Change on the horizon
Quarter Running Horses, Buffalo Bill and the Chicago World’s Fair enlivened America’s Gilded Age.
Quarter Running Horses, Buffalo Bill and the Chicago World’s Fair enlivened America’s Gilded Age.
After the Civil War, America entered a largely peaceful period of prosperity and growth. Horses of every type were found everywhere, for they were the backbone of commerce, transportation and especially agriculture. Change, however, was on the horizon. One of its greatest heralds was the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, otherwise known as the Chicago World’s Fair. Historians have aptly described it as “the Fair that changed the world.” In a total run of only six months it attracted 26 million visitors, 10 million more than the current yearly average at Disneyland. Literally a city within a city, the design of its buildings and the layout of its beautiful grounds were early demonstrations of what can be achieved when architects, city planners and landscape designers work together. Forty-six nations from around the world mounted elaborate exhibits, as did every state and territory in the Union. John Philip Sousa’s band added a parade atmosphere to its Midway Plaisance, where visitors could ride in a Venetian gondola, tour a reproduction of the Gokstad Viking ship that had sailed to Chicago all the way from Norway, or mount a Ferris Wheel rising 264 feet into the air---the first ever erected.
Among the State buildings, Louis Lindsay Dyche’s Kansas exhibit featuring the Panorama of North American Mammals, including preserved hides of the Plains buffalo, caused a sensation---because in 1893, natural science meant adventure and travel to unexplored parts of the Earth, and taxidermy represented a new and exciting blend of art and science. There were huge pavilions filled with the latest ideas in machinery, guns and artillery, transportation, and home crafts. For the first time, visitors could sample a stick of Juicy Fruit gum, have a bowl of Cream of Wheat, munch on some Cracker Jacks or enjoy a Hershey bar, and then swig it all down with a glass of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer---or a glass (but not yet a bottle) of Coca-Cola.
The huge Hall of Manufactures and Liberal Arts, one of the largest structures ever built, covered almost 1.4 million square feet and featured literature, science, art and music. There, the sublime strains of Antonín Dvorák’s “American Quartet”---conducted by the Czech composer himself---competed with the eerie crackling of Tesla coils. The dynamic possibilities of electricity fascinated the public as they stood before a row of thrumming Westinghouse generators that, “in a demonstration of both power and beauty” as one fairgoer’s guide put it, lit 8,000 arc lamps and 130,000 incandescent bulbs. The
generators also ran electric trains, streetcars, boats, elevators, the Ferris Wheel and even a moving sidewalk. Alongside a Morse Code telegraph, known as “the nervous system of commerce,” the visitor could operate a Bell telephone containing Thomas Edison’s improved carbon microphone, so that the user no longer had to shout into the device in order to make himself heard at the other end of the line. Reporters sent by the Chicago Tribune to cover the Fair goggled at the improved Mergenthaler hot-slug Line- O-Type machine, raised their eyebrows at the speed of the latest rotary offset printing machines, and envied the efficiency of newfangled Remington typewriters that not only had QWERTY keyboards but both shift and tab keys.
THE CHICAGO WORLD’S FAIR
Where were the horses in all this newfangled technology? The secondlargest building at the fair featured the backbone of this nation and of all nations---agriculture. Adjacent was the livestock arena where horses, mules, sheep, swine, poultry, pigeons and pets of all kinds each had their show.
A century and a quarter ago, it was still an apt metaphor to represent the concept of “industry” through a statue of a shovel-wielding farmer controlling a massive Percheron. So culturally ingrained was this image that even though Nikolaus Otto’s internal combustion engines and Karl Benz’s Viktoria model self-powered carriage were prominently on display, most people never thought that horsepower provided by real horses would soon become a thing of the past. What was most reported at the time and what has been most remembered since were not
the draft horses that were the mainstay of Midwestern farming in the 1890s. Instead, what excited Army generals and the general public alike was the breeding of saddle horses for improved soundness, stamina and beauty. Enchanting drawings and articles by reporter-cartoonist Homer Davenport for the Chicago Daily Herald focused public attention upon the first major importation of Asil Arabians to America---more than two dozen stallions and mares shipped directly from Syria by the Hamidie Society (see “The Arabian Horse,” EQUUS 441, and “Arabian Horses Come to America,” EQUUS 442).
