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Bullet, the Wonder Dog, from The Roy Rogers Show

For six television seasons (1951-1957) and 100 episodes of The Roy Rogers Show, Bullet, the Wonder Dog, did everything a good dog should do. He alerted Roy when bad guys came near, he chased the “black hats” when necessary, and he stepped in to rescue the show’s stars, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, when they needed help.

Bullet was fast enough to keep up with camera shots of Roy galloping on Trigger in pursuit of something, and he was smart enough to help Roy and Dale when they were in a fix.  When not performing, Bullet lived a fine life as the pet of Roy and Dale.

The Power of “Wonder”

Simply calling your dog a “wonder dog” seems to have permitted the dog’s legacy to live on; the true wonder of the show seemed to have had more to do with the smart couple who owned Bullet and understood marketing.  Though Bullet was undoubtedly obedient and smart, I was unable to uncover any particular back story as to why he was termed a “wonder” dog.  (I guess any dog we love is a “wonder” dog…)

Roy Rogers was born Leonard Slye (1911-1998); he and his parents moved from Ohio to California in search of work during the Depression.  Leonard did everything from driving trucks to picking fruit. At night he entertained the other workers by playing his guitar and singing, as he noted that his music resonated with his audience, he decided to move to Los Angeles to become a performer.  He formed “Sons of the Pioneers” and soon was appearing in westerns.  At some point he became an excellent horseman.

But best of all, Rogers was smart enough to add into his contract (1940) that he had the right to all merchandising of anything created in his likeness in voice or name.  Toys, games, and comic books followed in vast numbers.

Dale Evans was born Francs Octavia Smith (1912-2001) and had a successful singing career long before she appeared with Roy Rogers.  “Happy Trails,” the song that closed out their television program was written by Dale.

The two married in 1947, she for the fourth time and he for the third; both brought children to the marriage.

The TV Show with Trigger and Bullet

The television show was geared for young people, and it starred Roy Rogers as a ranch owner who lived in fictional Mineral City, and Dale Evans as the proprietor of the town’s Eureka Café.  Pat Brady was Roy’s humorous sidekick and Dale’s cook, and Brady’s jeep, Nellybelle, was enough of a presence to be considered a character on the show.

Trigger, a gorgeous Palomino, was said to be only the third mount auditioned for the role of Trigger. Roy chose the horse when he saw the horse’s abilities and his response to voice command or soft touch.  Spurs were never used to encourage Trigger along.

For many years a museum dedicated to memorabilia from Roy and Dale was located in Victorville, California. In 2003 it was moved to Branson, Missouri where it was thought that it would be more popular. Unfortunately, the museum closed in early 2010, and its contents were sold at auction.  A preserved version of Bullet was sold for $35,000 and a stuffed Trigger was sold to the same buyer for an astounding $266,000.  Reruns of the show can still be found on TV and many of them are also on Youtube.

Your Wonder Dog?

We all have dogs we consider “wonder dogs.”  I invite any of you to post or write me with stories of your dog’s accomplishments!  (My own dog has me scratching my head.  She’s wearing a cone to keep her from licking at some new stitches she had to have. Somehow she managed to scoop up a plum from our yard and figure out how to get into her mouth—I know because her cone is covered in plum juice!)


Kate Kelly

Kate Kelly is an engaging speaker and successful author of more than 30 nonfiction titles ranging from the bestselling Organize Yourself! to Living Safe in an Unsafe World. She has recently returned to her love of history and is writing and publishing a monthly e-letter, "American Snapshots," which she describes as "making sense of today by looking at yesterday."

5 thoughts on “Bullet, the Wonder Dog, from The Roy Rogers Show”

  1. I received the following update on Trigger and Bullet from a reader:

    “FYI, the “preserved” Trigger and Bullet were sold to the German TV
    Syndication company that owns RFD TV — a nostalgia-themed cable
    network. They ship the two figures around the country on a perpetual
    “Trigger and Bullet Tour,” mainly at industry trade shows like NCTA and NATPE, but also for such special occasions as the 2012 Rose Bowl Parade which included a float celebrating what would have been Roy Rogers’ 100th birthday:

    http://triggerandbullet.com/

  2. I believe that out of all the dogs that were co-stars of the shows that they were on or should I say stars,Lassie,Rin Tin Tin and Bullet,he was the most intelligent
    of them all.I think maybe it was because Bullet was an actual part of the Roger’s family and had even a deeper bond with Roy and Dale.
    And of course since I am permanently disabled and have had a Shepherd as a service dog they have proven to me to be the most faithful,loving and would give their life to protect you,and this is documented by the other ways that Shepherds aid man,by being military and police dogs,and aiding man in so many other ways it is hard to list all the ways that they help all people.Give me a Shepherd anytime.

  3. As I continue to watch re-runs of the Roy Rogers’s show on Cozi T.V.
    in the Philly area I am still amazed as how Bullet performed on the show for 6 seasons.You could tell how how he responded with little or no direction off camera and as I said before in my belief was the most intelligent of all the K-9 stars of the era.Actually Rin Tin Tin was a great show but could not be conceivable as they never gave an actual year as to when any year was but they did make
    references as to when it took place but they did have President Grant portrayed by an actor in at least one show that I saw but he served as president from 1869-1877
    and the German Shepherd breed was not developed until 1899 in Germany so he could not have actually exsisted during this time
    but it was a great show so I only bring this up in passing.We had the 3 great shows that featured these great K-9 stars that have entertained many generations and continue to.

  4. Hi Kate,
    I have been trying to find out more about Bullet and his part in the shows that he appeared in.I know that you mentioned how impressed that you were with the grace,speed and beauty that he showed in the opening theme and throughout the shows.I did find out that there was never any trick
    camera work involved with any of his shots.He could actually keep up with the running that Trigger and Buttermilk did and to think that a dog could do this I think was amazing.Especially in the opening credits when you saw him at full stride and the beauty and
    athletic ability that he showed.I also found out that although you could always hear Roy’s spurs clanking whenever he walked there was never even one time when he put a spur to Trigger and he was actually only the third horse that they looked at for his part.Roy seemed to know as soon as he saw him that he was the horse for him.
    Bullet at least studded one litter of pups as I found a picture of Roy
    holding 2 or 3 pups in his arms which was shot when they had those old fashioned doors that you could
    open just the top half as they were
    made in a top and bottom half.You could also see Bullet in the picture with his front paws on the door and you could tell he was a proud papa on his rear legs next to Roy in the picture standing next to him.God how I would have loved to own him as I think that is why he stood out from the other K-9 stars of that era as he was actually part of their family and went home with them every night.
    All my best,
    Ray

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