When Joe Hancock's application for registration came into the
AQHA office (which was my living room in Bryan, Texas), the procedure was
less complex than now. The work was all done personally by the Secretary
(that was me) and one stenographer, Pearl Beck. We were the office staff.
Joe's registration was no problem as I knew the horse, his bloodlines, and
his performance. Here is how we entered him in the Official Stud Book and
455 Joe Hancock - Brn.
Tom L. Burnett Estate, Fort Worth, Texas:
Sire, John Wilkins by Peter McCue by Dan Tucker:
(It is said Joe Hancock's dam was half Percheron.
His brilliant racing record and his great colts
make this seem unlikely and unimportant.)
I would not change it much if I were registering him today.
There is some evidence that he was born in 1924, and his breeder was Walter
E. Hancock of Perryton, Texas. The "It is said" part of his dam's breeding
might also be left out, as there is enough evidence to prove beyond reasonable
doubt that his dam was a half-breed mare, sired by a Percheron. Additional
information was gathered by Helen Michaeles and other interested parties
after he was registered.
In a letter to the author recently, Helen Michaeles had this
to say about Joe Hancock:
Some have said Joe Hancock
was a freak. Had he been a freak or a sport he would not have been such a
strong breeder of outstanding Quarter Horses. The Joe Hancock's have carried
on for over 35 years, on ranches, in the rodeo arena, and on the race track.
Whether one admires draft blood in his Quarter Horse or not, Joe Hancock's
descendants look a lot more like Quarter Horses than some 15/16 Thoroughbreds
of today that have been registered as Quarter Horses.
After this straight-from-the-shoulder talk, with which I heartily
agree, she went on to say he was a big, rugged horse with lots of speed,
that he had one of the straightest hind legs she could remember, and that
he stood almost 15-3 and weighed 1300 pounds. In my Opinion she is very
conservative in her estimate of his size. Then she added that he was raced
extensively in Texas and Oklahoma and that there was good authority saying
he had run the quarter in under 22 seconds. It is true Joe Hancock was not
a Steeldust-type Quarter Horse, he was too big and coarse, but we were
registering him for what his colts were and would be, In this there has never
been any cause for regret.
While quality and refinement were not words that came to mind
when one first saw Joe Hancock, he was well proportioned and well balanced.
His grandsire, Peter McCue, was 16-2 and weighed 1430 pounds. Joe Hancock
appeared to me to approach this size. Walter Hancock told Jim Minnick and
me when we visited him that Joe's dam was half Percheron. In spite of this
he was all horse from a horseman's point of view. Tom Burnett called him
the greatest Quarter Horse that ever lived. There is no doubt that he could
produce the best-his numerous progeny have proved this.
This big brown stallion bred by Walter E Hancock, who named
the horse after his father, Joe Hancock. Joe E. Hancock and his son, Walter,
were living at Perryton, Texas, at the time. This is 60 or 70 miles northeast
of Amarillo. When Jim and I talked to Walter I believe they were living in
Walter and his father were both breeders and race horsemen -Quarter
Horses that is. While they were living in Perryton, Walter was able to buy
a Peter McCue colt named John Wilkens. Most of the fast horses at that time
seemed to be coming from Petersburg, Illinois, where the Watkins family was
having fabulous success with a horse named Dan Tucker. His place in the short
horse world near the turn of the century was about like that which Leo holds
today. Since so many fast horses were coming from this line, Walter felt
fortunate in obtaining John Wilkens. He bought the stallion in San Antonio,
where he got his name from Peter McCue's owner, who was named John Wilkens.
John Wilkens had brought Dan Tucker's son Peter McCue, to San Antonio, where
he ran some, and bred some. Walter Hancock raised several fast colts by John
Wilkens, but the best he ever raised was Joe Hancock. Joe was not out of
one of his best mares. As Walter said, she was "not bad enough to give away,
but not good enough to sell." She was a crossbred mare that should have looked
Helen Michaelis has a letter from a man who knew the Hancocks
and their horses. He was G.B. Mathis, who wrote Helen in 1941 saying Joe
Hancock was foaled in 1924 at Perryton. He said Walter E. Hancock was the
breeder and owner of both sire and dam. The dam, he said, was sired by a
Percheron and out of a good Quarter Mare. He added that she was a dark bay
with no white on her, being very smooth and well balanced. This jibes well
(except the date) with what Walter told me. John Elbert Ogle, who later raced
Joe, also told me his dam had Percheron blood. It was Ogle, who later established
a record on Waggoner's track when he ran Joe a quarter in 22 3/5 seconds.
John Hendrix, writing in The Cattleman in 1939, said "Joe had the legs of
a running horse and the body of a light draft horse."
