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(From Old Corral collection)
Roy Rogers and the original Trigger.

Special thanks to Leo Pando for consolidating a variety of information on Roy, Dale and the many Triggers. Thanks also to Leo, Les Adams, Lee Flippin, Minard Coons, Ed Phillips, and Bruce Hickey for images. Definitive research on Trigger appeared in Robert W. Phillips' book Roy Rogers (McFarland Publishing, 1995) and in issues of The Old Cowboy Picture Show newsletter which were partially reprinted in Bobby Copeland's Silent Hoofbeats (Empire Publishing, 2001). The latest on Trigger is Leo Pando's wonderful An Illustrated History of Trigger - The Lives and Legend of Roy Rogers' Palomino.

Leo Pando writes about Roy Rogers, the several
Triggers ... Pal ... and 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.)

Trigger was born from breeding stock owned by Captain Larry Good in San Diego. The colt's second owner was Roy F. Cloud Jr., a breeder originally from Noblesville, Indiana who managed a ranch in San Diego partly owned by Bing Crosby. It was Cloud 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.

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 (Warners, 1938) ridden by Olivia DeHaviland as 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 (Warners, 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). And below is a lobby card with Russell Hayden and the palomino in SILVER CITY RAIDERS (Columbia, 1943) which was Trigger's finale as a "rental hoss".

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."

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 named 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.

Leo Pando
Updated: April, 2017

For a comprehensive and detailed history of Trigger and his doubles, refer to Leo Pando's An Illustrated History of Trigger - The Lives and Legend of Roy Rogers' Palomino published by McFarland. The book is currently available in paperback and kindle. More on Leo's book is further down this webpage.

(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).

There's a bit more about Trigger's purchase on page 103 in Happy Trails : Our Life Story by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with Jane and Michael Stern (Simon and Schuster, 1994). A few quotes from the book follow:

"During the three months after the picture (UNDER WESTERN STARS) was released, I toured the country and promoted it in every big and little city you can think of."

"... I heard how much they (meaning theater audience) liked not only my performance but also Trigger's. Trigger was still owned by the Hudkins Stables, which meant I couldn't take him out on a personal appearance tour ... It also meant they could lease him to another cowboy actor ... When I returned from the publicity tour, I went out to see Clyde Hudkins. 'Sell the palomino to me' ..."

The price was $2500.00 and a handshake confirmed the deal. "I paid him off on time, just like you would a bedroom set."

The implication when reading the Roy and Dale book is that Roy selected Trigger for his horse and soon after, he bought him from Hudkins Stables. But that's not the case.

Roy's first starrer, UNDER WESTERN STARS, was released April 20, 1938. About five and a half years later, Roy finally bought the palomino. He gave Hudkins a $500.00 down payment on September 18, 1943 and the $2000.00 balance was paid on December 6, 1943.

No question that Roy rode the palomino in his series westerns. And we know that Hudkins Stables provided Trigger for a few other films at other studios during that time period.

Why five and a half years to buy Trigger? The answer may be Roy's finances as well as some other possibilities. Leo Pando and I exchanged e-mails about this in August, 2022. Following are some background and conjecture on Roy and Trigger, circa 1937 - 1943:

