Change on the hori­zon

Quar­ter Run­ning Horses, Buf­falo Bill and the Chicago World’s Fair en­livened Amer­ica’s Gilded Age.

EQUUS - - Contents - By Deb Ben­nett, PhD

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.