In any case, Joe was fast, so fast that certain people needed
a better chance to cash in on his speed. The best bet was on the Thoroughbred
tracks, as pari-mutuel betting on Quarter Horses was still fifteen or twenty
years in the future. So like many Quarter Horses before, and some since,
Thoroughbred registration papers were obtained for Joe Hancock. You will
find him in The American Stud Book, Volume 14, page 506. He is registered
as Brown Wool. He was brown. Here his foaling date is given as 1925 and his
dam as Maggie Murphy. His sire is listed as Wool Winder. Dr. Herbert Poyner
of Houston first told me about his TB registration. He had a son of Joe Hancock
who was also briefly on the Thoroughbred tracks. Both his horse and Joe had
to retire when they matured, since they no longer presented the ideal picture
of a Thoroughbred.
Joe Hancock built his early reputation on the race track, but
his real fame was to come as a sire on a Texas ranch. He was bought for his
speed by one of Texas' most astute horsemen, Tom Burnett, and it was on Tom's
ranches that he was to spend his last days, siring some of the most famous
Quarter Horses it has been Texas' privilege to produce.
Tom Burnett learned about horses the right way. He was literally
raised on one. During his early days, the horse and not the car, was the
young man's delight, especially if he was a rich cattleman's son. Tom's father
was Burk Burnett, who, when he died in 1922, had one of North Texas' most
fabulous ranches, the 6666's. In 1905 Tom decided to start his own ranches,
and put together the Triangle ranches in Cottle and Wichita Counties in Texas.
A whole string of famous horses graced the Triangles, such as Buggin, Triangle,
King O'Neal, Scooter, Brown Rick and others, but none could compare with
the big brown stallion known as Joe. Tom's daughter carried on his horse
interests after his death. Her name is linked to Grey Badger, Gold Rush and
Cee Bars, as well as Joe Hancock. Anne Burnett was also in on the start of
the Quarter Horse Association, as her husband at that time was Jim Hall,
and it was at his and Anne's house that many of us met during the time the
Association was being formed in 1940.
"Joe Hancock was a different kettle of fish. He showed draft blood at first
glance as well as Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred. He had a big, plain head
and too much feather. However, if you can find a picture of him in some magazine
or book, cover his head and his legs below the knees. You will now see a
pretty slick individual - good shoulders, strong back, and a great rear end.
He was not small - he stood 16 hands and weighed 1,400 pounds. He was foaled
"Joe Hancock did not himself have ideal Quarter Horse conformation, but in
many ways he deserved to be in the list of the foundation sires. We registered
him in 1940, not because of his conformation, but because of the consistency
with which he was getting good Quarter Horses. They all looked like they
came out of a mold. 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."
"Jim Minnick and I went by to see Joe in 1939, and then continued on into
Oklahoma to talk to Walter Hancock and John Ogle. They said his dam was one-half
draft mare, and I so registered Joe in Volume 1, No. 1 of the studbook. John
Ogle, who raced him and gave him his name, agreed with Hancock's story, so
we can assume it is correct."
Excerpt from: "Great Quarter Horse Sires - a look back at the stallions
of the 1930s and '40s."
By Bob Denhardt; The Western Horseman, December 1986
The last time I saw Joe Hancock was in the summer of 1940. Jim
Hall, John Burns and I drove from Fort Worth to the 6666 at Guthrie. There
George Humphrey showed us their horses. After a fine lunch we drove to the
Triangle ranch in Cottle County to see Joe Hancock and the Triangle horses.
We were met at the Triangle by Charley Hart. At that time John Burns was
managing all of the Burnett ranching interests, so both George and Charley
were ready for us. Another reason all gates were opened for us was that Jim
was along, and his wife was Anne Burnett Hall.
Charley Hart was a real old-time cowboy. Lee Underwood told
me once that when Charley and Tom Burnett were both teenagers, Tom had a
disagreement at home and both rode up into Indian territory in Oklahoma and
lived there with the Indians for several years. Charley is a character in
his own right and worthy of a book. We spent the afternoon looking at the
Triangle horses. Jim took movies of the horses and of Joe Hancock. I never
saw the prints. If they could be located today they would be priceless.
We ate supper in the bunk house with the cowboys, and then retired
into Charley's sitting room. The only thing I remember about it was a large
tinted photograph of Tom Burnett in a high domed cowboy hat in a circular
gilt frame centered over a rock fireplace. I remember considerable about
After pipes, cigars and cigarettes were lit, horses were the
main topic, cow horses (which meant Steeldusts) naturally. In North Texas,
before the AQHA was established, Quarter Horses were Steeldusts. In South
Texas they were Billy's. The general name, Quarter Horse, did not become
popular until later-family names were used instead.