Equally important in terms of its impact on American horse breeding was the Chicago World’s Champion Horse Show held under official Fair aegis in the livestock arena. Its prestigious high school and five-gaited classes were won by an unquenchable and multitalented 4-year-old mare named Miss Rex, trained and brilliantly ridden to her ribbons by a former slave and animal empath named Tom Bass---the first sportsman to break the color barrier
and compete in the same horse-show ring against whites.
Miss Rex, a gray daughter of the great Rex Denmark, was one of the few horses in America to have an authentic Arabian ancestor unrelated to the Hamidie importation, a horse called *Stamboul imported in 1830 who stood for service in Kentucky and whose name appears in the pedigrees of a scant handful of Thoroughbreds, American Standardbreds and American Saddlebreds---the latter being Miss Rex’s breed, recognized by the new (1891) National Saddle Horse Breeders’ Association. Notably, the NSHBA (later to become the American Saddlebred Horse Association, ASHA) was the first pedigree-tracking registry (other than the Jockey Club) to be established in America.
THE GREAT COWBOY RACE
Just outside the official fairgrounds, other events featuring riding horses also attracted big crowds and media
interest. The first was a grandiose World’s Fair edition of Buffalo Bill Cody’s “Wild West Show and Congress of Rough Riders of the World.” Barred from official participation in the Exposition, Cody nonetheless made a million dollars on the venture---and came off a local hero, too, because he sponsored free entry, food and ice cream for orphans and others in need. Pure theater, Cody’s version of an “Old West” that never was featured 100 retired cavalry troopers, 46 cowboys, 97 Cheyenne and Sioux tribesmen and -women, 53 Cossacks and Hussars, live buffalo and elk---and renowned sharpshooter Annie Oakley. Of course every star performer appeared on a fast horse outfitted in fancy gear. Acts featured a cowboy band, broncobusters and an Indian attack on a stagecoach (terrified stage passengers rescued by troopers, whooping tribesmen driven off on cue). There was also a “realistic” staging of Custer’s Last Stand which made Custer
out a hero, of course. Cody’s venue seated 18,000; they averaged 16,000 tickets per day for a total of 318 performances and closed the same day as the Fair.
As if the Wild West Show itself were not enough, Cody also sponsored one of America’s first long-distance endurance rides. “The Great Chadron to Chicago Cowboy Race” began in Buffalo Bill’s home state of Nebraska and ended at the “1,000-Mile Tree,” part of a stage set on the Wild West Show grounds. Riders could follow any road or trail but were required to check in at 12 different points along the route. The race was controversial; humane groups howled loudly that horses were going to be abused or killed and sent observers to monitor the ride. The purse of $1,000 with $500 added personally by Cody should have been enough to attract a flood of participants; the winner in addition was to get a pearl-handled Colt Army revolver. But word got out that
protestors might succeed in scuttling the event, so only nine intrepid contestants showed up in Chadron ready to start on the afternoon of June 13.
The favorite was a former professional horse thief and reformed ex-con by the name of “Doc” Middleton. Almost as good a showman as Cody himself, before the starter’s gun went off he swept up his wife and gave her a big smooch, offered a short speech, and allowed the fainting ladies in the crowd of nearly 3,000 onlookers to pull souvenir hairs from his horse’s tail. Unfortunately, one of his mounts came up lame six days later in Sioux City, Iowa. Days behind the first-place winner, the disheartened Middleton was last to arrive in Chicago.
