Franklin Reynolds Tells……. the Joe Hancock Story
September 1957 Quarter Horse Journal - submitted by Lee Jones

Taruers Pepita
Joe Hancock, 1923, brown, 15.3 hh

   When Volume 1 Number 1 of the Stud Book of the American Quarter Horse Association was published in 1941 there was appended to the registration of Joe Hancock, premier performer himself, and magnificent progenitor of conformation, speed, good disposition, intelligence, and all around Quarter Horse capacity, the notation that:
   "It has been said Joe Hancock's dam was half Percheron. His brilliant racing record and his great colts make this seem unlikely and unimportant."
   It is probably the only such, or even similar, statement in the Stud Book, and it is one that has puzzled many persons since first coming to their attention. Equally perplexing to many have been their own efforts to conceive of a reason which may have prompted the compilers of that first register to insert it. To those who, from today, look back through the years, it would seem that it was important whether or not this sire's dam was half Percheron. At the same time, in the face of the record, it would also appear "unlikely" to them that such might be true. In fact, it is almost wholly incomprehensible to many, and always will be, that such a horse as Joe Hancock could have been foaled by a half-Percheron mare.

   There will be those who will inquire, at this later day, why, if insistent and persistent gossip in those days, dating from the time Joe Hancock first put his broad foot down on a race path in 1926, attributed to him an inheritance of Percheron blood, the affirmation or denial of that legend was not sought out to its extremes and firmly established one way or the other. Why was it dismissed as "unlikely" or "unimportant" and if the assertion was strong enough at that time to warrant the quoted stud book comment, was it not also strong enough to justify further research when there were living more men with personal knowledge of his breeding then there would ever be again?

   Moreover, in that first unit of the Stud Book it was duly recorded that the breeder of Joe Hancock was "unknown."

   Who his breeder was, and whether or not there was known Percheron blood in his close-up pedigree could have been, it may appear today, determined by no great additional effort on the parts of the compilers of that volume, and these two quite significant points would have long ago been known, with certainty, to the Quarter Horse breeders.

   The insertion of that statement in the Stud Book, the only one of its kind, may have been a mistake, or it may not have been. It may have been one of the most valuable bits of information ever incorporated into the records. That the compilers of that volume did not search out and published all the facts concerning the breeding of Joe Hancock is both understandable and forgivable, and perhaps it is well for the breed that they did not learn the full truth.

   The task they had assigned themselves was both a tremendous one in mass, and one that carried such titanic responsibilities as would have dismayed and routed men of less determination, strong character, integrity and capacity. They were engaged in laying the foundation for the re-establishment of the Quarter breed, and their efforts were being limited by the time they were able to devote to the project and the funds available for carrying on the endeavour.

   In spite of the fact that they failed to determine, in greater degree, the blood heritage of Joe Hancock, and passed by the possibility of a close Percheron ancestor with the terseness of "unlikely" and "unimportant," their accomplishments were nothing less than grand and glorious, and to them the future of the breed shall remain in imperishable debt.

   Suppose these men had searched deeper for the true breeding of Joe Hancock, and had learned that his dam was, in fact, a half-Percheron mare? In such a case he would unquestionably have been denied a place in the Stud Book and the breed would to a great measure have been impoverished by his absence from these pages.

   Most distressful is the actuality that up until now, as far as this writer is aware, the true story of this majestic progenitor has not been told, and that most of all that has been alleged about him as a colt has been almost pure fiction.

   It has been related that he was orphaned at a very early age and raised by hand. This is utterly untrue. It has been told that he was neglected, ill-fed, improperly cared for, and that when he finally reached a trainer' stable his mane and tail were matted and filled with burrs; that his hair was long and shaggy; that he was scarcely more than a hide-bound skeleton, and that his feet were broken and had been sadly dis-regarded. Realities recently uncovered by this writer disprove all this.

   Joe Hancock's dam was a half-Percheron. This is a fact that stands undisputed in the light of best evidence. The truth of this heritage is now established. And, his maternal grandsire was not a grade Percheron, but a registered Percheron. This great Quarter stallion was one-quarter Percheron; his get were one-eighth Percheron; his grand-get were one-sixteenth Percheron. Yet, has the Quarter breed suffered because of it? Or has the modern breed been improved by it, or in spite of it? Does not this revelation arouse speculation that there may have been Percheron blood in other greats of the modern Quarter breed also?

'Joe Hancock's deceptive speed and stout frame made his descendants ideal ranch horses.'

   In Joe Hancock individually, and in the Hancock family of Quarter Horses, the historian finds an outstanding example of something of which the knowledgeable horseman has been aware for a long, long time; which is, that such an outcross as produced Joe Hancock, more often than might be normally expected, brings forth an occasional outstanding horse of enormous vitality and prepotency, and frequently, as in this instance, a horse of ultra-handsome conformation and surprising speed.

   At the same time it must be remembered that such horses have not come from designed breeding but from accident. And how surely those sometimes most positive and unwilling-to-reason of men, the too frequently smug geneticists, who are so certain of so many things, must inevitably be confounded should they undertake to unravel the marvel that was Joe Hancock; for assuredly he proved speed is not always produced only by breeding speed to speed. Given the advantages of today's faster tracks than he ever knew there probably was never a faster horse at the quarter than this grandson of a Percheron grandsire of the pure blood.

   The discovery of the confirmation of these facts concerning the breeding of Joe Hancock has brought this writer an enormous amount of personal pleasure and satisfaction. It has been his contention, his thoughts established by considerable research and study, that the American Quarter Horse, the oldest of American equine breeds in one sense, is at once the youngest of them in another sense. This view shall be briefly explained.

