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Posts Tagged ‘Animals’

Roy Rogers on his golden palomino Trigger, with wife and costar Dale Evans

Roy Rogers on his golden palomino Trigger, with wife and costar Dale Evans

It was 1938 and Leonard Slye needed a horse. Not just any horse. His horse had to be fast, well-trained, and handsome. You see, Leonard was a singing cowboy who had just gotten his first leading role in a western movie called “Under Western Stars.” He needed a horse to ride in the movie. Several stables in the Hollywood area sent out horses for Leonard to choose among. After trying out six or seven of them, he rode a golden palomino named “Golden Cloud.” It was love at first ride. He chose Golden Cloud for the movie role but renamed him “Trigger” because of his tremendous speed. Leonard Slye changed his own name, too, and became known as Roy Rogers.

“Under Western Stars” was a huge hit. As Roy toured the country promoting the film, Roy realized that his fans wanted to see Trigger as much as they wanted to see him. But Roy didn’t own Trigger. At that time, Roy was only making $75 a week as a contract actor for Republic Pictures and Trigger costs $2500! Roy also had a wife to support. But Roy couldn’t take the chance that Trigger would be paired with another star in a movie. Roy wanted to make more movies with Trigger and take him on tours around the country. So Roy took the financial risk and arranged to buy the expensive horse, arranging to pay off his debt to Trigger’s owners on installment, much, like Roy said, like he was paying off a bedroom set. Roy later said it was the best $2500 he ever spent.

Roy and Trigger went on to become superstars, making 88 movies and 100 tv shows together. Roy was called “The King of the Cowboys” and Trigger was known as “The Smartest Horse in the World.” Their western shows thrilled audiences with their wild cowboy and faithful horse adventures and horse-pumping action.

When Trigger died in 1965 at approximately the age of 35, the Smithsonian Institute asked Roy Rogers for his body for their collection of historical Americana. Wife and costar Dale Evans wanted Trigger to have a decent burial with a nice headstone. But Roy didn’t like either idea. He didn’t want Trigger to be so far away from California or buried underground. So Roy arranged for Trigger’s hide to be stretched over a plastic likeness of a horse in a rearing position.

Trigger is still the most popular attraction at the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum in Branson, Missouri. Roy also arranged for his German shepherd Bullet and Dale’s horse Buttermilk to be preserved and exhibited at the museum. Roy used to joke that after he died, he wanted to be preserved and mounted on the saddle on Trigger.

Roy Rogers’ son, Dusty, once said of his father. “Trigger died and Dad had him stuffed. Bullet died and Dad had him stuffed. Buttermilk died and Dad had her stuffed. Now Mom sleeps with one eye open!”
 
When Roy Rogers died, my husband Tom cried. Watch this video and you’ll see why. Here’s Roy Rogers and Trigger at the Hollywood Canteen:

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The Nubian Giraffe, by Jacques-Laurent Agasse (c.1827), depicts one of the three giraffes sent to Europe by Mehmet Ali Pasha. This one was received by George IV in London. The gentleman shown in the top hat is Edward Cross, operator of the menagerie at Exeter Exchange and then Royal Surrey Gardens. Also shown are the giraffe's Egyptian attendants, and, in the background, the Egyptian cows that supplied the young giraffe with milk.

The Nubian Giraffe, by Jacques-Laurent Agasse (c.1827), depicts one of the three giraffes sent to Europe by Mehmet Ali Pasha. This one was received by George IV in London. The Egyptian cows in the background supplied the young giraffe with milk.

In my last two posts, I wrote about Charles Dickens and his pet raven, Grip. Upon Grip’s death in 1841, Charles Dickens couldn’t bear to part with his beloved pet so he had him stuffed and mounted in a glass case to display in his study. Dickens was one of many Brits caught up in the pet preservation craze popularized by King George IV of England (1762-1830).

George IV is credited with establishing a private zoo at the Sandpit Gate at the Windsor Great Park at Windsor Castle. His menagerie consisted of such exotics as “wapiti, sambur, zebus, gnus, quaggas,…’corine’ antelopes, llamas, wild swine, emus, ostriches, parrots, and waterfowl. There was also an ‘enormous tortoise.'” (1) The showpiece of his collection, however, was a female Nubian giraffe, or “cameleopard,” as it was sometimes called. A diplomatic gift from Mehmit Ali, Pasha of Egypt, this young specimen arrived in London on August 11, 1827, along with several cows that provided her with milk. The gift giraffe was only 18 months old yet ten and a half feet in height. She was the first giraffe ever seen in England. Till she arrived, “there was a general belief that descriptions of the giraffe were partly fabulous.” (2)

The State of the Giraffe, 1829, a caricature print by William Heath, showing George IV and Lady Conyngham trying to lift the giraffe by pulley

The State of the Giraffe, 1829, a caricature print by William Heath, showing George IV and Lady Conyngham trying to lift the giraffe by pulley

From the beginning, there was trouble. An artist commissioned to paint the giraffe’s portrait noticed that her lower limbs seemed deformed from injuries. Investigation revealed that, on part of her journey from Senaar to Cairo, she was borne on the back of a camel, the wounds being caused because her legs were lashed together under the camel’s body. (1) At Windsor Castle, she was much doted on and continued to live on cow’s milk. After two years, though, she became very debilitated from those early wounds and exercise became painful and hard.  Someone came up with a plan to keep her moving. A gigantic triangle on wheels was constructed in which “the creature was somehow secured each day and trundled round her paddock, the hooves just touching the ground.” (1)

Despite the kind treatment, giraffes are accustomed to the warm, open savannahs of Africa, not the cold and wet confines of a British zoo. Two years after her arrival on the continent, the giraffe died, having only grown 18 inches while in captivity. It is said that King George IV had been obsessed with his giraffe and was distraught over her death. He commissioned the taxidermist John Gould to stuff his recently deceased pet giraffe.

 The stuffer to the Zoological Society, Mr. Gould, has had the performing of his duty…Soon after the giraffe expired, De Ville, the modellist, was ordered down to Windsor, by His Majesty, and took a cast of the animal. From this cast a wooden form was manufactured, on which the skin of the animal is now placed, and which preserves its beauty in an extraordinary degree.

The Times, April 15, 1830

Pet preservation is still alive and well in the twenty-first century – stuffed is out, though, and freeze-dried is in.

 

(1) Kisling, Vernon N. From Zoo and Aquarium History.
(2) Thomas, William John: White, William: Doran, John; Turle, Henry Frederick. Notes and Queries.

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