The first man to cross the finish line was John Berry on a stallion named Poison. They came in tired but sound at 9:30 a.m. on June 27 after two weeks of continuous riding through drenching rain, freezing cold, mud, dust, wind and heat. In an effort to hold down weight, for two days before arriving in Chicago Berry had not eaten or drunk and newspapers reported that the bleary-eyed competitor was so faint when he arrived that he nearly fell off his horse into Buffalo Bill’s arms. Not without reason: He had covered the final 150 miles in 24 hours, doing the last 80 miles in nine hours---a rate of speed that moved some to accuse him of cheating by shipping his horses, an allegation that was never proven. Berry had in fact been barred from official participation because he had helped to plan the event. Nonetheless, he was heartily congratulated by Cody, who gave him a saddle from Montgomery Ward and a check for $175.
A couple of hours later, Emmett Albright galloped in to loud cheers and congratulations on an astonishingly fresh horse but was later disqualified when it was discovered that, using an assumed name, he had indeed cheated by shipping his horses part of the way by rail. Then at 1:30 p.m., a boy sitting atop a telegraph pole shouted, “There’s a rider coming!” whereupon the official winner, Josiah “Old Joe” Gillespie trotted in on a bay gelding called Billy Schafer, his gray Billy Mack in tow. He got the revolver and a check for $200. Less than an hour later, runner-up Charlie Smith arrived riding Dynamite and ponying his spare horse Red Wing, good for a pair of boots and $150. The rest of the money was split among four other contestants who finished. So ended one of Buffalo Bill’s best publicity stunts, one which captured the imagination of the nation.
FLAT-TRACK RACING: A GENTLEMAN’S GAME
Thoroughbred racing in Chicago also got a boost from Fair publicity. The 1893 American Derby, held at the Washington Park Race Track located just northwest of the Exposition grounds, billed itself the “World’s Fair Derby” and was the second-richest race in the United States that year. Thanks to its reputation as a gentleman’s venue, and founded by Civil War General Philip Sheridan, Washington Park had escaped reform mayor Hempstead Washburne’s push to extinguish all gambling in Chicago. The track could be reached by riding one of Chicago’s new “els”---elevated trains---and part of the route offered riders a bird’s eye view of the grounds. In a retrospective for the Daily Racing Form in 1922, John Hervey notes that “motormen were apt to slow up if a race was in progress, sometimes coming to a dead stop so that passengers might get the benefit of the contest.”
Flat-track racing was, in that day, an
important part of the social calendar, and tickets to seats in the Washington Park grandstand were reserved for the wealthy. Nonetheless, middle-class citizens by the thousands poured off the “el” and into the race park. The hoi polloi sat on wooden chairs upon turf risers cut into the ground in front of the grandstand. Surely their boos and raspberries were loudest in protest of the five false starts that marred the 1893 Derby, and their cheers the most enthusiastic as the eventual winner, a horse called Boundless, pounded down the home stretch eight lengths ahead of his nearest challenger while setting a track record of 2:36. Boundless, it should be noted, was not of the Bend Or family as 99 percent of flat-track racers now are; instead he came of the West AustralianMatchem line---as would the great Man o’ War 20 years later. And like Man o’ War, Boundless traced in tail-female descent to the Quarter Horse progenitor *Little Janus.
QUARTER RUNNING HORSES IN THE GAY NINETIES
This brings us to the Quarter Running Horses that have been the focus of the last several installments of this series. What was their presence at the World’s Columbian Exposition? The answer is---they had none. Quarter-mile races or “saddle sprints” as they were sometimes called were an underground economy, one that had always relied for its existence on a network of men who knew and did business with each other. Jockeys, groomsmen, exercise riders and trainers who worked within this circle knew where the best horses were to be found, and where to find rivals ---friendly and otherwise---who could be cajoled or baited into putting up the
money for lucrative match contests. Growing national sentiment against drinking and gambling, which would soon culminate in the Prohibition Era, was of little concern to them; unregulated wagering was their major source of income.
But change was on the horizon. In the 1890s, small country racemeeting grounds---often located on the back purlieus of farms or ranches ---were beginning to be replaced by larger tracks with grandstands and Jockey Club stewards who favored Thoroughbred society over the dusty farmers and ranchers who wanted to bring their horses in for sprints but who could not present acceptable pedigrees for their animals, fast runners though they might have been.