   The American Quarter Horse, first known as the American Quarter Running Horse, and developed in the Colonies along the Atlantic Seaboard in the late 1600's from horses of pure Arabian, Barb and Turk blood brought to North America by the Conquistadores, explorers and traders, was the first distinctly American breed of horses. At the time this breed reached its apogee, course racing, "in imitation of the English," was becoming the fashionable thing; the keeping of the Quarter Horse blood pure was neglected and the mares of the Quarter Horse breed were called upon to devote their procreative capacities to the development of other American breeds of which the American Thoroughbred was first, the American Trotter second, and then the American Saddlebred. The original American Quarter Horse breed also contributed to the creation of the crossbred general utility horses, many of them heavy-harness animals, so essential to the economic development of this nation. Thus was America's oldest horse breed almost completely absorbed by the newer breeds.

   But throughout the Quarter Horse blood was the stronger and dominant blood, and for two centuries, as continues to be true today, there was, as there is now, ample ocular proof, as well as performance proof, of the superior and indestructible character of this Quarter Horse blood. It is for this reason that the observer finds so many Quarter - type individuals among American Thoroughbreds, but no Thoroughbred - type individuals where there is a concentration of Quarter Horse blood.

   Then came the pronounced determination of a group of men and women to dedicate themselves to the proposition of saving the old-fashioned, original American Quarter Horse blood from complete and irretrievable assimilation by the other breeds, and to rescue the remnants of this blood, and the noble breed it represented, from over whelming extinction. This period may be historically designated as the dawn of the era of the modern Quarter Horse, for at this juncture there was not left alive upon the face of the earth a single horse known to be of pure and unadulterated Quarter blood. So it was that America's oldest breed of horses was transformed, in a manner of speaking, into America's youngest breed.

   With the momentous decision to re-establish the Quarter Horse breed there was but one source from which to derive the necessary blood, and this source was individuals of the other breeds and admixtures of breeds, as well as what remained of the impure Quarter Horse breed, which carried the highest percentages of discernible Quarter Horse blood from remote Quarter Horse ancestors. Upon this foundation the modern Quarter Horse is being distinctly revived, improved and perpetuated.

   Here we use those words "is being distinctly revived, improved and perpetuated," for in the opinion of this historian, that is the truth. As he observes the overall breeding program, the Quarter Horse of the present is not yet the desired perfection that will eventually evolve from today's continued efforts to improve the breed, or rather to restore it to its character previous to the time it was almost destroyed to build the other mentioned breeds. In a way today's Quarter Horse breeder occupies a position comparable to that of America's Thoroughbred breeders from one to two centuries ago who were importing "thoroughbred" stallions of Arabian, Barb and Turk blood to mate with mares of the American Quarter Running strain and from which coverings the American Thoroughbred, as he is known today, emerged, and then from him the American Trotter and the American Saddlebred, and from the latter the Tennessee Walking Horse, or three-gaited horse as he is sometimes called.

   The Arabs, the world's greatest horse breeders, long ages ago learned that no less than five generations of breeding acceptable-type is necessary to produce the desired horse. On that plan, and even in greater numbers of generations, the development of the Quarter Horse of the future goes forward, as year by year the breed is being specifically and undeniably improved on the whole.

   Certainly there is no reason to suspect that the maternal grandsire of Joe Hancock did not himself carry, and transmit, the genes of a remote Quarter Horse ancestry. The conformation and performance qualities of both Joe Hancock and his many splendid descendants is evidence in support of such a probability.

   This background, in the form of admitted opinions of this researcher, is presented here in an effort to explain the phenomenon known in Quarter Horse records as Joe Hancock, one of the most eminent and impressive progenitors the breed has ever known either in its earliest days or in these, as is clearly attested by the records.

   Breeders may look back upon the historic imported Janus as a miracle, but when the chips of analysis are down, was Joe Hancock anything less than a mystifying wonder himself? Time and tradition have a tendency to add glamour to the former, while today's nearness to Joe Hancock throws a most searching and revealing spotlight upon him. Janus could not have been a perfect horse, one no competent judge of horses could not fault on some point, and time obscures his short-comings, extolling only his virtues. Joe Hancock was near enough to the present hour for the whole of his character and qualities to stand manifest in unclouded truth. This writer does not subscribe to the theory that an intervening century or more is the only criterion by which a sire's true greatness can be measured. As "there were giants in those days" so there are giants today.

   In the composite picture of breed improvement Janus is prominent as a pre-eminent progenitor, but in the same picture, as this writer views it, Joe Hancock is no less remarkable. And it is to be recalled that Janus was imported as a "thoroughbred" sire; that he was at least seven-eights, if not entirely, of Saracenic blood, and that in England he was a four-mile runner of some limited distinction, after which he was retired to the breeding paddock there. On the other hand, Joe Hancock was an extraordinary short-distance runner of obvious American Quarter Running descent.

   Since the breeding of the dam of Joe Hancock has been mentioned, and will be discussed in greater detail, it is fitting that the reader also be given a look into the possibilities involved in the maternal ancestry of Janus since a semi-comparison has been made.

   The Right Honorable Lady Wentworth, who owns the famous Crabbet Park Stud in England where she breeds Arabians, is the acknowledged leading authority on the origins of the Thoroughbred. She is the daughter of Lady Ann Blunt, who many years ago established that stud after a sojurn of years in Arabia where she acquired many fine Arabian horses and was largely responsible for introducing this breed to the Western world. Lady Wentworth, a most profound student of the history of the horse has produced from her research two volumes which quite comprehensively cover the subject, these being Thoroughbred Racing Stock and The Authentic Arabian Horse.

