Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Disney Donates Bison Herd to Hart Park.

STORY: THIS IS DIMENSION ... IN HOLLYWOOD. Ralph Story here, reporting for CBS Radio from California. The eight meanest, largest and most expensive animals in the film capital are taking a trip this morning. Eight big Bison are being moved from Walt Disney Ranch to William S. Hart Ranch ... and the story of Hollywood's last Buffalo roundup ... in just a minute ...


STORY: Walt Disney loves animals and he has won 28 Golden Oscars making movies of them. For this reason he maintains a 420 acre ranch a few miles outside of Hollywood and for the same reason he bought eight Buffalo a couple years ago and moved them onto the ranch where he proceeded to shoot thousands of feet of film of these old original inhabitants of the wild west. Disney has used the film in both movies and on his television show and during the course of this a mother Buffalo gave birth to a little one and he had a real-life adventure to show for his trouble. For awhile he had the nine Buffalo but then a hunter with a serious case of astigmatism shot the shaggy old bull of the herd, claiming he mistook it for a deer. This week-end the eight remaining buffalo were rounded up by the three real cowboys who work Disney's Ranch and today they're being moved to their new permanent home.

STORY: Perhaps because they remember the rough treatment they've received in the past from the great white hunters, today's Buffalo are mean, ornery and expensive. But when Disney wanted to sell them, the best offer he could get was 20-cents a pound from a local meat packer ... and that's when the County of Los Angeles came to the rescue. The County runs a big ranch too ... just a few miles from Disney's ... and the civic fathers twisted Walt's arm gently to make a gift of Hollywood's last Buffalo herd, and Walt agreed. Their new home is William S. Hart Park, which was that great early movie cowboy's own ranch-home until his death in 1946 when he willed it to the county. When Hart was making those early western classics, his ranch was a natural haven for wild animals, but today it's pretty much an old folks home for horses. Two of Hart's own horses are still there ... Roaney and Gentle, both in their late thirties, and some other historic movie mounts such as Hope McClendon's little horse, Bill Elliot's Thunder, and Harry Rankin's Smokey, and Duncan Renaldo's beautiful Palomino. There are also some cattle, pigs, rabbits, pheasant, peacocks and a goat donated by a UCLA Sorority. However, the herd of Buffalo arriving today promise to be very troublesome new residents, and that part of the story after this message.


STORY: Although Disney gave the Buffalo herd to the County, they have already caused quite a bit of trouble and expense. Scott Thomas, the superintendent of the Hart Ranch has put in a large supply of fancy oats, parsnips and molasses to cajole the burly bison into a good humor. They've also had to erect and eight foot chain link fence around a huge corral to make them a nice home. But Hollywood's last Buffalo herd is still a very disgruntled group. And they get particularly mean whenever they see anyone who looks like a deer hunter.

THIS IS DIMENSION on the CBS Radio Network ... Ralph Story here ... IN HOLLYWOOD.

RALPH STORY'S NOTES — Interview with park superintendent Scott Thomas (spelling has been cleaned up):

SCOTT THOMAS, superintendent of the William S. Hart Ranch, located at 24151 Newhall Avenue in Newhall. 805-259-0855.

The Ranch now consists of 268 acres; the animals they have there consist of goats, heifers, deer, pigs, horses, burros, rabbits, pheasant, doves, quail, peacocks, horses. These of course are in enclosures. (The wild animals he says are around are skunks, a few coyotes, wild deer.) The animals are all enclosed for display for the youngsters who come into the Park.

The Ranch House which is the original house on the property was built in 1901. Later renovated in 1910 for a movie set, and then there's the home of William S. Hart built between 1924-28, and Hart moved in 1928 and lived there till he died in 1946.

There isn't the personnel there to take people on tours — they park their cars in the park and then they just roam around ... they have a picnic area which can take care of 3[00] to 400 people.

There is no charge. When Hart left the Park to the County he stated in his will that no charge was to be made for entrance and use of the Park. And they have no concessions on the property, also contained in his will. It was a haven for wild animals ... he only kept a few horses. Of course when he was alive there was no public coming in.

