase and rightfully boasted that it was one of the best horse deals in Hollywood history.
Partially due to Trigger, Palominos became very popular and many appearing in movies in the 40s and 50s were thought to be him. The original Trigger had only a left rear white stocking. His white face blaze extends above the nostril on his near side (left side) and goes straight down covering the nostril on his far side and ends at his lip.
Trigger Jr., born in 1941, was originally owned by a Paul K. Fisher of Souderton, Pennsylvania, the Palomino stud's registered name was Allen's Gold Zephyr.
It was a common public relations claim that the original Trigger appeared in all of Rogers' films when in fact it was Little Trigger featured in the Bob Hope comedy SON OF PALEFACE (1952). With the advent of DVD and the "freeze frame" option, fans can see how often Little Trigger substituted for "the Old Man" in most of Rogers' movies from the early 1940s on.
The original Trigger died in 1965 at age 31 and Trigger Jr. in 1969. Both Palominos were mounted by Bishoff's Taxidermy of California and were on display for years at the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in Victorville, California. The original Trigger was also on display at The Roy Rogers - Dale Evans Museum in Branson, Missouri.
For a time, Dale Evans also rode a Palomino in personal appearances named Pal. She used the same animal in a pilot for a proposed television series of her own. When she appeared on television in THE ROY ROGERS SHOW, it was decided that using a second Palomino would be confusing. Glenn Randall loaned her a light buckskin Quarter horse gelding. Evans called it Buttermilk. Rex Allen's statement that his stallion Koko (originally owned by Glenn Randall) was once suggested as a mount for Evans is not correct. According to Randall's son Corky, the stud was always considered to hard to handle for Ms. Evans.
For a comprehensive and detailed history of Trigger and his doubles, refer to An Illustrated History of Trigger - The Lives and Legend of Roy Rogers' Palomino published by McFarland. While revising the book remains my dream - especially as new details have surfaced since the original publication in 2007 - what follows are some errors noted by Roy Rogers superfan Roy Dillow and registry expert Pat Mefferd:
Page 8, caption: replace Silver Spurs with Apache Rose.
Page 18, caption: replace "an unidentified child" with "Linda Lou"
Page 38, section on Roy F. Cloud Jr. should read:
Trigger was bred from stock owned by Captain Larry Good. Roy F. Cloud, a former U.S. border patrolman turned horse breeder from Nobelsville, Indiana, was the foal's second owner and registered him as the Golden Cloud in 1937. Neither Palomino registry existed at the time of Trigger's birth on July 4, 1934. Although it's been rumored that the Golden Cloud was born on a stock ranch near San Diego partially owned by singer Bing Crosby that has never been confirmed. According to Pat Mefferd, pedigree research expert, Crosby's ranch was in Ventura County. Mefferd also could not recall any palominos running on thoroughbred tracks in the U.S. at the time. Granted there could have been some match races pitting one horse against another in Mexico at Caliente, but chances are the horses were not registered.
Page 173, paragraph 8, line 5 that begins "No photos exist ..." should read: "There are but a few photos that exist of Rogers and "Trigger" in the "end of the trail" pose."
Page 225, paragraph 2, line 1 "27 years in show business" should be changed to "19 years in show business"
Page 235, year 1934 remove "partially owned by Bing Crosby and"
Updated: September, 2009