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30 Fun Facts You Didn't Know About Yellowstone

Become a bonafide expert on Paramount's Western drama

Kevin Costner, Yellowstone
1 of 31 Paramount Network

30 Fun Facts About Yellowstone

The countdown is on for the return of the biggest show on cable TV. Yellowstone is on its way back for its fifth season after a record-setting Season 4, which left the Duttons in perhaps the best place they've ever been in a finale, with John (Kevin Costner) on his way to being governor. The simple fact that the Duttons ended the season in a position of power makes the future incredibly worrying. The higher up the Duttons are, the further they have to fall, and we know something is coming after Kayce (Luke Grimes) was visited by some concerning visions. As he told his wife Monica (Kelsey Asbille), he saw "the end of us," which could not sound more ominous. 

Clearly, some sh-- is going down in Season 5, in front of more viewers than ever before. While the wait for more—plus three upcoming spinoffs—is excruciating, there's always lots to talk about when it comes to the Yellowstone universe. In fact, there are at least 30 fun things to talk about, because we've compiled 30 fun facts about the series, its stars, and its breathtaking settings to help tide you over until the show returns to Paramount Network on November 13. 

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The Ranch Is Real

The Yellowstone Dutton Ranch is a real place called Chief Joseph Ranch, located in Darby, Montana. It's named after the Nez Perce chief who led his people across the land in 1877, and was run by a glass tycoon and federal judge until it became a guest ranch, run by the glass tycoon's wife and daughters. 

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And You Can Stay There

You can rent out cabins on the real Yellowstone ranch, and you can only get a tour of the set and ranch if you're renting a cabin. The two cabins available to stay in are Lee's cabin, which becomes John's cabin in Season 2, and Rip's cabin. They cost, at minimum, $1200 a night. 

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A Log Cabin Dream

While you can't rent the lodge house, it is also very real. The log mansion is 6,000 square feet and was finished in 1920, and according to a New York Times article from 1993, a 42-pound pet bobcat used to snooze by the fireplace. Beginning in 1987, the house was owned and repaired by Melvin Pervais, a nuclear systems control engineer and member of the Chippewa tribe. 

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It's All Filmed In Montana Now

Filming locations originally included stages in Park City, Utah, but in 2020, all of the filming was moved to Montana. All new stages were built in Missoula, with filming also taking place in Hamilton and at the nearby ranch. 

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Nothing to Do With the Park

Yellowstone does not actually take place in Yellowstone National Park, but the real ranch is nearby, or as nearby as you can get. The park encompasses 3,472 square miles, and is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. It takes a few hours to drive from the Chief Joseph Ranch to the park, but that's nothing in Montana. 

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No One Else Could Play Rip

Several of the show's biggest roles were written for their actors. Cole Hauser and Gil Birmingham were the only actors Sheridan had in mind for Rip and Thomas. And while the role of John wasn't written for Kevin Costner, Costner became a vital part of making the show successful as soon as he read the script. 

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Cowboys On and Off Screen

Multiple members of the cast are real-life cowboys. Aside from creator Taylor Sheridan, bunkhouse residents Jake Ream, Ryan Bingham, and Ethan Lee all have real ranch experience, while Forrie J. Smith, who plays Lloyd, is about as much of a cowboy as you can find in Hollywood. Ream also taught other cast members how to ride.

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Kelly Reilly Can Really Ride

According to Sheridan, Kelly Reilly is the best rider on the cast, even though Beth hardly ever gets on a horse on screen. Sheridan also says Beth is the toughest character on the show and his favorite to write for.

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Actors Learn From Cowboy Camp

Before filming begins on any of Sheridan's Yellowstone shows, actors get to attend Cowboy Camp. They learn how to ride horses from real cowboys, get to know their horses, and are immersed in the world of ranching so that there's no doubt that the Duttons know what they're doing when it comes to running a ranch.

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But Not Everyone's a Natural

Jefferson White, who plays troublesome ranch hand Jimmy, grew up in New York and had barely even seen a horse before he came to set. Most of his rodeo scenes use a stunt double, and he rides a mechanical horse for the close-ups. 

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The Realest Cowboy Of Them All

Forrie J. Smith was born to two ranchers, and was competing in rodeos by the time he was 8 years old, and riding bareback at 11. After falling off a horse at the age of 6, he decided he wanted to be a stuntman, and he started working in Hollywood in the 80s. He owns his own ranch in New Mexico and spends as much time there as possible. His son Forrest also appears in Yellowstone as the younger version of Lloyd, and Lloyd's bunk is filled with actual memorabilia from Smith's rodeo days. 

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Taylor Sheridan Writes It All

Sheridan has a writing credit on every single episode of Yellowstone and 1883, and only had co-writers on the pilot and in most of the second season. He also will typically write an episode in just a few hours. This is all pretty unusual for a major television show that's four seasons in, but you won't find Yellowstone stars complaining about the writing. 

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Reactions to Indigenous Characters Have Been Mixed

There have been mixed reactions to portrayals of indigenous Americans on the series. Kelsey Asbille, who plays Monica, claimed to be part Cherokee, but the Cherokee tribe issued a statement saying they have no record of her. Gil Birmingham, who plays Chief Thomas Rainwater, is of Comanche descent and, like his character, grew up believing he was Mexican. He says this is a common story for many native people, and has praised Sheridan's "sensitivity to the native aspect" of the show.

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Gil Birmingham Was Once a Bodybuilder

Gil Birmingham was also a petrochemical engineer and a bodybuilder before becoming an actor in his 30s. He appeared in the music video for Diana Ross' song "Muscles." 

