Doug and Nancy Dear

Doug and Nancy Dear

Doug and Nancy Dear were inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2011.

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For decades, Doug and Nancy Dear’s Birdtail Ranch Quarter Horses were legendary throughout the Intermountain West. It was said that if you bought a horse from the ranch near Simms, Montana, “you knew you got a good one.”

Married in 1947, Doug and Nancy were Montana natives, raised riding and ranching. It was Nancy’s father, Curtis Diehl, who first took an interest in the “Steel Dust” horses that had arrived in eastern Montana in the early 1940s. Curtis bought a dun coming-2-year-old named Charlie Russell (by Texas Blue Bonnet) – the first registered American Quarter Horse to come into their part of the country. Curtis bred him to U.S. Army Cavalry remount mares, along with a couple of palominos.

His vision was to breed a horse that “would make better cow horses for us on the ranch,” Nancy said, a sound horse with a good mind, athletic ability and speed. After Curtis died in 1948, Doug and Nancy carried on, determined to buy the best Quarter Horses they could.

They kept a constant eye out for horses to buy – helped by Doug’s travels as an AQHA judge – and they kept good homebred fillies.

With a reputation for versatility and good temperament, they were in high demand for amateurs, youth and 4-H colt-to-maturity projects.

In 1954, the Dears helped form the Montana Quarter Horse Association. Doug was an MQHA director and Nancy the secretary. Involved nationally, Doug was an AQHA director from Montana, and Nancy and her good friend, Mildred Janowitz, lobbied hard for an amateur division within AQHA: “We didn’t quit until we got it in there.”

Doug died in 1999. A scholarship in his name assists Montana students with their college education. Nancy continued her involvement with raising horses and would ride occasionally when health and help were permitted.  She died in 2013.

Doug and Nancy Dear were inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2011.


Biography updated as of March 2011.