   Lady Wentworth once wrote: "Americans have been accused of inventing certain pedigrees, but we have gone them one better ourselves by inventing a whole breed of non-existing English racing mares, so the less said about inventions the better." In this she was discussing the nature of the broodmare in that period during which Janus was foaled. In the same effort Lady Wentworth described how, with imaginative written records alone, "a number of Oriental foundation mares, well known as Arabians, Barbs and Turks were transformed into 'our celebrated Yorkshire running mares.' " Again , said Lady Wentworth in discussing bloodlines: "Purity is a complete myth and frankly nonsense." At other times she has pointed out that some of the English Thoroughbred foundation mares were Galloways, meaning they were Barb ponies of less than 14 hands; and that the so-called English "Royal Mares" received the designation of "Royal" only because they were owned by The King and not because of their breeding.

   It has become quite obviously well known to the diligent student of equine bloodlines that in the foundation of the English Thoroughbred the mares on the whole were definitely of a quality inferior to the American Quarter Running mares who were used in the development of the American Thoroughbred.

   As to the breeding of the dam of the imported Janus there is actually but little information of a reliable nature available to the researcher today. Almost the entire substance of this is encompassed in the accepted facts that his first dam was sired by Fox and his second dam was sired by the Bald Galloway. Nothing is known of the mares covered by Fox and the Bald Galloway to produce this dam and grandam, but it is known that many "native English" mares were used in the development of the English Thoroughbred, and that, as has been noted, many of these were distinctly inferior to the American Quarter Running mares of the same period. This writer is inclined to the belief that the dam of Joe Hancock was superior in breeding and otherwise to the dam of the imported Janus.

   The true story of Joe Hancock, the horse, has recently been revealed to this writer by Joe Hancock, the man, who lives on his ranch on the banks of Red River a few miles north of Nocona, Texas.

   This veteran Texas horseman, now more than three score years and ten, and whose pastures are yet grazed by descendants of the progenitor named for him, is a son of the late John Jackson Hancock of Ochiltree County, one of the northern-most ones in the Texas Panhandle.

photo of John Jackson Hancock, Billy Joe Hancock, and Joe Hancock

"Left to right, the late John Jackson Hancock, who bred his mares to a percheron stallion one season, and breeder of Joe Hancock; (center) Billy Joe Hancock, son of Joe Hancock; and Joe Hancock, the man who owned Joe Hancock (the horse) and for whom the colt was named."

   John Hancock, himself an earlier-day horseman of historical significance, aside from the fact that he was the breeder of Joe Hancock, was the owner of a band of mares described as being of Steel Dust and Copper Bottom breeding. While this general appraisal of them does not indicate anything in particular concerning their pedigrees, it is indicative of the fact that they were mares of excellent Quarter Horse conformation and possessing equally superior qualities of Quarter Horse performance. The standards prevailing in that part of Texas at the time demanded as much. John Hancock, at various times during his life, was also the owner of a number of good Quarter sires, and foals produced on his ranch were renowned for their speed, their will-to-win, their intelligence and their unusual capacity for ranch work. His matrons were far above the level of "common range mares" as they have, upon occasions, been represented to have been.

   One season, for reasons best known to himself, John Hancock laid the foundation for the Hancock family of Quarter Horses by taking these mares to a black Percheron stallion of full blood owned by his friend and neighbor, Ralph Wilson, who also lived about 15 miles south of Perryton. The following Spring, the exact year being now unknown, one of these mares of Steel Dust and Copper Bottom breeding, foaled a filly who matured into a handsome brown mare, and who was retained on the ranch as a matron. This mare, sired by the Ralph Wilson Percheron, was to become the dam of Joe Hancock.

   "I remember the Percheron well," Mr. Joe Hancock told this writer. "He was a solid black. I don't think there was a white hair on him. He was a horse of splendid conformation, but not one of those extremely large Percherons that are sometimes seen. He was a horse of nice size for his purpose, and I do recall he was a registered horse of pure blood."

   Mr. Hancock then smiles as he recalls that Mr. Wilson referred to this Percheron as "a race horse."

   At this time Joe Hancock, not yet married, was living at home with his parents. Also at home was his brother, Walter Hancock.

   One day, several years after the John Hancock mares had foaled to the cover of the Wilson Percheron, a peddler of a well-known brand of household remedies, extracts and other items, made his accustomed call at the Hancock home, and in keeping with the fine traditions of Hancock hospitality it was insisted that he stay for dinner. At the table the talk, as a matter of natural course, turned to horses.

"John Wilkens," son of Peter McCue; sire of Joe Hancock
photo taken at just 13 months of age
from Nelson Nyes' Complete Book of the Quarter horse (submitted by Lee Jones)

   "Not long ago," said the peddler, whose name is now unfortunately lost to the record, "I was down at the JA Ranch. They want to sell that old stallion John Wilkens and they told me that if in my travels I saw anybody who might be interested in him to tell them about him."

   The Hancocks were interested. By then the name and fame of this illustrious son of Peter McCue---Katie Wawekus by Wawekus had spread over the Texas Panhandle, and beyond, like the wind.

   In 1909, Will and Ed Moore of Whitedeer, also in the Texas Panhandle, in search of a fast quarter runner, had turned their thoughts toward the Little Grove Stock Farm of Sam Watkins, a few miles from Petersburg, Illinois, where had been bred such horses as Dan Tucker and Dan Tucker's most magnificent son, Peter McCue; Hi Henry, Dan Tucker's half brother, known as the "King of the Cold Bloods," and one of the world's greatest sprinters, and from whence was to later come Hickory Bill, son of Peter McCue, and sire of Old Sorrel, foundation progenitor of all the King Ranch Quarter Horses.

