Defending the Bulldogs

Strong-willed men waged some horse-breeding battles in the early days of AQHA.

Strong-willed men waged some horse-breeding battles in the early days of AQHA.

Wimpy P-1 was a product of the King Ranch’s breeding program. Though the King Ranch practice linebreeding as a method for setting type in its horses, only a few stallions were selected to use as herd sires after extensive evaluations.
Wimpy P-1 was a product of the King Ranch’s breeding program. He was an early influence of the bulldog-type Quarter Horse body. AQHA file photo.

By Don Hedgpeth in America’s Horse

The conflict and controversy that surrounded AQHA’s early years centered more on men than on horses. Strong-willed men of uncompromising passion dug in their heels in defense of the of the bulldog-type Quarter Horse and would not give an inch in their argument. Those on the other side bet their chips on performance rather than appearance and pointed to a profusion of Thoroughbred skeletons in the Quarter Horse closet.

A more equitable position was taken by William Anson, the first man to make a serious scholarly attempt to trace Quarter Horse history. In 1910, Anson wrote: “Owing to the absence of a studbook, these horses have undoubtedly been bred more for type and performance than for strict bloodlines and pedigrees. Comparatively few can lay claim to pure lineage, but in spite of this, type is very firmly established, and with whatever breed he is mated, the Quarter Horse transmits certain unmistakable racial characteristics to his offspring.”

Quarter Horse breeding has come far over the years, leading to a higher quality of horses. In the “Best Remudas” book by Jim Jennings, you have the chance to read about the first 15 winners of of the Best Remuda award and their high standards for horses.

Those who held the reins at AQHA’s beginning would not buy into Anson’s belief. The first edition of the AQHA Stud Book and Registry carried these comments: “Undoubtedly, the prime purpose to which this Association should aim is the perpetuation of those qualities that are the Quarter Horse’s unique and invaluable traits. To do this successfully requires the scrupulous preservation of the physical characteristics that clearly mark and distinguish this horse from any other breed. It is wholly by virtue of these characteristics firmly fixed by generations of purposeful breeding, that this horse possesses those priceless qualities that make him supreme in his own field. Only a negative and harmful purpose would serve any attempt to refashion the shape of the Quarter Horse in imitation of any other breed, or by admitting to the Association’s record, horses that do not fully conform to the well-established Quarter Horse type in shape, action, disposition and character.”

If your horses couldn’t fit the mold in the 1940s, you had better go elsewhere, and some did. Opposition to AQHA’s intractable stand led to the founding of two rival Quarter Horse organizations during the decade. Melville Haskell wrote on behalf of those who had been shunned by AQHA, along with their horses: “In the Southwest, where short racing attained a high point in popularity, it was soon discovered that the blood of the Quarter Running Horse made a marked contribution to the quality of ranch stock for working cattle. Here was developed the bulldog type of cow horse that makes up much of the foundation stock of the registered Quarter Horse of today. However, experience has shown that when this particular type is bred to an extreme degree without regard for performance, over-muscling occurs, which defeats the very purpose of the breed. Not only does the characteristic speed begin to disappear, but with it goes other qualities of the ideal cow horse. If the Quarter Horse of the future is to maintain the reputation established by the Quarter Horse of the past, performance must never be allowed to become of secondary importance.”

The “Best Remudas” book by Jim Jennings offers 200 pages of amazing photos and stories from the 15 award winners. The winners are selected fro their quality horses as well as how the remuda is an integral part of daily life on a real working ranch.

The battle lines were drawn, and the war would be waged for years to come. Through

the crucible of conflict, AQHA would shape itself into the most effective and forward-looking force ever mustered on behalf of horses. Nothing that comes easily is really worth winning, Excellence may emerge through adversity, and that has most certainly proved true in the tale of AQHA’s trailblazers.

23 thoughts on “Defending the Bulldogs”

  1. I never get enough of these re-posts of the old debates, along with photos of the old sires. Thanks!

  2. I like to read these old stories.Today’s Quarter Horses have become so specialized that it needs some serious attention.
    I know this will step on some toes but too bad if it will help.
    The cutting horses are so small and fine boned at 13.3 hands to 14.2 and weigh 900 lbs.
    And the hunter jumper are at 17.2 hands.They could pass for a Thoroughbred.And alot of them are mostly TB blood on paper.But they earn their ROM in jumping and get permanent papers.

  3. Always have loved the bulldog look but have to admit most of my girls have a little thoroughbred in them somewhere. Had to laugh yesterday at a cow we have been trying to get up for months. She has out run and hid in the pond on my typical qh built mare and 4 wheelers. Yesterday I was riding my “likes to go” double bred Zan Parr Bar mare that has a little more TB look. Cow stood on the hill and looked her over, decided she wasn’t going to out run her and headed for the pen.

