Quarter Horse History: Defending the Bulldogs

Quarter Horse History: Defending the Bulldogs

Strong-willed men waged battles in the early days of AQHA over the bulldog-type horse.

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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 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.

For the Bulldog Type

The first edition of the AQHA Stud Book and Registry carried these comments (condensed): 

  • The prime purpose of this Association is the perpetuation of the qualities that are the Quarter Horse’s unique and invaluable traits.
  • This requires 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.”

Against the Bulldog Type

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: 

  • Experience has shown that over-muscling occurs when this particular type is bred to an extreme degree without regard for performance, which defeats the very purpose of the breed. 
  • The characteristic speed begins to disappear, and with it goes other qualities of the ideal cow horse
  • Performance must never be allowed to become of secondary importance, if the Quarter Horse of the future is to maintain the reputation established by the Quarter Horse of the past.

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 trail blazers.