During the 1940s, Quarter Horse historian Robert Denhardt was able to interview many old-time breeders who remembered quarter-path racing in the Gay Nineties. His interviews make it abundantly clear that the Quarter Horse as we know it today would not exist had it not been for the intense interest and astute breeding choices of these individuals. The following brief vignettes record the last hurrah of quarter-path racing as it had operated in America since before the Civil War. Next month, we will track the shift in the texture of Quarter Running Horse pedigrees from the Gay Nineties to the end of the first decade of the 20th century and the coming of the automobile.
QUARTER RUNNING HORSES GO WEST TO TEXAS
Samuel “Coke” Blake was born in Arkansas in 1862 and got hooked on Quarter Running Horses as a young teenager when his uncle gave him a gelded grandson of Steel Dust. When he started ranching in Oklahoma he collected a small herd of Quarter Running mares---White Lightnings, Bertrands and Tennessee Brimmers, all representing Alsup breeding. In 1896 a racetrack jockey named Napoleon Bonaparte Maxwell visited him and let on that he knew where there was a Cold Deck colt for sale (for background on the Alsup clan and the story of Cold Deck’s origin, see “The Stuff of Legend,” EQUUS 491). Blake had seen Cold Deck race in Arkansas some years before and considered him the fastest and handsomest horse he had ever seen, so he agreed to buy the colt Maxwell was offering sight-unseen. Although the stallion’s conformation is generally excellent, he appears to have been parrot-mouthed. Denhardt tactfully reports that “in 1898 Blake traded Young Cold Deck for …. [his sire] Berry’s Cold Deck, that was a much better individual.”
The best stallion Blake produced was the powerfully muscled Tubal Cain, by Berry’s Cold Deck out of Lucy Mack, another Alsup mare. In a 1916 letter quoted by Denhardt, jockey “Small” Baker observed that Blake’s breeding
efforts were producing the fastest horses yet: “This is to certify that I know the Alsup people and their White Lightening [sic] horses, having raced with them for several years. They were among the very best of horses. I have trained and tried Tu-Bal-Cain, the Blake Horse, and believe him to be the most valuable horse I ever knew. He is the fastest horse I ever handled and very sensible. I have seen the Blake herd of horses; they are an improvement over Cold Deck and White Lightenings.”
One of the earliest Texas sprintrace fanciers was Alfred Bailes of Seguin, who bred and owned Bailes Brown Dick, sire of one of the all-time great Quarter Horse matriarchs, Paisana (1856). Before she died at the grand old age of 34 she had produced some 20 foals. Many of her colts founded families in their own right, including Anthony (1856), John Crowder (1878, the maternal grandsire of Old Fred), Pancho (1886) and McCoy’s Billy (ca. 1880).
One of the Bailes’ neighbors was a capable cowhand named William “Billy” Fleming. A Confederate veteran and former Texas Ranger, he had lost the use of his right hand in the war. About 1865 he bought land in south-central Texas and started breeding Quarter Running Horses. He knew exactly the stallion he wanted to begin with---a colt he’d spotted before the war. Before marching off to join the “Rebs,” his breeder---whose name is now lost---had chained the horse to a tree. Four years later when Fleming came to get him, the stallion’s hooves had grown out into curls that had to be cut off with a hacksaw. He was bone-thin and bore a disfiguring hairless welt through the skin of his neck from the constant rubbing of the chain.
With care and feed, the good-minded animal muscled up quickly, and despite his rough start he became one of the greatest progenitors of the Quarter Horse. As was customary, he acquired his owner’s name and was called “Old Billy.” So famous and numerous were his get (especially out of Paisana, whom Fleming also bought right after the war) that most folks in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Colorado referred to them as “Billys” and considered that to be the name of their breed.
