One of the best-known sires of Quarter Horses wasn’t included in the first 20 foundation stallions.
Written by Bob Denhardt November 1988
THE WHOLE story of Joe Hancock as a great Quarter Horse sire is unorthodox, to say the least. In spite of his unconventional looks and blood, many claim him to be one of the greatest all-around sires of ranch and rodeo horses ever. His offspring could run a little, too, as that astute Carlsbad, N.M., race horse man, Elmer Hepler, proved.
Had Joe Hancock looked a little more like our ideal of a Quarter Horse, and if he had had a little more Quarter Horse blood, he would certainly have been placed among the first 20 registered stallions, the numbers we (AQHA) reserved for those animals we considered influential foundation animals.
If a person really tried, he could claim that Joe Hancock had only one-eighth Quarter Horse blood. His dam was a work mare whose sire was a Percheron. I never could run down her pedigree any further, although I made two trips into Oklahoma to try to find some Quarter Horse blood.
Joe’s sire was John Wilkins by Peter McCue. John Wilkins had a Thorough Thoroughbred dam. Only when you get back to his grandsire, Dan Tucker, can any Quarter Horse blood be found. In other words, Joe was one-eighth Quarter Horse, three-eighths Thoroughbred, and four-eighths unknown or draft horse blood.
His looks and blood meant nothing on the short tracks when he was matched, but when he ran as a Thoroughbred it did matter. By judicious care on the part of his trainer, he merely looked like a somewhat coarse Thoroughbred. This was done by keeping him in racing trim and by keeping his mane, tail, and fetlocks trimmed.
The reason he was registered as a Thoroughbred was that after he had cleaned up all available match-race prospects, nobody else wanted to try to beat him. He could not get a profitable race in Oklahoma. The Hancock backers liked to bet on Joe because he always won. They needed a chance to cash in on his speed. The best bet was to register him as a Thoroughbred. There were many Thoroughbred races at county fairs, and there were people with money who went to these organized races, so Thoroughbred papers were obtained.