Famed TV painter and personality Bob Ross is known the world over for being one of history's sweetest, gentlest souls, and thankfully, that attitude extended well beyond his 18-by-24-inch canvasses. Ross was an ardent animal lover, a passion which often made its way onto The Joy of Painting. His crew of animal companions was a big hit among the fans, and showcased Ross's particular tastes in the creatures of the world. In lieu of cats, dogs, or guinea pigs, Ross took a liking to the very creatures you might expect to see in his happy little landscapes. Our list contains as many of those animals as we could find, and could also serve as lyrics to a Ross-themed revamp of "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
Many of the clips below are full episodes and you'll have to skim through a lot of them to get to the critters—or just watch the entire thing. Let's face it: You were probably going to anyway.
1. PEAPOD THE POCKET SQUIRREL
No single animal got more airtime on The Joy of Painting than Peapod—a tiny little squirrel that, according to Ross, liked to sit in his pocket. While viewers never got a glimpse of that particular bonding experience, we did get to see the painter feed his rodent friend with a bottle (“Aren’t they the most precious characters you’ve ever seen?”), and hold him in the palm of his hand while the furry friend slumbered away (“I like to just watch him sleep”). The “peekaboo squirrel” made a handful of appearances on the show, and was so beloved, he even inspired a successor (see #2).
2. PEAPOD JR.
While the original Peapod might’ve been a special rodent, he was part of a long tradition of Ross being absolutely nuts for squirrels. He often owned several at a time, caring for them in the early stages of life before releasing them out into his backyard. A rotating scurry of squirrels did guest spots on the series, and were a favorite among fans.
3. HOOT THE OWL
Ross’s love of birds was second only to squirrels. One of the avians who got airtime was Hoot the Owl, who appeared on The Joy of Painting when he was only a few weeks old. “He’s nothing but down,” Ross says in the clip above. “As I mentioned earlier, him and I both have the same hairdresser. We’ve both got the fuzz top up here.”
The cute “little devil” (Ross referred to animals almost exclusively as little “rascals” or “devils”), also appeared later on as a full grown bird. Ross had several friends who cared for rescues, including Diana Schaffer (or as he called her, the “bird lady”). On a visit to her home, Ross spent time with sparrows, a hawk, a wild turkey, a baby groundhog, and even whispered some of his sweet nothings to a blind robin, which you can see above.
As for Hoot, Ross reflected: “Old Hoot though, he's grown. By the time you see this show, he will have been turned loose and he’ll be long gone. By the time you see this he’ll probably have a little condo in Miami and house payments, a BMW in the driveway … he’ll be like the rest of us. All trapped with responsibilities. He may even have children of his own.”
4. A PAIR OF BABY ROBINS
When these fine feathered friends appeared on the show, Ross named them Richard and Cathy after a couple of the show's camera people. The hungry “little rascals” earned their names because of their similarities to their human counterparts: Richard’s hair was thinning and Cathy was chatty.
5. CHIMNEY SWIFTS
In the clip above, four of these cute "little devils” hang onto Ross’s shirt like we all would if given the opportunity.
6. LITTLE BIT, THE SHERMAN’S FOX SQUIRREL
What’s better than a squirrel? A giant squirrel of course. On one episode, Ross’s friend Cindy introduced him to a Sherman’s fox squirrel named Little Bit, and the rodent lover nearly lost his mind.
7. A GREAT HORNED OWL
Cindy also gave Ross the opportunity to spend some time with a great horned owl, who inspired this lovely reflection: “I like animals so much. I’m tellin' you, I could just about make a career out of taking care of these little rascals. They’re so beautiful. Isn’t that something?”
8. A SANDHILL CRANE
Another one of Cindy’s creatures was a rescue crane that was born with a twisted neck—a possible result of an abnormality that occurred in the egg. In addition to that encounter, there’s more footage of Ross with the Sherman’s fox squirrel.
While visiting another friend with rescue animals named Carmen Shaw, Ross met a pair of deer (“I love these little characters, I want to take them all home with me”) and a baby raccoon. In another episode, he cradled a baby deer and fawned over the fawn in those signature dulcet tones and all was right with the world. (He mentioned on both occasions that he couldn't imagine shooting Bambi.)
10. A BABY RACCOON
In a baby raccoon appearance, Ross fed one of the primarily nocturnal beasts with a bottle and said maybe his most disparaging animal comment ever, about how the mammals are sweet as babies, but grow up to be "pretty tough little characters." He also references burping the little guy, which tragically wasn't captured for posterity on film.