   Several years ago Mr. Ed Moore, following the death of his brother, related to this writer how he went to the Watkins farm, looked at a number of the Watkins horses, and decided to buy John Wilkens, then a three-year-old. Mr. Moore described him as "a dark bay with black mane and tail, standing 16 hands and weighing at least 1,300 pounds." The horse also had a blaze of peculiar shape that covered a part of his left eye, and a patch of white on his nose. At the time of this purchase John Wilkens was owned by George Watkins, a close kinsman of the owner of Peter McCue, Mr. Moore rode back to Texas in the box car with his newly-acquired colt.

   In particularly recalling the return trip Mr. Moore remembered that the trains of which his car was a unit were heavily laden with hoboes and that he had a quart of good whiskey these vagrant characters did not get.

   "I knew they'd come in my car and search for the whiskey," he said, "and so I fooled them. I had a barrel of water in there for the colt, so I just tied a piece of baling wire around the neck of the bottle and put it down in the barrel. Sure enough, they'd come in to the car from time to time and search through the hay and everywhere else for that bottle. They seemed to know I had it, but they never thought to look in the barrel. Whenever I felt the need for a nip I'd reach down in the barrel and bring up the bottle."

   Mr. Moore remembered John Wilkens as "the finest looking horse I ever saw."

   Efforts to race John Wilkens were unsuccessful, however, because of an unsuspected condition of his feet; a condition that could not be determined by ocular examination. The walls of the hoof were so thin that shoes could not be kept on him. The nails would pull out and he would throw his shoes in less than a hundred yards, when running a fast clip, even in soft ground.

   "In appearance the walls of his feet were perfectly normal," Mr. Moore told this writer. He seemed to think that John Wilkens's overall handsome appearance might be responsible for the condition of his feet, because George Watkins was so careful the colt should meet with misadventure and injure himself that all his life, up until then, he had been petted and pampered in a stall and small pen, and had not been given an opportunity to romp and attain normal foot development. Other horsemen have concurred in this opinion.

   "We never knew how fast John Wilkens could run," Mr. Moore stated, "because we were never able to properly train him on account of his feet."

   The Moore's had a mare named Nanny Gunn, who was sometimes called Pansy. She was a fast quarter-miler, and one day soon after they got John Wilkens, they did blow them out together across a soft field. At the start John Wilkens went right away from her and in about 100 yards, or a little more distance, he threw every one of his shoes. He was a very powerfully-muscled horse.

   After owning John Wilkens for a few seasons, probably about three years, the Moore Brothers sold him to the fabled JA Ranch, established in the spectacular Palo Duro Canyon of the Panhandle, many years before by the colourful Charles Goodnight and John George Adair, owner of a large estate at Rathdair, Ireland. On this ranch, where John Wilkens was known almost exclusively as "The Moore Horse" instead of by the name under which he was registered, as a thoroughbred in the American Stud Book, he was used as a sire of ranch horses for a number of years. In time there were so many of his daughters in the JA pastures that the ranch decided to dispose of him, and the peddler of household remedies became the advertising medium through which they eventually effected the sale.

John Wilkens old ranch horse photo
John Wilkens, the only other photograph we know of.

   Before this peddler could hitch up his team and resume his calls that afternoon Walter Hancock was engaged in writing a letter to the JA Ranch asking them to put a price on the stallion. In time, and principally by correspondence, the negotiations were closed and it had been arranged that Hancock should receive delivery of John Wilkens at a livery and feed barn in Clarendon, Texas. He went there, traveling by train and hack, carrying his saddle and bridle, with the idea of riding John Wilkens home.

   "When I got there and looked at his feet I changed my mind," Walter Hancock told friends afterward. "I put the saddle and bridle on Old John all right, but I didn't get on him. The horse was then fifteen or sixteen years old. I started out on foot leading him and it took me three days to get home. The only time I got on him the whole trip was when we crossed the Canadian River. There was a little water in it and to keep my boots dry for walking I did ride Old John across that little patch of water and wet sand."

   Measured on the map it is at least 100 miles, in a direct line as a raven might fly it, and not as the late Walter Hancock walked it leading John Wilkens, from Clarendon to the Hancock Homestead in Ochiltree County.

   It was in 1921 or early 1922 that Hancock came into possession of John Wilkens, for the Spring of the latter year this stallion covered the daughter of the black Percheron and the mare of Steel Dust and Copper Bottom blood, the mare's age at the time being unknown, and in the Spring of 1923 she foaled the colt to be known three or four years later as Joe Hancock, but a colt who was destined to remain nameless until he was at least a three-year-old.

   In the interim Mr. Joe Hancock had married and moved to the Montague County ranch on Red River, where he has since lived, and where this writer had the recent privilege of visiting him and receiving from him the true story of his equine namesake, much of which is being published here for the first time.

   In 1924, at a time of the year when the colt was a yearling in full bloom, but still nursing his dam, which disproves the fiction he early became an orphan, Joe Hancock returned to his father's home for a visit. The tank at which the horses watered was in a trap near the house. The first afternoon of the son's visit some boys undertaking to catch a mule pastured with the horses passed into the trap from the pasture. Incited by the mule-catching efforts some of the horses started running and among these was the big brown son of John Wilkens and the half-Percheron mare. The colt struck the wire gate inflicting some slight cuts or scratches, which were not noticed that afternoon, though the colt had caught and held the eye of Joe Hancock.

   "The next afternoon when the horses came in to water I was down there waiting for them," Mr. Hancock said. "That colt had attracted my attention and I wanted to get another look at him and to get my hands on him. That afternoon I noticed the wire scratches and called them to Father's attention. I suggested that we catch the colt and treat him. I was mighty anxious to get my hands on him, and Father said to go ahead. I caught him and haltered him without any trouble and in half an hour I had him leading perfectly. I knew right then that I was going to have to own that colt, and that I'd never be happy until I did. I was there about a week and kept that colt up and kept working with him every day. He was intelligent and he had a wonderful disposition.