Most of the animals were donated. Bill Elliott's movie-horse Thunder is there; he's about 24 years old now. Hope McClendon's little horse (she was with Tom Mix's troupe). Ray Knox's show-horse. Harry Rankin donated his horse Smokey. Two of the original Hart horses are there, Roney (??) about 37, and Gentle, at least 34.

There were 8 buffalo donated by Disney. They are enclosed in a 8 to 10 acre track just west of the mansion or museum ... 8 foot chain link fence. He will feed them sugar to make friends with them! They will get the regular fodder, hay ... County pays for all these food provisions.

He is married. His wife is his only pet. Has 2 married children. He doesn't live there. He has a maintenance man liv[ing] on the place.

The Park is open from 10 AM to 6:00 PM all week. Museum is closed on Monday, but the park is still open. (Museum is Hart's home.)

Hart originally left the County 220 acres approx., and they then purchased a little more here in order to complete the ranch area. County bought that in 1960.

These are the first buffalo here, and he thinks it is the first time the county has had any buffalo in any public park (of course he knows the LA Zoo has some).

A goat was donated by a sorority at UCLA. They have one Palomino horse which is one of the original Duncan Renaldo herd (Cisco Kid) and Farik, an Arabian horse, from the Kelly ranch in Pomona. There are 11 horses.

Buffalo from 7 to 9 years old. They were purchased by Disney about 2 years ago from the Diamond Bar Ranch which was being cut up for subdivision. 6 cows in all were purchased for a total cost of ___. Disney made purchase because he felt it would be advisable to have these animals on hand seeing as how he was shooting quite a bit of Western type movies for both television and regular movies (his).

They were put out to pasture at the studio ranch and shortly thereafter one of the cows calved. There was an old bull in the original herd but shortly before Disney purchased the buffalo some errant hunter mistook the bull for a misshapen deer and shot him.

About a year after Disney bought the cows he bought a bull to make it a complete herd. The Golden Oak Ranch is some 420 acres and located just outside Newhall. Disney runs livestock on it through the Spring, about 50 head usually, and each winter he sells them for beef.

He has 3 cowboys working full time on the ranch who have not only to take care of the cows but run herd on the bison. This herd of buffalo has appeared in many movies and TV for Disney, including several scenes in the Andy Burnett TV series, Mountainmen, which Disney periodically shows on its ABC TV program.

They've also been seen in episodes of Sancho, the homesick Steer, also seen on his TV show. Before Disney made arrangement to give the buffalo to the county of LA he made sure that his camera crews had thousands of feet of film of the bison and this Disney now has a complete catalog of stock background for any possible needs in the future.

Also if it should arise he has free use of the buffalo for any movie work he desires. These buffalo are not tame and for the last few years have had free reign on Disney's 420 acre ranch. I understand from the cowboys that buffalo can't be herded and handled like cows; unlike steers, buffalo have a mind of their own and no matter how much cajoling and coddling and rope-pulling, they will go where they want to when they want to.

Thus ... for the last week the cowboys have set up a corral in the middle of the ranch; the corral opens one end into a big horse van ... the cowboys are using fancy oaks, parsnips and molasses ... in order to lure the bison into the corral and out the other end into the horse-van. To attempt to rope a buffalo and pull him into the van would be near impossible. Although the buffalo don't weigh much over 11[00] pounds, their powerful build and independent attitude makes them far more than a match for any cowboy and his pony. Thus ... sometime over the weekend, barring any catastrophes, the cowboys will have persuaded through bison delicacies these 8 buffalo into the corral and then into the trailers.

The actual transfer will take place Monday morning when the 2 mile run from Disney's Golden Oak Ranch to Hart Park will be made. Monday morning, around 11:30 AM, head man Walt Disney himself and LA County Supervisor Warren Dorn will be flanked by a bevy of press and TV people to watch the official donation and transfer of title of the 8 buffalo from Disney to the county.

Being this will be the first week day of Easter vacation for children in LA area, they also plan to have a lot of young fry on hand.

Although this is not true, it might be a good bit of smultz to add, taking line of thought that the Disney brand (incidentally there are no brands on the buffalo) will be transferred this weekend to the LA County or Hollywood brand.

Interesting add — Disney's Golden Oak Ranch is reputed to be the location where gold was discovered in California by a Mexican pulling up wild onions; his name was Francisco Lopez.

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