HISTORY of the A(p)BT and the OFRN STRAIN. > HISTORY of the A.p.B.T. and the OFRN STRAIN.

OFRN

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D.M. Norrod:
It has often been claimed that geniuses, whether scientific, mathematical, or musical, were touched by a divine fire that made them special, but it also could be a curse because it seemed that geniuses were more likely to be plagued by madness than those of us of normal intelligence. Actually, there is a certain controversy regarding the latter supposition. It may just be that the mental illness of an otherwise normal person goes more unnoticed than that of someone who is famous because of genius capabilities.

 But I am taking the phrase to refer to the Old Family Red Nose dogs. The red color of the nose and eyes is seemingly touched by a fire, albeit not divine, then maybe it was divine because God created all things.. Similarly, there is much controversy about the grand old red nosed dogs. And like geniuses, the Old Family Red dogs have been considered by many dog men, including this one, to be something truly special.

 One of the areas of misunderstanding is that many fanciers think that any Pit Bull which shows the red nose is a member of the Old Family Red Nose strain. Such is not the case, as many strains of dogs will occasionally throw a red-nosed pup or two because the red nose is a recessive gene back to the foundation breed of Irish Old Family Reds. The term Old Family Red Nose refers to a particular family of dogs that was especially successful during the 40s, 50s, and 60s of the American Pit Bull Terrier breed. They came from the old Lightner bloodline as well as from other importers of dogs from the Ireland of the early part of the century. In fact, they were often called Lightner dogs, rather than the term that began to be used in the early 40s. This is because Lightner was credited for popularizing the red nose dogs.

 At that time, they lived in Colorado Springs, but this was at the tail end of a career in dogs that started way back in the 19th century. Lightner’s father, grandfather, and his uncles had been raising a strain of dogs they had kept pure since before the Civil War. Mary Lightner was also a fan of the dogs, and she kept the pedigrees straight and handled the correspondence. Although the Lightner's were wonderful people and quite helpful to. Notables such as Bob Wallace, Bob Hemphill, Bert Clouse, and Leo Kinard, to mention just a few, were quite impressed with Bill Lightner.

 All of these people knew more than I did about the history of his dogs. They knew, for example, that there was a separate strain of dogs that Lightner had early in the century (having obtained them from his relatives), and these were very much sought after. Then there was what these dog men called the "latter day Lightner dogs." Even the most astute student wasn’t sure where the later strain came from, but they felt that it was testament to Lightner’s genius at breeding dogs that he could create yet another great strain. When asked about his first bloodline of dogs, he said that he had gotten rid of them because he didn’t like the color of the red nose. He also liked small dogs, and as far as he was concerned, the red-nosed dogs were running too large. Lightner was a giant of a man himself, and it had always been surprising the big men, including Bert Clouse and Ham Morris, who liked their pit dogs on the small size. As a matter of fact, Lightner had been a renowned prizefighter in his time, and he had been good friends with some of the great old-time boxers, such as Jim Corbett (famous for beating John L. Sullivan).

 It is believe Lightner's later dogs, that they had been a blend of his old strain with some other quality line, and the rumor was that it consisted primarily of Colby dogs. But we are concerned with the early dogs here, as that was what produced the Old Family Red Nose strain.

 While the Lightner family had never sold dogs, they sold off a few before World War I, as dog matching had subsided considerably in the area of Colorado in which they were living at that time. Al Dickinson of El Paso and Joe Peace were able to get some of these dogs, and they treasured them highly and kept the line going. These were primarily the large dogs that tended to show the red nose. When Joe Peace and Al Dickinson were both drafted during the World War, Red Howell took their dogs, and some of them went to Bourgeous in Louisiana. The men who used Lightner dogs to the extent that the Old Family Red Nose line became famous were Arthur Harvey and L. C. Owens of Amarillo, Texas. The breeding of these famous dog men produced many great dogs, including Hemphill’s Golddust and Hemphill’s Broke Jaw. A candidate for the best pit bitch of the century was Lightner’s Speed. In 1926, she was bred to Allen’s Fighting Tige to produce Harvey’s Red Devil. Red Devil was the sire of Centipede and Golddust. Centipede was generally considered the greatest dog of his time. And he was 54 pounds pit weight, quite large even for today’s dogs. With Lightner’s predilection for small dogs, I can only assume the look on his face at raising these large dogs! The interesting thing here is that it was a very inbred strain that was producing such large dogs. In fact, it was probably inbreeding which produced the red nose and red eyes. These are recessive traits, and they are more likely to come to the surface in a program of heavy inbreeding.

 Other dogs that helped make the red dogs famous were Ham Morris’s Pinkie, Howell’s Banjo, and William’s Cyclone. Since there were so many good dogs coming from this line, they were quite naturally bred along family lines, and this tended to perpetuated the red nose, the red eyes, and the red toe nails that so distinguished this strain.

 As you can imagine, dog men were not so sure how to take these most unusual-looking pit dogs. They were, after all, accustomed to small dogs of brindle and various other colorations. Some dog men, such as McClintock, Williams, Hemphill, and Wallace, came to specialize in this line. When dog men saw an entire kennel of such dogs, it was only natural to conclude that the dogs had been bred for appearance, but that was not the case. It was simply a matter of fact that a lot of great pit dogs of similar breeding had displayed the coloration. Since the colors were recessive to the more common colors, they were uniformly reproduced in all the progeny when these dogs were bred together.

 Besides color, the red dogs showed other traits. In the pit, they were considered great ring generals, pacing themselves very well. They were smart dogs, and they used their intelligence in the pit. They were not really well known for a hard bite, but they could beat the dogs that had that trait. With their defensive prowess, they gave the hardbiting dogs nothing to bite but air. They wore them down and then went in for the kill. Great endurance was also a trait of these dogs, but they were most renowned for their incredible gameness. Another trait they were know for was that they could be crossed with nearly any line and produce bone-crushing pit dogs. Because of this very trait, not many dog men elected to breed them pure.

 To this very day, the red nose dogs remain quite controversial. For one thing, they are nearly always popular with neophytes, as they don’t look like the "mongrels with the mumps" that pit dogs have been so often called. The red nose and concomitant coloration marks them as something special in anyone’s eyes. But that is not necessarily a good thing, for dog peddlers tend to breed dogs with this coloration that have no claim to even being related to the true Old Family Red Nose dogs.

 Bob Wallace used to refer to the red nose as a "badge of courage," and he mentioned friends that referred to them as "traffic stoppers.. There really is something special about the line. I’m not trying to say they are the best, but they are as good as the best. Sometimes it seems as though they truly were touched by a bit of magical fire.

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