   "It so happened that when I moved down here I had left some horses at Father's place and before the week was out I had traded him two fillies for the colt. I knew that colt's breeding. I knew he was one-quarter Percheron, but I also knew he was exactly what I wanted. Now I was faced with the problem of not having a trailer up there and so tried to buy one. Dave Wilson, brother of Ralph Wilson, who owned the Percheron grandsire of the colt, had a trailer and insisted on loaning it to me but wouldn't sell it. I asked him how in the world he expected me to be able to get it back to him, that I lived more than three hundred miles away. He said it was all right, that we'd get it back some way. So I loaded the colt into that trailer and brought him down here with me. Then I dismantled the trailer so it could be easily assembled again and shipped it back to him in parts by express. It was an expensive shipment but by then I was so happy with my colt that I didn't care."

Joe Hancock, 2 years old, in trailer

Joe Hancock, 2 years old, in trailer
photo submitted by Lee Jones, taken from Bob Gray's Great Horses of the past

   For many years Mr. Hancock has been quite justifiably annoyed by the rumors which have been so rampant that the colt was grossly, even cruelly, neglected by him. "I loved that colt," he said, "and there never was one that was treated any better. As to his feet being broken that never was true after I got him, nor while I owned him, and he was mine until he was six years old. They said he was poor, and that his tail and mane were full of burrs when he went to the trainer. That isn't true. Not a single burr ever stayed on that colt for even one day while I had him here. Here is a picture of him taken the day I started to Oklahoma with him. See that hose on the ground? Well, we had just used that hose to give him a bath. Did you ever hear of anybody giving a horse a bath with his tail and mane full of burrs? Does he look to you like he had ever been hungry in his whole life? I know the stories that have been going around, but I never said anything. I'm sure glad you came down here to see me, though, because I suppose that after all the true story about the colt should be told."

photo of Joe Hancock when older
photo of Joe Hancock, 1926, 3 years old

   One of the most interesting of the many stories about the colt is that of how near the breed came to being deprived of the Hancock family.

   By the time he was a long two-year-old he had been saddled just often enough to demonstrate that he was gentle; that he had some undefined qualities of speed; that he had an abundance of the most desirable characterics of a cow horse, and that Joe Hancock's first-sight estimate of him had not been in error.

   "I didn't think that I needed another stallion," Mr. Hancock recalls somewhat emotionally. "There were plenty of good stallions available to me, but I did need a good gelding for a personal saddle horse. The colt seemed to fill the bill and so I sent to town and had the veterinarian come out to castrate him. We got the colt ready, had the hobbles on him, and the veterinarian had his knife in a pan of antiseptic and water. He had even washed off the location of the surgery and the boys had a good hold of the patient.
   "Then I'll never forget how that veterinarian looked. He turned around to me and said: 'Cutting colts is my business, and that's your colt. If you say cut him, I'll cut him, but I'm first telling you, Mr. Hancock, that's too good a colt to geld. You're sure as hell making a great mistake, and you'll regret it all the rest of your life. But if you say go ahead, I'll go ahead, but I'll be hurting all the time I'm doing it and I'll be sorry afterward that I did."

   Mr. Hancock looked from the colt to the man, and then back to the colt again.

   "His words set me thinking, and they set me thinking fast," said the owner. "Take that damn harness off him! I yelled at the boys and turn him back in his stall. That's just how near we came to not having a Joe Hancock."

   Mr. Hancock does not fault the colt on any point, though he says the colt's foot was "a little broad. I suppose that Percheron put that there. Being broad-footed he would sometimes slip a little in a race in soft going. But I'll tell you something. A little Percheron blood doesn't hurt our Quarter Horses. It helps them, and Joe Hancock proves that. Best of all it gives them appetite, and you can't have a good horse unless that horse has a good appetite. A little Percheron blood also gives them size and strength and stamina. I remember Ralph Wilson saying that black Percheron was a race horse. He might have been right after all, and he might have said it as something more than a joke. Maybe he knew what he was talking about."

   For years the story has been told that when Joe Hancock was a three-year-old he was taken to George Ogles, a trainer who lived just north of Red River, about 15 miles up in Oklahoma from the Hancock Ranch. Mr. Hancock corrects this.

   "That colt didn't go to George Ogles," he explains, "but to Bird Ogles, father of George, and George didn't have anything much to do with the colt until I sold him the stallion when he was a six-year-old. He was trained and raced the first year by Bird Ogles, and then the next two years by Jim Ogles, brother of Bird's. The next year he went back to Bird again, and I think that is the year I sold him to George. It was while Bird had him that he named him Joe Hancock for me. Bird Ogles did live about 15 miles from here. I planned to lead the colt up there, but he had never been worked much and got tired on the trip and didn't lead very well after a while and so I had to get on him and ride him and lead the other horse.

   "I've read how we had a hard time getting Mr. Ogles to agree to take him and give him a trial. That's not true. We didn't have to take that colt up there a number of times before we could get him in training because of the way he looked. I made one trip up there, without the colt, talked to Mr. Ogles about him and said to bring the colt right on up, which I did. He charged me a dollar a day for the training and I furnished the feed."

   Mr. Hancock recalls that of the many purses won by the colt he never received but $50 of the winnings. He says he was offered two propositions. Under the terms of one of these he could have paid one-half of the expenses for one-half the winnings, and under the other the trainer paid all the expenses and got all the winnings. He accepted the second because he was interested only in giving the colt an opportunity to build the reputation he so rapidly achieved, Mr. Hancock saw the colt race but three times. One of these was his first race, an event arranged to give the colt a trial and experience, which he won handily. Then the last year Mr. Hancock owned him he went to Pawhuska, Oklahoma, where the colt had been entered in several races.

photo of Joe Hancock racing

Photo of John Hancock racing.
"Before his career was over, Joe was open to the world
at any distance from the starting line to three eights of a mile."

