Pancho's Animals, Part I – Chito

Pancho Barnes had a big heart, and when it came to animals, they were treated like a member of the family. She grew up with horses and dogs and hogs and, well, if she could find it, she’d befriend it. She LOVED animals. Pancho was quite an accomplished horse rider in her childhood days, as well as raising thoroughbreds at the Rancho Oro Verde and hosting rodeos at the Happy Bottom Riding Club. Lassie was a frequent visitor to the ranch – more on that in a future blog. One of her most famous childhood riding partners was General George S. Patton, who lived just around the hill from Pancho’s childhood Pasadena home in what was to become the city of San Marino. But one of the most colorful stories was how Pancho took her little Chihuahua, “Chito,” (featured in the blog’s banner) on frequent plane rides, complete with parachute. Some might have thought it was a publicity stunt, but Pancho always looked out for her animal friends. This photo, from the Pancho Barnes Archive, was published in the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Pasted on the back of the photo is the following typed information: “Parachute-equipped dog in [1931] Air Races. Chito, three-month old Chihuahua pup owned by Florence Lowe (Pancho) Barnes of San Marino, Calif., is flying with its owner in the Air Derby which started August 23 from Santa Monica, Cal., to end at the National Air Races at Cleveland. Chito is equipped with a parachute, designed to open should the dog be forced to “bail out.” A light rope fastened from the plane to the chute will spring the device should it be necessary.”

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Dr. Louis F. D'Elia is the custodian of the Estate of Pancho Barnes and a Trustee of the Flight Test Museum Foundation at Edwards Air Force Base.