  • In Republic Confidential, Volume 2, The Players (Jack Mathis Advertising, 1992), Jack Mathis documented Roy's contracts with Republic Pictures: he was under Term Players Contract(s) from October 13, 1937 through December 3, 1948. Initial salary was $75.00/weekly and at the end of the contract(s), his pay had escalated to $1000.00/weekly. Then Roy signed picture commitment agreements with pay for each film in the $20,000.00 - $25,000.00 range.
  • We also have the 1940 census and World War II draft registration for Roy under his real name of Leonard F. Slye: Roy owned his home at 13049 Oxnard Avenue, Los Angeles. With him were wife Grace Arline and his parents, Andrew and Martha Slye. Roy reported his 1939 income as $5000.00+ (which would have been mostly from year #2 of his Republic term contract).
  • The Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice trade publications conducted various polls including movie cowboys. In the late 1930s - early 1940s, Gene Autry was top rated in both polls. Roy began showing up in 1938 results. In 1942, Gene was #1 and Roy was #2 in the rankings. After Autry left for military service, Roy was #1 in 1943 and continued in the top spot into the 1950s.
  • In the late 1930s - early 1940s, Roy didn't have the income necessary for the everyday care and feeding of Trigger. Another issue he faced was World War II military service, though his initial draft status was a deferment because of dependents. Roy got a lot of fan mail at Republic, and some of that was due to Trigger. Good probability that Roy - and his agent Art Rush - realized that he and Trigger together were more valuable than Roy alone. And "Roy / Trigger as a team" - along with his movie poll rankings - helped in contract updates with Republic Pictures. As to Hudkins Stables, best guess is that Rogers had a handshake deal and paid rental fees until he purchased Trigger in late 1943.

Roy bought Trigger for $2500.00 in late 1943. Adjusting for inflation, etc., that equates to about $41,000.00 in 2022 money.

(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)

Great photo of Lynn Roberts (billed as 'Mary Hart'), Roy Rogers, and the original Trigger in BILLY THE KID RETURNS (Republic, 1938) which was Roy's second starrer and released September 4, 1938.

(Courtesy of Bruce Hickey)

In Leo Pando's writeup above, he mentioned that the Hudkins Stables rented Golden Cloud / Trigger to various production companies for their films. Prior to Roy taking ownership, the last of those rental arrangements appears to be a Russell Hayden western at Columbia Pictures. Lobby card above with Hayden and Golden Cloud / Trigger in SILVER CITY RAIDERS (Columbia, 1943) which was released November 4, 1943.

Trigger Links
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Find A Grave site has interment info on Trigger, Trigger Jr., and Buttermilk:

Trigger Jr.:

The HappyTrails Children's Foundation website includes biographies of various Triggers written by Director Joel 'Dutch' Dortch. They also have images of the Palomino registration paperwork on the original Trigger as well as the Bill of Sale from the Hudkins Stables to Roy Rogers along with Roy's final payment in 1943:

Leo Pando's website has many photos of Roy, Trigger, and trainer Glenn Randall:

The Roy Rogers World website is no longer working, but the Internet Archive Wayback Machine has a saved version with a bio of Trigger:

There's a profile of former pro boxer Ace Hudkins who settled down and became the owner of one of the main stables that furnished horses, wagons, etc. to Hollywood. Included is mention of Hudkins' Silver (Silver Chief) as well as the original Trigger. Go to The Movieland Directory website at:

Covers of Dell's 1951 - 1955 series of Trigger comic books at the Grand Comics Database:

(From Old Corral collection)

The long, white face blaze on the original Trigger extends towards the left eye as shown in the photos above and below.

(From Old Corral collection)

(From GCD Grand Comics Database)

Above - in their TV series of the 1950s, Dale Evans rode Buttermilk..

(From GCD Grand Comics Database)

Above - Roy and the original Trigger.

(From GCD Grand Comics Database)

Trigger had his own comic book series from Dell.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above - Roy's hands and boots along with Trigger's hoof prints at Graumann's Chinese Theater.

Leo Pando's An Illustrated History of Trigger - The Lives and Legend of Roy Rogers' Palomino was deemed by self and others as the definitive work about Roy Rogers' famous palomino and many look-alikes, doubles, etc.

In 2019, Leo's Trigger - The Lives and Legend of Roy Rogers' Palomino - second edition added more on Trigger, Little Trigger, and nearly a hundred new photos, many of which have never been published. New material includes much on the closing of the Roy and Dale Museum in Victorville, California and the move to Branson, Missouri ... and the failure / closing of the Branson venture.

This 7 x 10 softcover has 373 pages and is about $40.00.

More info at the McFarland website:

Also available for about $40.00 from amazon:

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