   "Just as I got to the Pawhuska track the horses were coming to the post," Mr. Hancock said, "I met George Ogles and asked him what was up. I told him I would like to get a little bet on the horse. He told me there were nine horses, eight others, in the race at half a mile and that betting was two-to-one on Joe against the field. I got a bet up and we won that one easily. The next day he went back in another half-mile race, with the betting five-to-one on him against the field, and he won that one just as easy as he had the day before. But he was a shorter-distance runner, too. He won at the longer distances in the first quarter, or less, by getting so far ahead the field couldn't reach him.

   To show you how he performed at shorted distances. Up there in Oklahoma was a very famous sprinter named Red Nell. I think a fellow in Oklahoma City owned her. At less than 300 yards nobody thought she could be beat. She and the colt were matched at 250 yards and he beat her. Then they were matched at the eighth, which was her favorite distance, and he didn't have a bit of trouble beating her at that distance either. It was the only time she had ever been beat at any distance under 300 yards.

Lindy, Joe Hancock's brother, ridden by Walter Hancock

photo of Walter Hancock on Lindy, brother of Joe Hancock. Lindy, like Joe Hancock, was bred by John Hancock, father of Walter Hancock.

(submitted by Lee Jones)

   "My father and brother also bred some other fast horses by John Wilkens. There was Lindy, and Jolly, and Ned Hanger, but none of them came even any place near being in the class with my colt. Next to Joe Hancock I would say Lindy was John Wilkens fastest son. Another wide-spread misunderstanding that I would like to correct is that idea so many of the younger people who can't remember the early days seem to have now. They appear to believe that we Hancocks didn't have any good horses before we got John Wilkens. That's certainly wrong. My father had good horses, fast horses, and took a great pride in them and raced them very successfully for many, many years before John Wilkens was ever foaled. We've been horsemen for generations. Good horses have been our heritage. My boys are taking up where I'm leaving off. I reckon that wherever you find one of us Hancocks you'll always find good horses, if there are any Hancocks and any good horses left at all."

photo of Joe Hancock when older

Joe Hancock
"Tom Burnett of the Four Sixes bought him, put him on the Triangle Ranch, and there he lived out his life.
He was bred almost exclusively to Burnett mares."

   At the close of his illustrious and unequalled career on the track, the history of most of it lost forever because of the absence of records, Joe Hancock went to the Burnett Ranches in Texas as a sire. Today, only thirty-four years after he was foaled, the blood of this progenitor, who was 37.5 per cent Quarter Horse; 37.5 per cent Thoroughbred, and 25 per cent Percheron, has so permeated the warp and woof of the Quarter Horse fabric as to become of the very essence of the warp and woof itself, proving that the modern Quarter Horse, like the modern Thoroughbred, both long past their original Saracenic stage of development, are not pure exotics; horses descending in direct and undefiled inheritance, and the purest of pure blood, from mystical, original and un-evolved ancestors, but both are composites or admixtures of several breeds, all descending through hundreds of years from the Arabian.

   It would be improper to leave the story of Joe Hancock at this point with speculation upon the possible ancestral sources from which he derived not only his own speed, but his prepotency to transmit it, as well as his other admirable characteristics. All of which, this historian insists, trace back to more remote ancestors of the American Quarter Running Horse breed of early-Colonial days, when the Chickasaw horse was transformed into a Quarter Horse by the addition of nothing more than saddle, bridle and rider.

   Joe Hancock was a good-doer which can be attributed in a large measure to both his Quarter and Percheron inheritance. As much may be said of his docility, his size, strength and conformation. His prepotency is one of those unexplainable mysteries of all creation.

   As to his own speed-there is certainly adequate explanation for that.

   His paternal grandsire, Peter McCue, while not a marvel of speed himself, according to the official records, was a most prolific progenitor of racing quality. Joe Hancock's sire, John Wilkens, had tremendous speed to a degree that could not be determined either by the watch or opposition because of the condition of his feet. Joe Hancock's maternal grandam, though her exact pedigree is unknown was, it is to be admitted, a Quarter mare of excellent quality and such admission carries with it the additional inference she was a mare with both speed herself and an ancestry of fast running horses. It is known she was of a strain developed over a long period of years by one of the most skilled breeders and trainers the Texas Panhandle has ever known.

   Here it is well to have a look at Katie Wawekus, dam of John Wilkens and paternal grandam of Joe Hancock. She was owned by B.C. Watkins of Oakford, Illinois, a premier quarter-racing center in that day, And only a few miles from the Little Grove Stock Farm where the late Sam Watkins had Peter McCue at stud. To produce John Wilkens, the two were mated when she was 17 years old, and Peter McCue was 10.

   Katie Wawekus was of the blood royal. She was as far removed as a Thoroughbred matron of her day could be from the plebian blood. Her sire was Wawekus, and he was by Alarm and foaled by Maggie B.B., she by the imported Australian, he being the founder, in America, of the Fair Play (Man O'War) line. Wawekus was a half-brother to Iroquois, the latter also being a son of Maggie B.B., and a horse who, in 1881, was sent to England to race, where, that year he won the English Derby, the Prince of Wales Stakes and the St. Leger Stakes, three of England's historically greatest races. Maggie B.B., was truly one of the really grand, notable and influential matriarchs in Thoroughbred history. She was not very tall, but she was stout-bodied and had short legs. Her dam was Madeline by Boston, and her grandam was Magnolia by the immortal imported Glencoe. All this, and all that follows, is important to get a sound understanding of the inheritance that was Joe Hancock's in spite of his known Percheron blood.

