Quarter Horse History: The First 20

Quarter Horse History: The First 20

Test your horse-breeding knowledge and see if you can name the first 20 registered American Quarter Horses.
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From America's Horse

It is interesting to look back through the horses that hold the first 20 registration numbers in the AQHA studbook – designated as foundation sires – and see which ones we remember and which have faded into relative obscurity. After AQHA was chartered in 1940, the newly formed Executive Committee decided that the first registration number would be reserved for the grand champion at the Fort Worth Stock Show. The 20th was reserved for the first president of AQHA, W. B. Warren of Hockley, Texas, who registered his stallion Pancho. The other 18 were to be given to stallions who exhibited preferred Quarter Horse type through their parentage, conformation and performance.

Several of those first 20 are well known to even the most casual Quarter Horse enthusiast, and their contributions to the breed have been well documented, five (Wimpy, Cowboy, Joe Reed, Gonzales Joe Bailey and Oklahoma Star) were included in the first two “Legends” books by Western Horseman. More – and dozens of their offspring – have been profiled in The American Quarter Horse Journal. Almost all of the stallions were selected for a reason; most were outstanding specimens of a breed trying to identify itself. They came from breeders who had distinguished themselves by selecting for horses true in type and ability, with hand-written pedigrees and word-of-mouth advertising. Along with Wimpy, the King Ranch's breeding program contributed the Old Sorrel sons Little Richard and Tomate Laureles. Peter McCue sired both Chief and Sheik, the latter of which was bred by Coke Roberds in Colorado.

Ott Adams’ Rialto represented an upside-down version of his usual breeding plan, with Traveler on the top side and Old Billy on the bottom. Other sires, such as Old Red Buck, traced to Coke Blake’s Oklahoma breeding program. In addition to coming from established breeders, the stallions were individually selected based on conformation and performance. Many of them were proven sires by the time they were registered. So why do we remember some, but not all? It seems the greatest common denominator between stallions we remember was that they stood to the greatest number of mares, or were raised by ranches that participated in racing and showing. The fame of a stallion directly corresponds to the ability of his offspring to excel on the track or in the show ring. The cowboys on the JA Ranch in the Texas Panhandle might have loved the Yellow Boy geldings they rode, but they mostly had to brag amongst themselves. The JA didn’t send a show string on the road like the King Ranch did. They were interested in horses to work cattle. Many of the other stallions had the same problem. A cowboy might have loved the way his Brown Possum colt worked – he just didn’t have anyone to tell. At the same time, many didn’t have the advantage of being bred to large numbers of mares. Helen Michaelis’ stallion Columbus is credited with only 21 registered foals. Brown Possum had only 13. Stacked up against Joe Bailey’s 257, they were behind before they got started. There’s always the possibility that, given different circumstances, we might be reading about Old Jim or Pancho. But those who knew them and a couple of horsemen named Bob Denhardt and Jim Minnick thought they were the best.

The First 20 American Quarter Horses

Wimpy P-1 Rialto P-2 Joe Reed P-3 Joe Bailey P-4 Chief P-5 Oklahoma Star P-6 Columbus P-7 Colonel P-8 Old Red Buck P-9 Old Jim P-10 Sheik P-11 Cowboy P-12 Waggoner’s Rainy Day P-13 Old Red Bird P-14 Brown Possum P-15 Whiskaway P-16 Little Richard P-17 Yellow Boy P-18 Tomate Laureles P-19 Pancho P-20

Want to learn even more about the first 20 registered Quarter Horses? Or about the most influential sires and dams? Visit the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame. Admission is free for AQHA members. Get your AQHA membership today!