At about the same time, Crawford Sykes and his partner Joe Mangum made their first important contribution by breeding the Quarter Horse matriarch May Mangum (ca. 1870, by Anthony by Old Billy, out of a mare tracing to the Antebellum stallion Tiger by Blackburn’s Whip out of a half-bred mare called Jane Hunt). Seventeen years later they hit pay dirt again by producing the stallion Sykes’ Rondo (1887, by McCoy’s Billy out of Grasshopper, a Steel Dust great-granddaughter who traced in tail female through the matriarch Monkey to the original Printer and *Little Janus). A breeding of Sykes
Rondo and May Mangum produced another matriarch, Old Jenny (ca. 1891), who became the dam of foundational Quarter Horses Little Joe (1904) and Possum (also known as King, 1905).
The name “rondo” was the Missouri synonym for “Billy”---meaning a compact, muscular Quarter Running Horse similar to those bred by the Alsups. Rancher W.W. Lock knew that breed well, as in the 1870s he had migrated to Texas from the Ozark mountains of Missouri. Lock and his son John were astute buyers and their horses were regular race-meet winners. In 1880 they acquired the mare Mittie Stephens (1869), a granddaughter of both Shiloh and Dan Secres (see “The Stuff of Legend,” EQUUS 491). Later, they were able to purchase her best foal, the 1887 stallion Rondo (known as “Lock’s Rondo,” by Whalebone by Old Billy).
Lock’s Rondo became the grandsire of Yellow Jacket (1908), who like Little Joe and Possum was one of the first 20 horses to be issued a number by the American Quarter Horse Association when that organization was founded in 1941. The Locks also bred the first Texas Chief (1890), whose portrait I have created from a photo taken on the day he won a Texas race in 1896 (see page 58). He was by Lock’s Rondo out of Daisy L (a half-bred quarter racer), and his size of about 14:2 hands as well as his overall conformation---rounded, short-backed and muscular---represent no change over the Alsup type.
TRAVELER: ANOTHER “MYSTERY” HORSE
A few early horses were not of the Alsup “rondo” or “Billy” type. The most important of these was Traveler, whose pedigree is officially a complete blank, although his ancestry and place of birth have earnestly been sought by
numerous individuals. Some said he came to Texas as a 2-year-old in a boxcar of work horses from upstate New York; others averred he came from Kentucky, and for a number of reasons I think this is much more likely. He appears in Texas in about 1890 as a mature horse pulling a dirt scraper for a railroad contractor working near Baird. His history from that point is a near-parallel to that of Old Fred (see “The Stuff of Legend,” EQUUS 491): Here again we find a loud-colored stallion working in a harness context usually reserved for geldings. Like Old Fred, Traveler was bought right out of the traces. The story goes that a man known as “Triggerfoot” Self got him by trading for a mule, drove him home, and soon discovered that the horse had bursting speed.
Self began training Traveler to race and was so confident of him that he began offering to match him against all comers. The owner of the Baird Hotel, one Brown Seay, a “short horse” fancier who already owned a good sprinter named Froggie, got wind of this and sent a knowledgeable friend, Chris Seale, to have a look at Traveler. Impressed, Seale advised Seay to make an offer immediately. Unable to talk Traveler’s owner into selling outright, Seay and Seale partnered up and proposed a match race with unusual conditions: If Traveler won, all the money would go to Self but Traveler would become their property. On race day, Traveler won by a long margin and went to his new home.
Although he quickly gained fame as a racehorse, while under Seay’s and Seale’s ownership Traveler did not make much of a name for himself as a sire. According to Quarter Horse historian Jack Goodhue, this was because there were few quality mares for him to
cover. His most famous offspring from this period was an exceptionally big 16-hand gelding named Judge Thomas (1897, out of the good producer Fanny Pace, a nondescript Cayuse mare who had been discovered pulling an ice wagon). In a race in Butte, Montana, in 1900, Judge Thomas ran 3 1/2 furlongs (770 yards) in a blinding 40.1 seconds, a world’s record that stood for 25 years.