  4. The old debates are interesting as well as educational. The true quarter horse is of great disposition, willing, safe, dependable, beautiful, of good conformation, and capable of passing on the same qualities for generations with no genetic defects. This is what we want to produce to continue the legacies and the men/women that made it happen.

  5. I love the stories about the old bloodlines because that is what I always had in my life. My late mare was more middle of the road. But the Quarter Horse of today are a little too refined for my likes. But my late gelding Skipper could do just about anything including babysitting. He was stout and would not pass muster into today’s show ring. However we were well suited to each other.

  6. I to think the Quarter Horses of today have a little to much Thoroughbred in them. The english horses do not even look like a QH anymore. I would love to see more hoof and leg on our horses. I know we need fresh blood every now and again to keep from inbreeding so much, but there were other bloodlines in the early horses other than TB. Maybe we should consider crossing some lines with the foundation horses that made this breed, use them for breeding stock and keep it closely monitored with certain breeders only. After a generation or two, allow these new lines to show.

  7. very good argument and one still going on today I am sorry to say that there are 2 types of Quarter horse performance type and Halter type and rarely can 1 type compete in the classes aimed at the other in todays show ring it is almost impossible to get the halter points needed to get a AQHA Champion if you have a top tier performance Horse I love the Breed but sadly many of us must show in other breed shows if we want to compete in both types of classes personally I think the ideal horse should be able to compete in all classes sadly to say most of the best horses in our breed couldnt earn a halter point to save there life and the vast majority of our halter horses would have to be hauled thousands of miles to get a performance ROM I would like to see the 2 be much closer in type

  8. I prefer the old bulldog type. In breeding my mares, I would take into consideration their body build and attitude before I matched them to a stallion, so they would not get too muscle bound. I like big hind quarters, nice bone size and nice size feet. I had a couple of mares that were pleasure breed and their feet would not take the stress of performance work. Just give me the old bulldogger anytime.

  9. I completely agree with John Mallonee! Halter horses and performance horses of today are unable to compete against each others classes. The American Quarter Horse of old, was able to do it all. For this reason the QH was so well loved and desired. So many breeders have “specialized” breeding practices, to again to have the QH that can do it all and do it well is where I think AQHA should be striving to return to. Wimpy P-1 is a perfect example of that standard. King as well, they showed these animals in halter and then took them to the reining and cutting show pens. I would love to see that in the AQHA, but am afraid that we shall never see that in AQHA show pens any longer. You would have to attend and show in the FQHA to see that type of QH these days. Either way the folks of old knew what they were doing when the American Quarter Horse was created! There is no other breed as loved and admired as QH is all over the world!! Many thanks to those that fought the hard fight to set the standards and create the Association for this breed that I love so very much!

  10. Good post. But I agree with Anson, the best of the quarter horses were bred for performance. When they bred for type they came up with the halter horses that could NOT be ridden. Terrible breeding. Nearly ruined the breed. Then they came up with the “peanut pusher” western pleasure horse. Stupid. Give me King, Leo, Two Eyed Jack horses any day over these “products” of the specialized breeding programs. The foundation horses could do it all and made the breed famous. One horse that could cut a cow, rope ’em, run a quarter mile faster than any other horse, jump a hunter course and finally, baby sit a kid and do it all and stay sound forever. Give me the foundation horses!

  11. We love the bulldog style quarter horse. Ours are also about 58″ tall. Built and some were barrel racers and pole horses and others do performance and do great in open halter. We also show with the National Quarter Pony Association that was started for short quarter horses.

  12. THERE IS NO WAY a halter horse could win in reining pleasure any of the games it is physically impossible for a 16.2 1300 pound horse can move like that and type does not mean 16 hands 1300 pounds impressive wasnt a giant and neither was Doc Bar and I doubt if any modern day horse can even come close to influencing the breed like Doc Bar and in his time he was a great halter horse and by no means 16 hands or 1300 pounds

  13. As I’ve always bred,raced,worked cows and team roped and sorted cattle & my kids ran barrels& rodeod on horses that we first raced at the tracks.Race horses have suited me the best.
    And I’ll have to say this.The race bred horses take a little more time training.But they bare the only ones that have achieved the coveted tittle of AQHA SUPREME CHAMPION!So I think they are pretty much the model for my taste.I always loved Leo & Easy Jet.Now it is the get of Royal Shake Em that can do it all for me.

