I am constantly being asked questions about the Alligator dog and the family of dogs that has come about from this great old warrior.
It seems the more that’s said the more is left unsaid or at least overlooked and not purposely so.
Alligator came about as almost an after thought. Mr. Williams of Ft. Worth had obtained the Satin Lady bitch from Maurice Carver. She was a big, black pretty bitch that I never cared much about as an individual. She was one of these scatter-bred dogs Maurice was famous for. Unlike most of the Carver dogs she was cold. When it came time to breed her Mr. Williams went to Wichita Falls, Texas and bred her to Tudor’s old Nigger dog, which was owned at that time by J.E. King. Nigger was some of the last of the old Tudor stuff and had been on several yards before King got him.
The breeding was made, and as they grew into adulthood I was able to see and handle all three of these dogs. Alligator, as great as he was, had two littermates that in my opinion were at least as good if not better than him. There were Soko and Susan Renee’, both real bulldogs in every way.
Mr. Williams kept Alligator until he was just over a year old, so he could breed him back to his dam, which he did. Soko had shown so good at a young age for the little Plumber that the Plumbers went in together to buy Alligator.
When they bought him, I was certain they had an albatross, because he was so big. I figured they would never be able to get him hooked up. I also figured his chances of being as good as Soko were little to none at all. You have got to figure this was during an era of really great dogs, and who would ever expect this big, ugly dog to be anything special.
The Plumber’s started out with such a good bunch of dogs that they expected everything to be really fast lane. They had roll dogs better than most people’s match dogs, and were always looking for action and better dogs.
They felt they never had the luxury of a methodical schooling process. They were great dog men, but were hard on the dogs. They felt their dogs were either ace or near ace, or they were out of here with little regard for mediocrity.
Gator was started out on good dogs that were smaller than he was and most were just dominated by this optical illusion.
There were also several Brush Matches where Alligator would just run over the competition. The Plumbers were concerned because they had never seen him get his oil checked, even though he had been double dogged on several occasions.
They had got a Tudor dog from me named Zeke that was a plug, but very game. A fellow showed up on that place, and in the course of conversation said the old black dog did not impress him that much and he would bet ole Zeke could whip him. The Plumbers, being ever ready to show what sports they were, agreed on the bet and down they went. The fellow who underestimated Alligator was soon separated from his money when he told them to pick up Zeke, who was no match for the Alligator dog. As the stranger left, he made a statement that always holds true in the Bulldog world. “You sure can’t tell one by how they look”.
In their quest for perfection, they made a request to use Trussell’s Dum Dum dog to see if Alligator was truly game. Dummy you see was a game dog that was even bigger than Alligator. It seems that in that day and time any dog from a cross, scatter bred or real rough were suspect of being a cur, so they did everything they could to stop Alligator. When they got to Trussell’s they ran Alligator on the tread mill for one half hour then fifteen minutes road work to cool him down, then to the roll pit, where he went over half an hour with the larger Dum Dum dog. It was nip and tuck and Alligator went across when he shouldn’t have on wobbly legs. This roll turned out to be a pretty good game test for Dum Dum too. When asked how it turned out, Trussell said, “The black dog gave Dummy everything he wanted.”
The next match for “Alligator” was in the Big League at one of Maurice’s big ten match shows. He went in as a definite underdog, going into Bryant, males fifty eight pounds. Both dogs appeared to be in excellent shape and came to fight with a fast hard pace set for big dogs. Alligator goes to the legs with Bryant’s dog Satin swapping it out and going from legs to nose, and then getting into Gator’s stifle, where they swap it out. A turn is called on Satin at twenty-six minutes. A handle made at thirty minutes and Satin makes a good scratch. A handle is made and Alligator makes the scratch at forty minutes, taking Satin down to work the front legs. Satin takes the count at forty-five, making Gator the winner. There was much speculation among the huge crowd present if any one had a big one for this hound dog looking goof.
His next match was into a dog called Jack at catch weight. Alligator came in sixty pounds heavier. These heavy weights hit and the fight was on. Jack, a big staff looking dog takes Gator down and works him over for twenty minutes with Gator being content to take the bottom where he is always in hold. Gator is coming to the top and by thirty minutes it’s an even fight. Jack was a seasoned dog who had never met his equal and you can see Alligator has begun to come to the top as Jack begins to fatigue and get that far away look in his eyes. During the earlier part of the match, Bobby Ackel had commented on Gator may have met his match and Jimmy Jobe turned and said to me, as Gator was being trashed like a stepchild, “that if Jack was game and keeps this up, ole Gator could be in trouble”. As the match was winding down Bobby Ackel said, “Ole Jack looks like he has bout had it”, and sure enough in just the hour mark he takes the count. I went over to check on the Jack dog and offer any assistance I could and I noticed his stomach and chest. I could see what had made the difference in this match and it was the punishment Gator had dished out from the bottom and it was unbelievable. I heard later that Jack lived out his life in luxury after Gator ended his ring career.