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Dave Annable Has Regrets

Dave Annable, who played eldest Dutton son Lee, knew from the start that his character was going to die in the first episode. He passed on the role at first due to scheduling, but Sheridan called and asked if he was "an idiot." Once he got to the traditional cowboy camp that precedes each Sheridan western production, he was sad his character would have to die, but he had a hell of an exit. "It was like my second day of work when I died. I was laying in Kevin Costner's groin, and he was like petting my hair and giving me kisses on my forehead, and [I was] hearing this beautiful performance," he told THR. "And I was like, 'Holy s--t, that's Kevin Costner right now.' I was so starstruck. It was really so awesome." 

17 of 31 Emerson Miller/Paramount Network

Kelly Reilly Is a Shakespearean Actress

While it's hard to imagine any Duttons living anywhere besides a ranch in Montana, Kelly Reilly is actually an English actress who was nominated for a prestigious Laurence Olivier Award for her theatrical talents in multiple productions, including a 2009 run of Othello. She's an award-nominated Shakespearean actor who's apparently absolutely stellar at accents. But is anyone surprised that Beth is incredible off-screen as well as on-screen? 

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Doing It For the Brand

On the Dutton ranch, both cows and cowboys are branded with the Yellowstone Dutton logo. This is not typical for real-life ranchers, but on Yellowstone, it signifies a ranch hand's loyalty to the Duttons, and the ranch's loyalty in return. This is especially important considering how most of the ranch hands have committed crimes on behalf of the ranch, so it's sort of like mutually assured destruction. If the ranch goes down, they go down with it. And if they abuse that loyalty...let's just say there are ways of removing that Y. 

19 of 31 Paramount/ViacomCBS

Kevin Costner Sure Does Love a Western

Kevin Costner did not grow up on a ranch, but he's been inspired by the western genre since he saw How the West Was Won as a kid. He also played a cowboy in Wyatt Earp, Open Range, Hatfields & McCoys, and he's about to direct a series of western films called Horizon

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The Horses All Have Incredible Names

Taylor Sheridan owns most of the horses used in the show. On-screen, they have names like Ray, Owen, and Lucky. In real life, their names are things like Dun It Chexinic and Walla Walla Starbuck. 

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And Some of the Horses Are Famous

The show also features many horses that Sheridan does not own but who are reigning rodeo champions. Those famous horses include Metallic Cat, Metallic Memorey (Metallic Cat's son), Spookernickerin, Lil Joe Cash, High-Class Trash, Custom Made Gun, Smartly Starstruck, and Nineteen Ten. 

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Piper Perabo Was No Yellowstone Newbie

Piper Perabo joined the series as a new character in Season 4, but Yellowstone has been a family affair for her since Season 2. That's when her husband, Stephen Kay, began directing episodes. Kay has directed every season finale since Season 2, and every season premiere since Season 3, including the Season 5 premiere. 

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Yellowstone Is #1

Yellowstone is the most watched TV show on basic cable, unless you count Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football. Strangely, Monday Night Football rates lower than Yellowstone, and the next most-watched scripted show is NCIS

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The Show Has Only Become More Popular

Every season of Yellowstone has increased in viewership, and the Season 4 finale hit 10.3 million live and same-day viewers, making it the most-watched episode of a cable TV show since the Season 8 premiere of The Walking Dead. For comparison, less than 3 million people tuned in for the Season 1 finale. 

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Yellowstone Has No Actual Plot

Sheridan describes the show as "plotless." "It's basically, I own a bunch of stinkin' land, and a bunch of people want to take it," he told Deadline. "You could drop this show in Spain, in Eastern Europe, or Northern Africa. Anywhere, and someone is experiencing a similar circumstance to some degree." He says he wanted to showcase the life of modern-day cowboys, because "it has never been done right." 

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Yellowstone Could Have Been on HBO

Originally, Yellowstone was just going to be a 10-episode miniseries, and at one point it was going to be on HBO. According to Sheridan, he had written two scripts before he sat down with a senior VP at HBO who told him, "Nobody wants to see this." 

27 of 31 Emerson Miller/Paramount+

It's a Spinoff Bonanza

The success of Yellowstone has spawned four spinoffs: 1883, which premiered in late 2021, and the upcoming 1923, 6666, and 1883: The Bass Reeves Story. The spinoffs bring new huge stars into the Yellowstone universe, including Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, and David Oyelowo

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Taylor Sheridan Pulls Double Duty

Taylor Sheridan began his career as an actor, with small parts in Veronica Mars and Walker, Texas Ranger. His most prominent role was in Sons of Anarchy as David Hale. He has now moved primarily into screenwriting and directing, though he still makes appearances in some of his shows. On Yellowstone, he plays a horse trader named Travis—a big acting challenge for a guy named Taylor who owns a lot of horses. 

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Meet the Four Sixes

In Season 4 of Yellowstone, Jimmy gets sent to the Four Sixes ranch in Texas, and that ranch will be the setting for a new Yellowstone spinoff. Sheridan actually owns that ranch after its last owner died in 2020, and she wished for it to be put up for sale. It was listed for $347 million, and comes with a long, rich history of producing some of the best horses in the world. 

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John Dutton Rocks

Kevin Costner has a rock band called Kevin Costner & Modern West, and in 2020 they released an album called Tales From Yellowstone. It features songs written from the perspective of John Dutton, and some songs by the band have been included on the show. 

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The End Is Coming

Sheridan has not confirmed how many seasons he has planned, but he definitely has a plan. As he told Cowboys & Indians, "I know exactly how it ends and it's working towards that ending."