After Seay and Seale, Traveler passed through the hands of numerous owners but in about 1903 wound up with Will
and Dow Shely, brothers who like Billy Fleming had once been Texas Rangers. Their father, who hailed from Kentucky, came to Texas after the Civil War as an accomplished horseman and a fan of Alsup breeding. His sons worked in tandem to grow their breeding operation. Dow, a businessman who lived in San Antonio, located Traveler and closed the deal to buy him. Will ran the Shely’s Palo Huerco ranch in Alfred and oversaw breeding and training. By the time they acquired Traveler, the brothers had amassed a herd of good rondo mares,
most of which had been purchased from Crawford Sykes and Joe Mangum, from whom they also got Old Jenny.
When bred to Traveler, Jenny first produced muscular Little Joe (1904) and the next year the very beautiful Possum (1905, also called King or King Caldwell). During this period Traveler also sired the second Texas Chief (1905), who was out of the Halletsville Mare, a speedy individual of Thoroughbred-Cayuse ancestry. Captain Joe (ca. 1904) came from the cover of Mamie Crowder, by John Crowder by Old
Billy (she out of a Cayuse mare), and El Rey (ca. 1908) came from Black Bess (by Little Joe, out of another Cayuse mare).
Traveler spent the rest of his days in the hands of the Shelys and died on their ranch in 1910 at about 30 years of age. The Shely dispersal sale was held in 1914 and most of their livestock went to the rival Burnett (6666 Ranch) and Waggoner outfits, who continue to perpetuate Traveler’s line.
TRAVELER’S ANCESTRY: MOUNTAIN HORSE
Who was this great horse? Although Traveler’s pedigree is a blank, his biological history is not, perhaps, as much of a mystery as has been made out. One reason I believe he came from Kentucky rather than New York is that in conformation, the horse is not like the chunky Morgans or Old Canadians so characteristic of New England; note Traveler’s long forearms, long thighs, long shoulder, prominent breastbone and long, proudly-carried neck (see page 59). Reported as standing about 15 hands, Traveler was taller and more elegant in appearance than most “Billys.” In fact, no report of Traveler refers to him as either a “Billy” or a “rondo.” Denhardt quotes George Clegg, an old-time Texas breeder who knew the horse, as saying the stallion was “one of the most perfect-looking horses I ever saw.”
In short, Traveler resembled a Kentucky Saddler and in all likelihood his dam derived from the landrace, centered in Kentucky, which in previous installments of this series I have called the Mountain Horse (see “Mountain Horses: America’s Hidden Treasure,” EQUUS 489). Traveler also had large, muscular hindquarters and a short back, and these points of conformation indicate that the sire side of his ancestry probably, like Old Fred’s, had something to do with Missouri Mike or another similar “rondo.” Goodhue
reports that Traveler “gained a reputation as having terrific driving power and for being able to break from a score line faster than any other horse in [Texas].”
The second reason I believe Traveler had roots in the Mountain Horse landrace is that by many reports, he was an ambler. Goodhue reports that “another habit Traveler displayed during his racing career was the way he traveled at the end of a race. No matter how difficult the race, he always returned to the judge’s stand with a very distinctive shuffle, almost a singlefoot.” There are a number of fanciful stories reported by Goodhue and Denhardt as to how Traveler got his name, but neither man appears eager to acknowledge the obvious reason---I suppose because in most peoples’ minds, Quarter Horses aren’t “supposed” to amble. Nonetheless, some of them do, and many a Texas cowboy, employed to spend long hours on horseback inspecting miles of fence line, has valued a “travellin’ hoss” who can move comfortably all day long at seven miles per hour, about twice as fast as the average Quarter Horse walks.
The third reason I believe Traveler came from Kentucky is his unusual color, which again is much more frequently to be found among Mountain Horses than Morgans, Canadians or Thoroughbreds. The AQHA considers Traveler a “sorrel” or “sorrel roan,” which is incorrect in terms of genetics. The known photographs of Traveler corroborate eyewitness reports that the horse had “white flecks” on his sides, a broad, ill-defined patch of white hairs above his eyes (in addition to a crisp, narrow blaze that cut through the patch), and white hairs at the top of his tail (sometimes referred to as a “skunk tail”). This appearance does not denote roan, but a rarer genetic makeup which color geneticist Phil Sponenberg, DVM, PhD, calls “white ticking.” The Spanish term for it is rabicano. In no photo does Traveler’s head appear darker than his body color, a cardinal sign of true roan coloration.