   Boston was by Timoleon, a son of Sir Archy, he by the imported Diomed, a stallion who, like Glencoe, the English made a grave and terrific mistake in allowing to be exported to this country. Timoleon's dam, it is true, traced to unknown sources, but from him came Boston, and from Boston came Lexington, the greatest progenitor this country has ever entertained. Boston was a horse who raced in four-mile heats, the best two out of three the same afternoon. He was raced until he was 11 years old, regularly making stud seasons each of those Springs. Two of his most famous races were against Fashion, then regarded as the best race mare in America. These two matches were run in 1841 and 1842 and she won both.

   Madeline, the maternal great-grandam of Katie Wawekus was, therefore, by the same sire as Lexington, and no stallion has ever led the American Sire List so many times with such unchallenged supremacy as did Lexington. He headed the list fourteen consecutive years, 1861-1877, and then twice more in 1876 and 1878.

   None today should have the effrontery to suggest that Joe Hancock's blood was impure because his maternal grandsire was known Percheron, but once when it was organizationally urged that the blood of Boston and Lexington was impure because Timoleons's dam traced to unknown sources, Major Foxhall Daingerfield, one of the world's greatest bloodline authorities, was inspired to comment: "They claim that Timoleon and Boston were of impure blood. Yet Timoleon was unbeaten as a four-miler, and Boston won more four-mile heat races than any other horse who ever lived."

Joe Hancock's pedigree:

sire: John Wilkens, 1906 bay sire: Peter McCue, 1895 bay 16 hh sire: Dan Tucker, 1887 brown 15 hh
dam: Nora M, 1880 bay (TB)
dam: Katie Wawekus, 1888 ch (TB) sire: Wawekus, 1883 ch (TB)
dam: Lucy Hitt, 1885 bay (TB)
dam: Brown Hancock Mare, brown sire: Ralph Wilson Horse (Percheron) sire: (Percheron)
dam: (Percheron)

dam: Mundell Mare

sire: unknown
dam: unknown

   To those who may be finical about Percheron blood entering the Quarter Horse Stud Book through Joe Hancock, it might be recalled that from 1913 to 1948 it was impossible to register an American Thoroughbred, either directly, or through reciprocity from the American Stud Book, in the General Stud Book of Great Britain. This was what became known as the Jersey Act, having been adopted by the English Jockey Club at the suggestion of Lord Jersey. This action was accepted by Messrs. Weatherby, proprietors and publishers of the General Stud Book, on the grounds that all American Thoroughbreds traced to Lexington, and that Lexington's blood was impure because a prolonged pedigree of the dam of Timoleon, grandsire of Lexington, could not be presented. Perhaps it was suspected there was a little Percheron blood back there somewhere.

   It is, indeed, significant that during this period whenever American and English Thoroughbreds were pitted against each other the former more frequently were under the finish wire first. Eventually becoming conscious of the ridiculousness of their position the English ended the travesty. Today, as this student views the situation, there is a parallel in the Quarter Horse Breeding world in opposition to the use of Thoroughbreds, clearly carrying a high percentage of ancient Quarter Horse blood, to improve the Quarter Horse breed.

   Returning to Major Daingerfield's commentary that in spite of their "impure" blood both Timoleon and Boston were great runners, another interesting parallel is to be inferred. Where has been found grander Quarter Horse performance than that of Joe Hancock? Where has been found more magnificent Quarter Horse siredom than the undeniable record has assigned him.

   Glencoe, sire of Magnolia, grandam of Maggie B.B., was brought to America after one season at stud in England, a season during which only ordinary mares were led to his court. In this country he built one of the most impressive of all sire records. Suffice it in this study to remark upon his quality and excellence by pointing out that Pocahontas was the very greatest mare in all English Thoroughbred breeding history. She was by Glencoe and her name appears in a large majority of the extended pedigrees of every good horse in England today. There were but six fillies among Glencoe's single English foal crop, and Pocahontas was one of these. All six developed into runners of the highest quality, and then became marvellous producers. Their dams, let it be remembered, were but ordinary mares judged by any standards of that day or this.

   From Glencoe in America have come in direct male line such horses as Vandal, Virgil, Hindoo, Hanover, Abe Frank (sire of the fabulous Pan Zareta), and Wise Counsellor. Hindoo won races at from one and three-quarters to two and one-quarter miles, and was a good weight carrier, a tremendous horse in many ways. He won the Kentucky Derby in 1881, the same year Iroquois was so victorious in England, and was declared American champion runner that season. He was one of the immeasurably celebrated performers on the American turf of all times. As a two-year-old he was outstanding; as a three-year-old he won 18 of 20 starts, and won five of six starts as a four year old, the season that is the supreme test of a runner's qualities.

   This study now turns to the male line of Wawekus, maternal great-grandsire of Joe Hancock.

   Wawekus was by Alarm, and Alarm was also the sire of Himyar, founder of the Domino (Commando) line. Alarm was responsible for carrying on the male line of his imported sire, Eclipse.

   In his time Alarm was regarded as the fastest sprinter ever bred and raised in America, though of foreign blood. In 1872 in a race against Kingfisher (by Lexington--*Eltham Lass by Kingston), Alarm ran a mile in 1:42-3/4, the record up to that time. He ran his best distances from six furlongs to a mile; had good substance, a short, thick neck, and an excellent disposition.

   The dam of Alarm was an imported mare, Maud, by Stockwell, which brings Glencoe and his daughter, Pocahontas, back into the picture; Stockwell, called the "Emperor of Stallions", being a foal of Pocahontas. He was a horse with immense bone and a perfect performer. His grandson, Bend Or, is quite prominent in many of today's extended Quarter and Thoroughbred pedigrees; Bend Or, for instance, having been founder of the family from which have come fourteen AAA-rated quarter runners as reflected by the records in the Racing Division of the American Quarter Horse Association. Bend Or was the great-great-grandsire in tail-male of Oklahoma Star. Many of today's greatest American Thoroughbreds trace directly back to Stockwell, hordes of them through that imported trio composed of Teddy and his two sons, Bull Dog and Sir Gallahad III, and others through such sires as Phalaris, Nearco, Eight Thirty, and others.

