* The article below belongs to Richard F. Stratton and is from his book This is the American Pit Bull Terrier * I read over the article, hopefully there's no typos and if there is, please let me know and I will correct it immediately.
Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forest of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
- William Blake
I have often been amused by Staffordshire or Bull Terrier people as I listened to them debate about the physical traits that make for a top fighting dog. The irony is that such people are involved in serious debate about something they usually know absolutely nothing about. Thus they tend to overemphasize physical characteristics that make a dog look tough, such as a large head or a heavily built or stock body. Most show people tend to go to extremes in conformation, and we thereby get ridiculously straight pasterns, rear legs locked forward, and tight little compact feet. I recall a show person looking in horror at a picture of "Crosspatch" (the winner of a top field trial for bird dogs) and exclaiming how cowhocked the dog was. Well... performance is proof of pudding, and if this person had ever seen a bird dog field trial, she would know that Crosspatch had to have strength, endurance and mobility in his hindquarters in order to win that field trial! So don't talk to us about conformation - especially in view of the fact that conformation people (i.e. show dog people) bear the brunt of the blame for the cruel and dreaded disease called hip dysplasia. In any case, this chapter is intended to demonstrate the degrees of physical variation in the very top dogs that have come along in the last sixty years. Unfortunately, the selections here have been necessarily limited by my own knowledge and the availability of pictures. It grieves me to leave out such proven dogs as Cincinnati Paddy and White Rock, but one was just too far back in time, and I was unable to obtain pictures of the other. To be perfectly candid, though, this chapter is intended to give a sampling of what good dogs are like more than it is to give recognition to deserving dogs. The arrangement is in chronological order, with no attempt to rank one of these dogs above another.
COLBY'S PINSCHER: 72 POUNDS; 1910
Pinscher's pit record is vague, and for that reason he has been a subject of some controversy. However, Colby always referred to him as one of his all time great dogs, and others who were in the area during Pinscher's heyday confirm his greatness. He apparently was game and a killing punisher. Most of our dogs have him in their pedigrees if we trace them back far enough. For those who wonder about the name, there were no Dobermans back in those days, and pinscher was the German word for "terrier." Unfortunately, that leaves us with another mystery: why would an Irishman give the German name for terrier to a box headed dog like Pinscher?
ARMITAGES KAGER: 47 POUNDS; 1919
Kager was bred by John P. Colby, and, as a matter of fact, was a descendant of Colby's Pinscher. That be was a good pit dog is attested to by the fact that both George Armitage and Harry Clark proclaimed him the greatest dog they had ever seen. according to legend, Kager was once the pet of a driver of a whisky wagon and rode on the wagon everywhere with his master; he thus was appropriately names "Whisky." Colby got the dog back when his master became a policeman and no longer had the time for the dog. He was subsequently sold to Armitage, who changed his name to Kager and matched him under that name. Later Harry Clark purchased Kager but fought him under the name of Clark's Tramp. Apparently, most of the breeding made to Kager were made while Clark owned him, as "Clark's Tramp" is the only way I have seen him appear on a pedigree.
TUDOR'S BLACK JACK: 49 POUNDS; 1920
Earl Tudor always named Black Jack as the finest dog he had ever seen. Apparently, the dog was no slouch, as he was many times matched with dogs much heavier than he was, and he always won. As a matter of fact, he was open to whatever was available at any weight. Unfortunately, not much is known about the breeding on this dog, but the word I have is that he was Delihant on the top side and Swineford on his dam's side. That is only hearsay, but his matches are substantiated, and everyone whom I ever knew who saw him proclaimed him the best.
SEARCY JEFF: 39 POUNDS; 1940
This dog was proclaimed the best they had even seen by both Bob Wallace and Bob Hemphill. Jeff was a killing punisher that would nearly bite a dog's head right off. Like most bone-crushing pit aces, Jeff's deep gameness was questioned by dogmen. (Since Jeff would render a dog helpless in a matter of minutes, his matches never went very long, and his gameness was thus never proved before the public.) However, after his teeth were ruined from fighting rock, Jeff was purchased by Bob Wallace (a king's ransom couldn't have got him before that time). Since Wallace planned to base his entire strain of dogs on Jeff, he felt it absolutely necessary to game-test him. He used three different dogs in turn on Jeff, and the dog took it all and begged for more!
WALLACE'S KING COTTON: 39 POUNDS; 1950
King has already been discussed to some extent under the section on breeders, but he's worth coming back to. Here was a dog that was the epitome of everything that is good about the American Pit Bull Terrier. It was my pleasure to have been acquainted with this particular animal, and I would give a pretty penny to have one like him. He was a fine looking dog, and, like so many other Pit Bulls, he had an ideal disposition and a real happy-go-lucky attitude. As a pit dog, he was re-owned because of his nearly unbelievable ability/ His contest against Corvino's Blackie "made" his reputation. Most pit dog men were not overly fond of the Blackie dog, as he was a "man eater," and it is part of the pit dog man's credo that a mean dog is never dead game. Blackie was putting this idea to a severe test, however, as he had beaten four fine dogs in a row! At the match between Blackie and King Cotton, the pit was wired in to protect the spectators from Blackie, and the referee carried a club to protect the men in the pit - just in case! Three handlers with three leashes brought the muzzled animal into the pit. King dominated from start to finish, and Blackie refused to scratch at the hour and thirty-one minute mark. Thus, King Cotton became an instant hero by beating a very unpopular dog that no one had seemed to be able to stop.
