Get to know one of AQHA’s founding sires.

Get to know one of AQHA’s founding sires.

Zantanon, pictured here at age 24, was one of the fastest horses of his day.

By Lesli Groves in America’s Horse

King P-234, by Zantanon, by Little Joe, by Traveler. That pedigree is as familiar as the Pledge of Allegiance among old-time Quarter Horse breeders. None of these sires were one-hit wonders; it was that rare genetic chain with no weak links.

Most people, of course, link Zantanon with his famous son, King, who was foaled in 1932. His second most famous son was Ed Echols, an Arizona match racer who was purportedly comparable to King as a sire, though not as well promoted.

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While Ed Echols was named for an Arizona sheriff, Zantanon’s name came from the other side of the border and the law. He was named after a Mexican bandito.

Zantanon was foaled in 1917 near Alice, Texas, about 140 miles south of San Antonio, on a ranch owned by Ott Adams. His dam was a stocky sorrel mare named Jeanette. AQHA records refer to her sire as Billy by Big Jim, the “Billy” probably referring to his type instead of his name, since Quarter Horses were also referred to as “Billy horses” in those days. Jeanette’s dam was believed to be a daughter of Sykes Rondo. Little Joe, Zantanon’s sire, was also out of a Sykes Rondo daughter.

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Watch race 12 from the 2010 Bank of America Racing Challenge Championships. This race features three year olds and upward, who qualified through a regional challenge championship in 2010 as determined by championship preferences. This race was 440 yards and carried a purse of $350,000 Guaranteed.

Prior to Zantanon’s arrival, Jeanette and Little Joe had already produced one fancy match-racing horse with a bandito name, Pancho Villa. Erasmo Flores of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, bought Zantanon when he was 11 months old and already had him in race training when he was 14 months old. A year or so later, Zantanon was sold to Erasmo’s uncle, Eutiquio Flores.

Zantanon’s quick break and scorching early speed won him race after race. His earnings purportedly paid for a ranch south of Laredo. He was soon dubbed “The Man o’War of Mexico,” after the famous Thoroughbred with whom Zantanon shared a birthday.

But while the real Man o’War was treated like a celebrity, Zantanon received no special treatment. In fact, he didn’t receive much of anything. Half starved all the time, he looked like a gutted snowbird. His handlers were notorious for working him two or three hours a day, then leaving him tied to a hitching post outside a saloon for the afternoon.

One of his admirers was a young man named Manuel “Meme” Benavides Volpe, a dry-goods store clerk turned oil baron in the Texas border town of Laredo. Zantanon had defeated Volpe’s father’s horses every time they’d challenged him, a total of 10 times over several years. Volpe longed to buy the abused stallion and give him the care he deserved.

The problem was, Flores was disinclined to sell. Volpe outlasted him, though. When Flores died in 1931, Volpe paid an exorbitant $500 for the 14-year-old stallion.

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“Everyone criticized me for paying so much …” Volpe said in a 1962 Quarter Horse Journal article. “He was so poor and weak, he could hardly walk. But it was not long until many horsemen desired his service, which I did not permit.”

Volpe did not breed the horse exclusively to his own mares, though by doing so, he did get King and Ed Echols. For other breeders, Zantanon sired the stallions San Siemon, Chico, Zantanon Jr, Sonny Kimble, Cuatro De Julio and Cucaracha – stallions who established their own Quarter Horse families. Uncle’s Pet, Zantanon’s daughter, bred to Zantanon’s son King P-234, resulted in Small Town Dude, the sire of Blondy’s Dude.

Volpe said Zantanon was not only the fastest horse of his day, but he was also the smartest.

“He could out-maneuver and take advantage of his opponent in such a way that he was almost impossible to defeat,” Volpe said. “I guess because he was so poor, the old horse knew he had to take every advantage.”

9 thoughts on “Zantanon”

  1. Zantanon was amazing, period. Hes not that far back off my horse’s papers and shes a runner, i think she gets it from him or leo but i keep telling my self “no way”

  2. I love reading about the great horses who still have so much influence on our Quarter Horses today. My gelding traces back to both the “Mexican Man O’War” through King and to the actual Man O’War,through Jet Deck. We can all be proud of our breed and it’s amazing heritage!

  3. I find it really interesting that folks like the articles on the great horses that contributed to the formation of the Quarter Horse Breed. I think that we need to get back to the reason that these horses so sought after. That they could do it all. If the judges knew what a halter horse looked like maybe we could start showing the right kind of horses again. We don’t need a performance halter division, we need the real halter classes to represent decent form to function horses once again. Wimpy P1 would never have gotten the distinction of having that number if he was born today and the contest was on now. What is going on?????

  4. Hmm, I wonder how much Thoroughbred blood Zantanon had? Probably not much if any. And yet he was super fast and athletic and smart.
    I agree with Brian and wonder why we are breeding so much good ole quarter horse out of our quarter horses.
    Now a days there is so much Thoroughbred into our Quarter Horses, which causes them to really be half quarter horses (Appendix) and no longer resemble a quarter horse. If everyone wants a thoroughbred type, why don’t they improve the thoroughbred, by breeding for better bone and calmer minds? Lets get the quarter horse back to being a quarter horse, a smaller, stouter horse that can do it all.

  5. super horse and great mind and heart…….like to have one like him today. he did it all himself for sure. No help from anyone. buy all rights he should have died early in life.

  6. I have a 3 month old colt who traces all the way back to this old guy. I stumbled across this while researching his pedigree (trying to come up with a really good name for him!) and I can’t say enough good things about my little fellow and his relatives that I have the priveledge to interact with! Hemi already shows bravery and such an even attitude, and he’s quick to figure things out, with just enough of a stubborn streak that I don’t think the word “quit” will ever be one we’ll have to worry about. He is my first quarter horse (my other horse is a thoroughbred… one of the never raced, quiet, happy silly ones, not the spazzy, neurotic crazy ones!) and I think I will have a wonderful partner for a long, long time with him!

  7. I also have a few horses who trace back to both Man o War and Zantanon, and while searching for photos of Zantanon, I found this article. Very fascinating, and I love the fact this this poor guy never said quit. Thank God for Volpe, or Zantanon’s story would have ended a very different way.

  8. I here you loud and clear Brian, this is a huge money business now. If some rich personwant a certain kind of horse that we thought was a piece of shit, but he said I will give you a $100000.00 to raise me a HORSE that looks like this, most breeders are going to do it.anyway i am like you I just didn’t get it until I went to work for an old time cutting trainer,I asked him the same thing, he looked at me and smiled, said son this is how it is, if some rich sum bitchikes rat tales apps, that what we will be riding:) that was Short Freeman

  9. My first horse was a Cuatro de Julio son. We were both born in 1954… I started riding home when we were 5. He was o e of those horses that while blisteringly fast loved kids ( me at least), and I could do ANYTHING on that horse. Gotta love the old line foundation horses.

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