   The imported Eclipse, sire of Alarm, was by Orlando.

   Camel was an English Thoroughbred of splendid Quarter Horse conformation, having extremely muscled quarters, and he was a fair runner. He sired Touchstone, foaled in 1831. This son was a horse of handsome build. He was also possessed of exciting speed and bountiful supply of stamina. Touchstone was the sire of Orlando, he the great-great-grandsire paternally of Katie Wawekus, she the dam of John Wilkens, he the sire of Joe Hancock.

   Eclipse, great-grandsire of Katie Wawekus, and son of Orlando, was foaled by Gaze, daughter of Bay Middleton, he by Sultan. Bay Middleton retired to the stud undefeated on the turf, and but for his head is said to have been a horse of perfect conformation.

   In 1844 Orlando was declared winner of the English Derby and the story of that victory is a most interesting one to horsemen of any age. The race was for three-year-olds and one of the horses running was Leander. After the race the right of Leander to have contested was challenged on the grounds that he was a five-year-old. Those who had entered him became fearful, took him away from the course, killed him, dismembered the carcass and various dissected parts of it were buried in a number of different graves. The challenging turfmen were indefatigable in searching out these burial places, found them, recovered the complete carcass and from it proved their point-that Leander was, in truth, five years old.

   None of this concerned Orlando but for the fact that the challenge to Leander's age also stirred up some considerable interest in the winner, a horse named Running Rein. Another investigation was gotten underway and it soon turned up the fact that Running Rein was not Running Rein at all, but a four-year-old horse named Maccabeus, who was thereupon disqualified, giving the victory to Orlando, who had finished second.

   The dam of Katie Wawekus, she the dam of John Wilkens, he the sire of Joe Hancock, was Lucy Hitt by Volitguer, and Lucy Hitt's dam was Maggie Warren by an imported Arabian stallion, Fysaul.

   Prolific, grandsire of Lucy Hitt, was by imported Sovereign was a son of Emilius, and Emilius, so Quarter breeders should be interested to learn, was compactly built, with a deep chest and short legs. He had powerful muscles and raced well. He was the paternal grandsire of the imported Emilia, the dam of Australian.

   Argentile, second dam of Miss Hitt was by Bertrand, and Bertrand was by Sir Archy by Diomed. For a more extended and descriptive pedigree of Bertrand the reader is referred to the story of the Coke Blake Quarter breeding program in The Quarter Horse Journal for December of 1956.

   It is salient that Voltigeur, sire of Lucy Hitt, grandam of John Wilkens, was also the sire of Nora M., the dam of Peter McCue. Thus, Voltigeur was the maternal grandsire of both Peter McCue and Katie Wawekus; these two were mated to produce John Wilkens, the sire of Joe Hancock, and so Joe Hancock was thus inbred to Voltigeur.

   Voltigeur was by Vandal (also an ancestor of Oklahoma Star), and Voltigeur's dam was Duet by Highlander. The sire of Highlander was the imported Ben Strome, and he was by Bend Or, previously mentioned above, thus giving Joe Hancock another line to that rare progenitor of quarter speed. The dam of Highlander was Henrietta by Baden-Baden and he was a son of Australian, founder of the Fair Play (Man O' War) line, with Joe Hancock tracing the second time to this great-great-grandsire of the immortal Man O' War.

   Vandal, the sire of Voltigeur, was by Glencoe, also mentioned above, and so it is revealed that Katie Wawekus on both the top and bottom lines of her pedigree had three crosses to Glencoe, an inheritance she transmitted to her son, John Wilkens, who, in his turn, handed it on down to his son, Joe Hancock. The dam of Vandal was a daughter of Blacklock, and he was a plain, heavy-crested horse, but a good racer who defeated the celebrated Magistrate in a sensational contest at York in England. In one respect in particular Blacklock was a most unusual horse since he carried equal amounts of the blood of the Byerly Turk and the Darley Arabian, two of the three foundation sires of all English and American Thoroughbreds, and is the only horse known to have been so bred. St. Simon, great-great-great-grandson of Blacklock is regarded by most, if not actually all, English breeders as the greatest sire Britain has ever produced.

   So it is that while Joe Hancock's dam was confessedly a mare of conventionally frowned-upon breeding, half-Quarter Horse and half-Percheron, it is not difficult for the researcher to ascertain the sources from which he derived his speed and his prepotency to transmit it. In his veins, through his sire, flowed some of the finest running blood the world has ever known, or ever will know since, as today's Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds came from those of yesterday, so will those of tomorrow descend from those of today.

   There are but few Quarter Horse progenitors whose breeding can be so authentically, so almost completely, traced back to the very foundation of both the Quarter Horse and the Thoroughbred as can that of John Wilkens, and yet fame laid her claim upon this stallion mainly, and almost exclusively, because of one son, Joe Hancock, a horse possessed not only of astonishing speed himself, but also of the capacity to transmit it; and this one son, of all John Wilkens' progeny, was foaled by a mare, probably the one of all those covered by John Wilkens, who would have been the least calculated by the experts to have mothered such a son.

   The best-made breeding plans of man, perchance, play but a most minor role in the production of speed and other most desirable qualities in a noble horse. There is a greater guiding power that far transcends the will of man, and over it man wields no authority.


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Get of Sire Records for Joe Hancock P-455.
Listing and records on all progeny sired by Joe Hancock.
Compiled from AQHA official records.

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