Someone asked John Burns when he first saw the old horse, meaning
Joe Hancock. John said he remembered well. He first saw him at the Triangle
ranch in Wichita County, in the latter 1930's. He had stopped by Tom Burnett's
to have lunch with him. Joe was in a lot near Tom's home at Iowa Park. Tom
asked John to go out and look at Joe Hancock, and when John came back in
Burnett wanted to know what John thought of his new stallion. John told Tom
that he really showed his Percheron blood. Tom snapped a reply, "I don't
give a damn if he does, you wait until you see him run."
John Burns, in writing to me in October of this year, had the
following to say about Joe Hancock:
Joe Hancock could run and he transmitted his speed quite consistently to
his offspring. He was a big horse, heavily boned and muscled and quite well
balanced in his conformation, and stood on well set legs. His feet were on
the large side, and one could sum him up by saying that he was a big horse,
powerfully built, with a lot of speed and action. He would weigh 1450 pounds
in just ordinary condition. His offspring were in strong demand as rope horses
because of their strength, speed and action.
I might say here for anyone who does not know John C. Burns,
that besides being manager of all the Burnett Estates at that time, he also
helped out the AQHA when it got in a bind by serving as its secretary. He
is also an internationally known judge of livestock and horses, having judged
cattle in the largest American shows as well as those of other countries.
Joe Hancock lived out his life on the Triangle ranches, dying
in 1943. As on most Texas ranches, he was turned out each spring with his
band of mares, and it was while he was in the pasture that he got hurt. He
cut his foot severely in July of 1941. A veterinarian, Dr. Phillip Smith
of Abilene, one of the top horse doctors in the country, was called. By the
time Doc Smith saw Joe the cut was several days old and the screw worms were
pretty bad. The cut was on his left front foot, the wire having almost severed
his hoof. It responded slowly, and in September the Doctor took Joe to Abilene
so he could check it daily. He was kept there, improving all the time, until
the next spring when he was needed for breeding. The doctor made 13 trips
to the Triangle ranch between April and July to watch his foot. It improved
until he was able to get around nicely. However, on July 13, 1943, Joe foundered
badly and his good foot gave way on him; he began walking on his old bad
foot and it gave away so he could not stand at all. Joe Hancock was destroyed
on July 29, 1943 at about 3 p.m. As Doc Smith says, "God bless him". The
doctor still has the canon bone from his cut foot-a memo of one of the all
time great modern short [distance running] horses. In the eyes of the old
time ranchers, the top mounts were the cutting and steer-roping horses. No
horse has produced more top-caliber ranch and rodeo horses than old Joe Hancock.
It is small wonder that real cow men still revere his name and use his
Joe Hancock P-455 has 107 registered get in the AQHA. These
include Little Joe The Wrangler, Red Man,
Roan Hancock, Buck Hancock, Brown Joe,
Little Black Joe, Tommy,
War Chief, Joe Tom and Joan.
Joan is the dam of Hot Heels, Jo Chick, Steel Bars, and Joan's
Josephine, each of which has AAA or AA produce or get. Hot Heels has produced
Mona Leta AAA, Bob's Folly AAA, Johnny Do It AAA, Mary Sunshine AAA, Bar
Heels AA and Snakey Bend A. Bob's Folly had 18 AAA get through 1962. Steel
Bars was the Honor Roll Halter Stallion of 1957 and has got Belinda Bar AAA.
Jo Chick is the dam of Miss Hi Jo AAA and Barchick AAA.
Little Joe The Wrangler has five A get and Joe Tom has sired
Miss Roxy AA and Catch Me Boy A.
Red Man, by Joe Hancock, is the sire
of John Red AAA, Moonshine AAA, Apache Agent AAA, Worryman AA, Wampus Kitty
AA, Red Gown L. AA, Red Mamma AA and 10 A horses. Worryman has got Roan Man
AAA, Dos Pesos AAA, Cheri Man AA and Mr. Man A. Dos Pesos has produced Woody's
Request AAA and Quatro Pesos AA. Another of Worryman's daughters, Bankette,
produced Spotted Bullet AA and Rebel Cause AAA, the 1962 Champion Quarter
Running Aged Stallion.
Little Black Joe, by Joe Hancock,
is the sire of the following show Register of Merit qualifiers: Betty Joe
Jeamer, Deacon Joe, Honest John, Joe Pop, Little Boy Joe and Little Wagon
These are but a few of the outstanding progeny of Joe Hancock,
but they will serve to show the tremendous influence of this early sire.