Dan was a big child. At birth he weighed 14 lbs, making him the largest baby ever born in Bowie County, Texas. By 18, he stood a towering 6'3" and weighed almost 300 lbs. However, inside his massive frame beat a huge heart. Dan was known for being one of the most gentle and kind people you would ever meet. He is best known for his portrayal of Eric 'Hoss' Cartwright on the long-running western Bonanza. In the series he played a character that was clumsy, because of his size, but gentle and sweet to all those around him. It wasn't much of a stretch for Dan to play.
Dan married and had four children, two boys and two girls. After having a routine gall bladder surgery, Dan suffered a blood clot in his lung that killed him. His family and friends deeply mourned his loss, and even Bonanza suffered--lasting only one season after his death.