  14. My geldings are barrel racing and cow bred. I’ve worked cows
    with their g-dams and dam. They are now bred for cow and trails. My gelding a dun, I plan to do trails with him, I wanted a good fast trail horse and he is it. He has Leo, King, alot of Three Bars both dam and sire, Ed Echols, Poco Bueno, my geldings have alot of spirit, the dun has a super disposition, you can do anything with him, pull his tail, slap him on his butt, my grand kids ride him bareback, jump him over small jumps, I’ve laid the barrels on their sides, he jumps them, I’ve ridden him over them, also. He has the lines I’ve always dreamed of, his full brother has the Poco Bueno
    head and conformation, my gelding has the Three Bars look, but I too am satisfied with what I have.

  15. Hank Weiscamp had it right with his breeding program. A horse that could win a race on the track, win a halter class and a roping ALL ON THE SAME DAY-would not happen with today’s horses that are so specialized they cannot be cross-purposed. Let’s get the breed back to it’s roots; a little less TB and a lot more substance.

  16. I have a cutting/reining bred palomino mare with several HOF and ROM horses on her papers. This 9-year old mare competes in the following: Cutting, Reined Cow Horse, Western Pleasure, Trail, English Pleasure, Western Dressage, and Extreme Cowboy Racing. She has been in the ribbons and money in all of these events, but EXCA is her favorite. She is a 15H bull dog type that requires a 7 1/4″ gullet. I wouldn’t have my AQHA horses any other way.

  17. I like Shilos post March 8..i own a Leo San ,Okie Leo gelding,He looks like Leo San who had a $5,000.00 stud fee in 1957.His req. name is Hardscrabble Frank,when he came to me he was all roughed up,its not good to tick of a Leo.But after 4 yrs with me he is a joy to own,I sort and gather on him and he is a blast on the trail,glad I found him at Earl Grahams Standing Bar G auction yard and scored him in Chino Ca.

  18. I do not like the way the AQHA & breeders have gone. Someone just said today’s horses are to specialized. I agree. My father & grandfather raised quarter horses that were the bulldog type. My dad & grandpa bred for all around use that could go to the show ring & win halter, AAA racing, Cutting, Reining, working cow horse, Etc. Last mare we had was a big blue roan. 17.2h & 1500 pounds, she excelled at everything she did. She earned world champion designation in 9 events (All but roping) That is what I think breeders ought to be doing is back to basics of breeding solid horses that excel at everything. That is what the animal was bred to do

  19. The only good thing I get out ta today’s aqha is the color change,allowing the more white and Carmelo,,I grow up on quarter horses and paints,I will say I’m 50/50 on the lines today,There’s good and bad from foundation to the crosses to day,its not the lines used but the way we the breeders cross the line of inbreeding is to thin and the drugs we give them to 1 help carry are 2 becouse its the new fab,Impressives mother was older and lot a baby,they made sure she kept the next by injecting her with plenty of meds,Look at poco his default is just as severe, less talked about,,oops just running away from the hole meaning,, there’s improvements and falls in all the years,,Me I love the old school,,My stallion is Wimpy P1 wimpy2 Nick Shoe maker breed,the old timers would not have even looked his way for he’s a Carmelo,,I choose him for the lines he carries,my mares are out crosses like doc bar,poco bueno,Oklahoma star,grey badger, Hollywood jac86,easy jet,,crossing in the few paints I have a delta flyer,scenic symbol,ThreeOs,I would not be afraid to put the foals in any ring,and would say I know there going to give there all,there going to look good doing it,,I would also not be afraid to say I know Its where there heart is,,Any horse with the love can do it,we tend to over look that,I can keep going so to end this mess,I say,mix it up try new cross it stay true Just keep the quarter horse in mind and what made them who they were and where we are today,Anyone that know this breed can say its in there heart and natural ability,there eagerness to please,

  20. I much prefer the bulldog type over any other type anyday!!!!!!That says quarter horse type more than anything else!!!

  21. I think that the horses are just too dang specialized.The halter horses are so big at 16.2 and some weighing in at 1600 lbs.They are too big and they don’t even break them to a saddle.So how do they know how they ride and what kind of mind they have?? The DON’T!!! And then on the opposite end of the breed are the little pie pan Cutting horses that are the size of a pony. I’ve seen POA(Ponies Of America)bigger than the cutting horses that are 13.3 to maybe 14.1.hand tall.Heck if they had to rope a cow they could not hold it or pull it to the trailer.The Hunter Jumpers are nearly all TB blood on paper.You have to go way back to fi8nd a Quarter Horse on their pedigree.
    The race horse seem to bee the most universal.There are a vast array in them.Some are 250 yard runners and some look a bit like a Thoroughbred that excel at 870 yards.I liked the great EASY JET and the all time record siring First Dow Dash.But the are dead and gone as is the great TX sprinter Jody O Toole. Now I will have to say Royal Shake Em and A Streak of Fling will carry the torch. They have the conformation,The size,the speed,the bone and the foot .And the Brains ad the good gentle nature.Now that is a QUARTER HORSE!!!

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