One surviving photograph, apparently taken in Traveler’s early years, clearly shows crisp “lightning marks,” jagged white strips extending high up the front aspects of the legs. Sponenberg recognizes lightning marks as characteristic of what has been called “sabino” coloration or patterning, and his research indicates that sabino of this type and rabicano may both be expressions of the same gene complex. Goodhue reports that Traveler sired a lot of skunk tails, blue eyes and “roans” (rabicano), among them a gelding named Skunk, who became famous as a steer-roper.
Now we come to the question of why photos taken later in Traveler’s life do
not appear to show the lightning marks. Let’s begin by looking at a parallel situation: One of the most important discoveries in equestrian history was made in the 1980s by Gladys Brown Edwards, whose books on the Arabian set a high standard for research. Examining old glass-plate negatives of the Crabbet stallion Mesaoud, Brown noticed when she touched them that they seemed to have a bumpy texture. Close examination revealed the reason: They had been retouched with little dots of sepia-colored paint. The paint was there to cover hundreds of dime-sized white spots sprinkled over Mesaoud’s body: In fact the stallion had “snowflake” coloration. Edwards had the plates cleaned and then published so that breeders could see the true appearance of the horse.
What was the motivation for doctoring Mesaoud’s pictures? In the 1880s, “loud” coloration was not valued in either England or America, and in an era when genetics was not understood, many breeders considered white spotting to be a sign of “impure blood”---certainly not something the Crabbet Stud wanted said about any of their sires.
It is my belief that photos of Traveler taken after his 5-year-old year have been treated similarly---the doctoring performed not on the original negatives so far as I can determine, but by airbrush (on old prints) and (in more recent times) digitally. Writing in Legends: Volume 2, Jack Goodhue (who for most of his career was an employee of the AQHA) explains as he presents a portrait of Traveler done by the famous Quarter Horse artist Orren Mixer that Mixer had “worked from an overexposed old print.” In the same article Goodhue presents a copy of the print used by Mixer, but Goodhue’s version has been digitally “cleaned up”---in short, doctored---to minimize the white patch and smooth out its edges.
In fact, the original print is not overexposed. Neither Goodhue nor Mixer understood the difference between rabicano and roan and thus could not properly interpret either the white patch on Traveler’s forehead or the high white on his legs. In his painting Mixer changes the forehead patch into a big, irregular star, and presents the body color as a light sorrel without the white ticking clearly evident in all of the photos. In fact, a fuzzy-edged patch of white hairs spanning the horse’s forehead is characteristic of rabicano.
As to the lightning marks, Goodhue presents a photo of Traveler taken in about 1902 when the stallion would have been at least 10 years old. In that image, the horse’s forelock covers most of his forehead. It does however clearly show white ticking over the ribs and
flanks, as well as on the horse’s neck, inner forearms, knees, and both fore and hind cannon bones. But my microscopic examination of the area above the horse’s hind socks up to the stifles indicates that the “lightning marks” are much less distinct than on the image made when Traveler was only about 5. Although genetic research has not yet made the relationship between rabicano and sabino clear, in a recent telephone interview Sponenberg stated that the two patterns are probably both part of a gene complex that is highly variable. When I asked him whether “lightning marks” can change shape or fade with age, Sponenberg replied, “Yes; the edges can become much fuzzier and less distinct.” At the same time, Goodhue’s prints appear to have been selectively underexposed (darkened) in the areas of the horse’s lightning marks.
The prejudice against “excessive white” is an old one and persists to this day. This author has no vested interest in the Quarter Horse---or any other breed---and throughout this series, I have approached the study of equine history as a biologist. I employ the principles of zoogeography and population biology, which have enormous power to uncover linkages and fill in “blank” pedigrees, thereby opening productive new avenues of research.
