Franzi Karlen-Ng and her brother, Rudy Karlen, were a bit surprised when they got a phone call in the summer of 2014 requesting their ranch – XH Buffalo Ranch on Green Lake South Road – supply some buffalo hides and skulls for a movie.
The callers were the set and wardrobe directors for the Hollywood blockbuster, The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, with Grace Dove, who has roots with the Canim Lake Band, playing his wife.
The Revenant grabbed (best movie), DiCaprio (best actor) and Alejandro Inarritu (best director) at the Golden Globe Awards, then Best Actor for DiCaprio and Best Director for Alejandro González Iñárritu at the Academy Awards.
Rudy, owner and operator of the 250 head buffalo ranch, was beside himself with excitement when he watched a trailer on TV and saw DiCaprio wearing the hide he had tanned himself.
“We were pretty excited when we saw it. We didn’t know it was going to be DiCaprio; we thought it was going to be some Mickey Mouse movie.
“When I saw it was DiCaprio, I said, ‘What’? For us, it was pretty cool.”
Rudy says they selected around 12 of their best buffalo hides and an equal number of skulls, and someone came to the ranch and picked them up.
“The skulls were different than our hides as they wanted skulls on the damaged side a little bit, which we don’t really have, so we tried to pick the ones that didn’t turn out quite as beautiful as the other ones.”
Rudy’s mom, Elisabeth, says she believes the skulls were going to be put in a pile as part of a set decoration.
He notes DiCaprio was wearing a hide in the photo he has seen, and Elizabeth had heard he wears one like a coat and another one is used for a covering for something like a tent.
Rudy says he is proud about the fact he tans the buffalo hides naturally and by hand.
“We raise the buffalo naturally – no hormones or antibiotics – and it’s the same for the hides. You can sleep on it and put your baby on it; there’s no harsh chemicals in it.”
He adds they don’t have a smell like some commercially made hides.
A few weeks ago, another call came in from a major motion picture studio.
“Our buffalo hides may be used in a movie where a Cro-Magnon tribe has to flee the impending ice age.”
The XH Buffalo Ranch is across from the Sunset View Provincial Park on Green Lake, and lucky visitors can catch a glimpse of the herd grazing in the lower field during the spring, summer and fall.
XH Buffalo Ranch was founded in 1991 by Hans and Elisabeth Karlen who moved from Switzerland to build their dream buffalo ranch. It has more than 250 animals that are grass-fed and raised as naturally as possible. Animals are sold by the side during the winter months to customers all across B.C.
By Ken Alexander
100 Mile House Free Press