Bred by Paul and Jack Smith of Indiahoma, Oklahoma, Harlan was by King P-234’s son Hank H and was foaled in 1951 as the last of 14 foals out of the Beetch’s Yellowjacket mare Dixie Beach. The buckskin stallion was last owned by the Harlan Syndicate of Collinsville, Oklahoma, which comprised Bob Robey, Jim Nance, Carl Mills and Harold Hudspeth.
Bob ranched with his wife and father-in-law at Guthrie, Oklahoma. In November 1954, they paid $200 for the 3-year-old colt.
“At the time, I was an amateur calf roper and we weren’t interested in showing horses,” Bob continues. “But Harlan was quite a roping horse and that’s what I bought him for. He did everything quick. He was not an easy horse to rope on. He broke out of the box with a lot of gas, and when he stopped, he stopped. Everything was quick about him. He’d made a great roping horse, if we’d went on with him.
“But the vet told us I shouldn’t rope on him and then breed him,” he says. “So we just bred him and raised colts. Of course, when his colts got big enough, then we started to show them.”
What a difference that made to the American Quarter Horse.
Harlan’s descendants include 17 AQHA Champions and one world champion among 403 AQHA-registered foals. His get earned 1,123 halter points and 1,873 performance points, with six starting on the racetrack. Eight foals earned Superiors. In 1965-66, Harlan was the leading get-of-sire winner and in 1999 was still an all-time leading sire of AQHA Champions.
Harlan’s daughter Harlene was foaled in 1956 and is an AQHA Superior Cutting Horse; his 1961 daughter Slash J Harletta is an AQHA Champion and National Finals Rodeo qualifier in barrel racing; and his 1965 daughter, Miss Harlacue, was the high-point tie-down roping horse in 1976. Harlan’s AQHA Champion son Jim Harlan was the high-point halter stallion in 1962 and Jim Harlan’s daughter Miss Jim 45 is a Hall of Fame horse whom many consider the greatest halter mare of all time. Harlan’s grandson Fire Water Flit is an all-time leading barrel racing sire and his great-grandson Boogers Bad Boy is a roping horse who time and again carried Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world champions Joe Beaver and Trevor Brazile to the pay window.
“Harlan has contributed to the AQHA breed by passing on his gentle disposition, gritty nature, strong bone and never-ending try,” says Shannon, Ryan, who bred American Buckskin Horse Association word champion performance halter stallion Coosa I Can out of Harlan’s great-great-granddaughter Harlans Diamond Mist. “My experience has been that not only are the Harlan horses easy to train, but they have more heart than any horses I have ever been around.”
Harlan died in May 1973 of a stroke, and was buried on Bob and Joan Robey’s ranch at Perkins, Oklahoma. Harlan was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2019.
Biography updated as of March 2019.