Throughout this series, I have emphasized the fact that all American horse breeds are the product of judicious crossbreeding and often have landrace ancestry. In our next installment, we follow the Alsup “rondos” and the Texas “Billys” into the first few decades of the 20th century for a look at how they survived that period of great hardship in American horse breeding.
Coming next: “Quarter Polo”
Little Joe (1904, by Traveler, out of Jenny): I have repositioned Little Joe’s legs and given him a badly needed hoof trim; the original photo is found in Robert Denhardt’s Quarter Horses: A Story of Two Centuries. This horse does not take after Traveler but instead gives a pretty good idea of Jenny’s appearance—helpful because there are no known photographs of her. Breeders George Clegg and Ott Adams at different times owned Little Joe, but as an old horse he was sold to an Arizona rancher with a short fuse; the story goes that in a fit of temper he killed the horse by shooting him in the head. Clegg missed the good-minded stallion so much that he went to Arizona to collect the bones, and historian Goodhue reports that the remains are buried at Clegg’s ranch in Texas.
Possum (1905): Little Joe’s full brother was a beautiful individual, representing a nice blend of sire and dam. A flaxen sorrel, he inherited his sire’s broad forehead marking that cuts over the right eye, lightning marks, and rabicano ticking. After he had beaten every Texas horse that his breeders, Will and Dow Shely, could talk into racing with him, they sold him to an Arizona rancher who changed his name to King—possibly in an effort to fool those in his area into thinking it was a different horse.
Traveler as a mature horse, perhaps 10 to 12 years old. Rabicano patterning is still evident but the sabino “lightning marks” have faded with time and the edges have become blurry. Equine coat-color genetics expert Philip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD, acknowledges that this is sometimes observed and that the gene complex that produces rabicano-sabino is “highly variable in its expression.”
Color rendition of the young Traveler: Lest I become the pot that has called the kettle black, I begin with full disclosure: every painting, even if the artist works directly from a photo, is an interpretation. Traveler’s legs are partly cut off in the original image and I have restored the cannon bones and hooves. I have interpreted white areas that show in the photo as actual markings, not sunshine glinting on a wet horse or the product of overexposure. Note the stallion’s conformation, similar to a Kentucky Saddler. This photo was probably taken when Traveler was around 5 years old and still not fully filled out; the withers are lower and the quarters not as large as in the mature photo which follows. He presents long forearms, long thighs, prominent breastbone, upright carriage of neck and head, and what will (with maturity) be high, knifelike withers. As to color, note the broad, irregular grayish-white patch covering most of the forehead; the upper part of a thin, crooked white blaze cuts through it. Jagged but crisp-edged “lightning marks” rising up the front aspects of both fore and hind limbs are, in shape, absolutely typical of sabino patterning. Rabicano “white ticking” on the torso follows the lines of the rear ribs but is also found on the belly, haunches and sides of the neck. There are linear, somewhat blurry-edged white patches on the thigh, buttock and shoulder, and an unusual crescent-shape mark at the base of the throat. These markings, which are associated with the rabicano pattern, have been labeled “somatic mutations.”
Pedigree of Jenny (1891): By Sykes Rondo out of May Mangum, this great mare was born and bred in Texas. Her breeding is partly Alsup but contains direct lines to Steel Dust, Shiloh, the original Printer and *Little Janus.
Lock’s Rondo (1880) goes back in three out of four sire-lines to Shiloh, with the fourth through the near-purebred Dan Secres. His tail-female is Thoroughbred, too, making Lock’s Rondo, like Billy Mack, more than 50 percent Thoroughbred.
Color rendition of Texas Chief (1890): Writing on the original photo says: “Texas Chief, the winning horse at Mangum, April 4th, 1896. 660 yards in 36 seconds, beating Sleepy Bill, Whitestockings, and Idlewild. W.W. Lock, owner; Murra Byers, rider; John Lock, Trainer.” Most jockeys of this era were African-American; they leaned forward when racing but did not use a very short stirrup. Trainer John Lock, dressed in his Sunday best, chomps on a cheroot and carries a stallion club.