In a quiet corner of Black Beauty Ranch, on a stone plinth beneath a maple tree, there’s an oval etching of a man and a burro. The man is Cleveland Amory, author and founder of the Fund for Animals, and the burro is Friendly, one of the first animals to call the sanctuary home.

The two met in 1980 after the National Park Service announced a plan to kill free-roaming burros then living in the Grand Canyon basin. Amory led a complex, multi-year rescue mission that would see 577 burros saved from the threat of sharpshooters’ bullets.

Friendly was among the first batch of burros to be airlifted from the depths of the basin in a sling beneath a helicopter. “I was in the corral when she was lifted up over the rim and delicately dropped to the ground,” Amory wrote in Ranch of Dreams, his book about the sanctuary’s early years. “In those first moments at the corral when she stood and looked at us and had not trotted away, I had given her her name.”

The year before, in anticipation of the rescue and the necessity of providing the burros with a place where they could live out their lives, Black Beauty Ranch started with “a nervous buy of 85 acres,” Amory wrote. Over the decades, as the East Texas sanctuary grew, it would provide a haven for thousands more animals. Some came from research laboratories, cruelty cases or roadside zoos. Many, like those first burros, came from public lands where they were threatened with extermination by the federal government.

Cleveland Amory with Friendly the burro.
Cleveland Amory with Friendly the burro.

Among all the animals he helped over his lifetime, Amory always felt a special bond with Friendly. She became the sanctuary’s self-appointed greeter who would hang out near the office and say “hello” with a soft headbutt to the stomach.

After Amory died in 1998, Friendly helped spread his ashes around the sanctuary, carrying them in a specially made bell around her neck. Thirteen years later,  swaybacked and white-faced with age, the gentle people-loving burro also passed away.

Their legacy continues at Black Beauty Ranch, which has been part of the HSUS family since 2005. Nearly half a century after the sanctuary’s founding, we’re proud to carry on its vital work, a living tribute to the extraordinary friendship between a man and a burro.

Field of dreams

In the pine forests and rolling hills of East Texas, about 80 miles southeast of Dallas, you’ll find our flagship animal sanctuary. It covers more than 1,400 sprawling acres, nearly twice the size of Central Park in New York City. Get an inside look at this incredible safe haven!

Map of Black Beauty Ranch

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