August 15, 2011
She may have been small, but Baby Doll Combs was everyone’s favorite bulldogging horse.
By Crystal Phares
Headlines across the country billed her as the “Horse Famed for Tossing Cowboys Into Money,” and she was even the focus of two features in Life magazine.
Baby Doll Combs was foaled in 1947. Her sire was Oklahoma Star Jr, by foundation sire and American Quarter Horse Hall of Famer Oklahoma Star, and her dam was a Bert mare named Miss Boctick. The blaze-faced bay weighed 1,030 pounds at maturity and stood 14.1 hands.
In 1955, Willard Combs of Checotah, Oklahoma, bought Baby Doll Combs from Bill Odum of Pryor, Oklahoma, for $3,200. When she carried Willard to the world championship in bulldogging in 1957, she was also the regular mount of the men who finished second through fifth.
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From 1953 through 1960, the little mare earned more than $400,000 for her riders, and she was ridden by seven of 15 bulldoggers at the first National Finals Rodeo. The famous all-around cowboy Bill Linderman was quoted in Life magazine as saying, “ ‘Baby Doll’ knew bulldogging better than some of the guys who rode her.”
Late in 1957, the same year Willard won his world title, he noticed Baby Doll wasn’t looking as athletic as usual. Willard realized she was in foal. She’d been bred to a grandson of Tommy Clegg and Grey Badger II. Cowboys across the country waited for Baby Doll’s first and only foal, Checotah Star, who also made a bulldogging horse when he matured.
In August 1960, after a bulldogging at a rodeo in Salina, Kansas, the little mare broke out in a sweat and showed all the signs of colic. Baby Doll died that night with a ruptured intestine. Her owner loaded her into his trailer and drove the 350 miles back to Checotah to give her a proper burial.
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The November 7, 1960, issue of Life magazine ran photos of 11 bulldoggers at a graveside service for Baby Doll Combs. She was honored in 1979 as one of the first horses inducted into the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Hall of Fame. In 2004, she was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.