GOOFY: 49 POUNDS; 1960
Here was a dog that was living proof that a dog did not have to look strong to be a veritable powerhouse! In fact, Lou Johnson told me that he went out of his way before a match to let the other side see Goofy, and thus was about to drive up the odds. But Goofy was a phenomenal fighting dog with tremendous strength and biting ability. In addition, he was an extremely intelligent and ring-wise dog who had a vast repertoire of hols and maneuvers. Goofy lived to a ripe old age in the hands of Lou Johnson, and there are many dogmen around who list him as the greatest that they have ever seen.
GOING LIGHT BARNEY: 39 POUNDS; 1970
Since my own information on Barney is somewhat limited, I have chosen to reprint an article on him here that originally appeared in Sporting Dog Journal.
Although pit dog men vary in occupations, educations, politics and even in our ideas about the dogs, I would venture to say that one thing we do have in common is the dream of some day owning an "Ace." Some of the lucky ones amongst us have already attained this dream, perhaps more than once. But generally speaking, an "ace" is a once-in-a-lifetime dog. He is a dog that can whip anything his own weight and make it look easy. In fact, some of the better ones didn't even have to be matched to weight.
The pattern of public reaction to an ace is a familiar one and fairly predictable. While most fanciers are quick with their acclaim, there is always a hardcore group of diehards and skeptics. The usual comment is that the dog is cur (albiet a "stiff cur"), and that soon a dog will come along that will make him show his true colors. Eventually, credit is grudgingly given, although it may not be until after the dog has died.
Actually, some of the old-timers have a right to be suspicious of the rough, devastating type of Bulldog that wins by rendering his opponent helpless in a matter of minutes. Experienced breeders are only too aware of how difficult it is to get all the desirable components - hard bite, gameness, good wrestling ability and pit intelligence - in one dog. More often than not, if we get a hardbiting, rough dog, he turns out not to be game. If we get a deeply game dog, he seemingly can't bite through a paper bag! These qualities are not mutually exclusive, as used to be argued by some dog men, but they are statistically difficult to obtain in one dog. However, an ace is more than just all the qualities of a good pit dog combined in one dog. Usually a phenomenal ability of some kind is also involved. Thus we have Owens Tanner, a dog that would shake so hard he banged his opponent's head on the ground, completely disorienting him. Or Wallace's Searcy Jeff, who would feed an opponent his right front leg, then practically bite his head right off! Or Tudors Black Jack, a Colby-bred dog who killed opponents that outweighed him by a considerable amount. Most of us have logged in considerable time mooning over pictures of such dog, wishing we had a time machine to go back and get them! However, it only stand to reason that there is an ace or two in our midst right now - especially if we take into account the theory of large numbers. There are more people now and more pit dog men - hence, more pit dogs. We would therefore expect that there would be more good dogs, which, I think, there are. (Also, unfortunately, more bad ones! (I'm sure everybody has his own idea of a dog that might be our generation's ace. My own candidate is Going Light Barney. Barney is an eight-time winner, but more than that, he is an eight-time winner that has been open to the world and has had run at him the finest dog that were available. Because of his tremendous punishing power, many of Barney's matches have been short. But because of the quality of his opponents, Barney has gone the distance a number of times, and on such occasions he has exhibited excellent ring generalship, pacing himself, coasting, waiting for the proper moment, then really pouring on the heat!
As for his fighting style, he is an ear dog par excellence, but he has tremendous adaptability. In fact, he is one of those rare dogs that have the uncanny ability to solve any dog's fighting style and turn it against him. His wrestling ability and biting power are nothing short of phenomenal. His scratches are spectacular, but they have not been frequent, as, against because of the quality of his opponents, there have been very few turns in any of his contests. Barney was bred by Lawrence McCaw and his son Bruce, utilizing an old Corvino-bred stud dog owner by Morrie Rootberg and a bitch strong in the blood of Rascal and the fabulous Goofy (owned by Lou Johnston). In the seven years that they have owned Barney, Larry and Bruce have utilized hardnosed selectivity and saturation breeding techniques to found a bloodline based on Barney that they call the "Going Light" strain. Both men are completely committed to Bulldogs and are highly respected among pit dog men.
It may seem as though praise of Barney has been too lavish and overdrawn, but, remember, we are dealing with an ace here, and it is sometimes difficult to communicate just how much such a dog stands out. An incident involving Barney's schooling may make the point. Larry and Bruce were involved in game testing Barney and wanted to be sure he could take it. The only hitch was that he had such uncanny ability to counter a dog's fighting style that Barney didn't have much - even when larger dogs were put on him. After trying a number of different dogs with different fighting styles on Barney, all to no avail, one of the handlers suddenly had an idea. "Maybe," he said, "if we tied Barney up, the other dogs could so something with him!" The idea, of course, was dismissed as ridiculous. But the fact that it could even be suggested in earnest is an indication of how complete was Barney's dominance!
Images used in this blog are from:
Images used in this blog are from: