‘Gunsmoke’: James Arness Revealed the Name of His Horse and Why the Show Never Said It

‘Gunsmoke’: James Arness Revealed the Name of His Horse and Why the Show Never Said It

James Arness created an undeniable legacy thanks to his performance as Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke . He had the opportunity to play the U. S. marshal, which gave him liberties to play a sort of cowboy on the popular Western television show . However, there were some clear differences. Arness once revealed the name of his horse on Gunsmoke and why the show intentionally never said his name.
James Arness saw a difference in the type of horse in Western television shows and movies

According to The Video Guide , Arness once talked about his experiences with horses long before his time on Gunsmoke . He recalled all of the tricks that they were able to do, including untying knots. Ever since, he saw a difference between “riding horses” and “smart horses” that are on and off the screen. Arness was told that the smart ones don’t allow people to ride them.

The actor witnessed the “trick” horses in movies and television, but he knew things would be different in Gunsmoke . After all, the show aimed for a more mature audience and didn’t rely on the stuntwork in quite the same way. He was certainly correct, which ultimately called for a very different type of horse for him to ride as the iconic character.
‘Gunsmoke’ actor James Arness’ horse, Buck, went unnamed in the show because of Matt Dillon’s thoughts on horses

Arness wrote in The Video Guide that many Gunsmoke fans ask him about the horse he rode in the television show. However, he certainly didn’t consider the horse to be his trusted sidekick, as some initially thought. Arness rode a horse named Buck in Gunsmok e, but the show never mentioned the horse by name.

“When the occasion demands, I ride a horse in Gunsmoke ,” Arness wrote. “Usually it is a big buckskin gelding named Buck, chosen not because of his intellect or his fidelity, but because he is very large and only a very large horse will fit me.”

“This horse is never identified by name in the show, simply because in Gunsmoke , as in the real Old West, horses were cheap and a cowboy-or a U.S. marshal-seldom had a favorite. He didn’t keep a horse that long. He’d swap his off on a long trip for a fresh horse, or sell him between jobs, knowing he could buy another when he needed it and avoid stable bills.”

Arness concluded: “I’ll never refer to Faithful Old Buck in the show because Buck is impersonating any one of a long, undistinguished line of horses used by Matt Dillon.”
The actor’s height played into the horse he needed

Arness’ staggering height of 6’7″ made it difficult for him on Gunsmoke . The production had to ensure that the horse matched his size to avoid the animal looking too small. However, this isn’t the first time that the actor had to make changes as a result of his size.

Before working on Gunsmoke , no other leading male actors wanted to work with him because of his height. The tall actor would make them look small in comparison, which they didn’t want. Nevertheless, Arness made his mark on Gunsmoke and television history after playing Matt for over 20 years .


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