SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS—Buck, one of the chimpanzees at Primarily Primates sanctuary, which stretches across Boerne and San Antonio, Texas, is a relative newcomer to abstract painting—he started three years ago—but he’s ready to debut his work to the public at the “Hoedown for the Primates” at Green Vegetarian Cuisine in the Pearl Brewery in San Antonio on Aug. 2. The event will include “cruelty-free” food, wine, live bluegrass music and a silent auction benefiting the animals at Primarily Primates. Buck’s paintings, along with the artwork of several other chimps, will be part of the silent auction.

“We offer painting sessions once a week as an enrichment. Chimpanzees share 98 percent of the same DNA as humans, so it only seemed natural that some of the chimps at Primarily Primates would like to paint,” said Brooke Chavez, director of Primarily Primates. “Some like to paint on canvas…some will try to paint the ceiling of their habitat, like Michelangelo.”

As its name suggests, other than birds, most of the residents at Primarily Primates, which is run by Friends of Animals, are chimpanzees and gibbons and smaller primates, such as capuchin monkeys, spider monkeys, macaques and lemurs. The 400-plus animals who call Primarily Primates home share a history of exploitation from the exotic pet trade industry, the movie and TV entertainment industry, and circuses, as well as vivisection (animal research). As a result, many of the animals led limited, dismal lives.

Buck was born on Sept, 15, 1994, and was kept as one of three chimpanzee pets in a Missouri home. As the couple that owned Buck aged, it became apparent that Buck would outlive them. It’s also terribly expensive to keep three mature chimpanzees in a house.

One of the owners contacted Primarily Primates in early 2009 to find out if the refuge could accept Buck. On April 20, 2009, Buck arrived in San Antonio. 

At first, Buck was not interested in fruits and vegetables. When his caregiver offered lettuce, other greens and broccoli, Buck handed them back. The sanctuary staff learned that the Missouri owners had fed Buck hot dogs, beans, beef burritos, milk, cheese, spaghetti and meatballs and Chicken McNuggets. 

Buck had to learn to move along elevated platforms in his new living area so he could meet Holly and Mandy, and learn from them how to enjoy melons and other fresh foods. It worked.

In the early days Buck was even afraid of the grass in his habitat. These days he’s the alpha male of his group, which includes four females. His ears flop up and down when he gets excited. And one thing he gets excited about is painting, especially with pink and green paint.

“We give them choices of colors. Choice is an amazing thing for these chimps, for their overall well-being,” Chavez said.

The Aug. 2 ‘Hoedown’ begins at 7 p.m. at Green Vegetarian, 200 E. Grayson, 78215. Tickets are $60 per person or $100 for two. For tickets, call 830-755-4616. For information about Primarily Primates, visit