There was some time after this match, as no one wanted any of the Gator Dog, so during a roll session at the Plumbers’ place; the Caddell’s showed up with several to school. These boys had some old time stuff the old man had been breeding for years and some were sure solid, from the Lightner-Colby stuff. They had a male named Jeff that was a big spotted dog, too big for everything on the place except Alligator. So he was taken off the chain to oblige the Jeff dog. This dog was the closest thing to Gator’s equal that I saw during his career. The roll ended early due to a bleeder being hit on Gator. Jeff went to the Midwest where he did very well and where I heard he made Champion.
When the Plumbers had about given up on another official match, word came from Oklahoma that a man named Brown had one he would run at the Alligator dog. Up to then, several had fallen through, but this one came off and as they say in the dogs these boys “brought a paddle for the Plumber’s ass.” They had done their homework and rather than a punisher, they brought one that not only could punish but was versatile and smart. This dog could have whipped Gator and on another day might have. The dogs were conditioned by two of the best conditioners of the day. Gator conditioned by Burton and Joker conditioned by Fox. The match was males at fifty-seven pounds and Oklahoma Shorty was the referee. The dogs hit and Gator takes the bottom but is coming up from time to time and being frustrated by Joker’s style, that had never been too effective on him with the defensive dogs he had met earlier in his life. A turn was called on Joker at twenty-five minutes, but a handle was not made until fifty-two minutes and Joker scratches strong. Alligator has started to dominate the match by the hour mark. At an hour nine, Gator is screaming from his corner to scratch and is showing what he is said to be famous for, “Killer Instinct” and you can plainly see he plans to finish the job if allowed to do so. At an hour twelve, Joker takes the count. We all agree, we have just witnessed two of the best big dogs to ever come down the pike and what a show they put on. The Plumbers are quick to commend Mr. Brown and Mr. Fox on bringing an excellent dog in top condition. They also say they plan on retiring the old warrior, no that he is officially a Champion.
As I look back, I can only recall a few heavyweights that were ever in Alligator’s league. Hooten’s Butcher Boy, Sampson (Alligator’s half brother) were two very good dogs that ended each other’s careers. There was also a dog out of Tennessee that sure impressed me, but in my mind Alligator will always be the best.
Besides a great combat dog, Alligator was a pleasure to be around and always a clown. He was never bred to an army of bitches, but produced what I consider his share of really good dogs. This story goes further than Alligator himself and must include his littermates and both his and their offspring. They represent not just a few good dogs, but a great family of dogs that have stood the test of time, not just in this country but on five continents. You must remember these dogs were never mass-produced, but still have made a tremendous impact on the dogs of today. I have never been overly sentimental about my dogs, but have had a few of these dogs that were special to me.
Of all the things said about the Alligator family I think the most impressive trait I’ve seen is how well it crosses with most any other good family of dogs. I sincerely believe it is a genetic pool that cannot hurt any breeding program, and in most cases adds that something special that comes along from time to time, that makes them special and that is what we are all looking for, right?
Mr John P Colby was an active breeder for many years and produced some of the best dogs of his time. Much of his foundation stock was from the Gas House and Burke strains, as were the dogs of many other breeders. The difference in the quality of the dogs Mr Colby produced was the result of breeding principles he employed. Also, Mr Colby in my opinion possessed a very important attribute, which I refer to as a gift.
Mr Colby practised a simplified version of genetics, Best to Best, selective breeding
Pictured is John P. Colby Age 20.
Best to Best does not mean performing dogs alone. It entails all aspects of the dogs, from performance to pedigree. The most obvious qualities would be gameness, biting power, talent, stamina and a great bloodline. A bloodline is the result of a breeders influence.
Over the years dogs bred by Mr Colby began to exhibit physical and mental characteristics such as conformation, colour and gameness which distinguished them. These dogs were then referred to as Colby Dogs. Thus we have the Colby Bloodline. People were proud to say, “This here is a pure Colby dog”. This sounds simple; and it leads people to ask; why there were not more top breeders? I believe deciding on what is Best to Best is the key.
I’m not sure that every dog Mr Colby bred to was Dead game; and I’m equally sure he did not breed to every Dead game dog he owned. This is where the gift comes in. It seems to be an in-born sense or ability. I believe most outstanding accomplishments have been made by men who were endowed with a gift for their respective fields.
I do not believe that man knows enough about genetics at this time to produce great animals; and he most certainly didn’t know enough in the days of Mr Colby. Race horse people spend millions of dollars a year, trying to produce great horses, with only marginal success. Similarly, there is no pattern for producing Great dogs.
FriendsThe most essential qualities a breeder may possess are; dedication, a gift, a knowledge of Best to Best, and money might come in handy. If a breeder combines these attributes he is likely to produce, with luck, a great strain of dogs.It doesn’t take too much effort to recall the great Colby dogs of the past. These dogs were bred from the pit and for the pit.
But all of this brings us to a very important question; When a strain of dogs that were once highly regarded, such as Colby’s, stops producing consistently good pit dogs, is this strain still to be considered good? I have heard people say, “I know he’s a cur, but the blood is there”. While this is true in many cases, I wonder how long we can continue to breed to curs and hope to produce game pit dogs.
What is good blood and how long will it remain good if we continue to breed to dogs, who do not possess the qualities of their ancestors? While great breeders can breed to dogs who themselves do not exhibit good qualities; can the average breeder afford to take this gamble?
I have seen strains of dogs that have not produced dogs fitting this description for many years, and people who are active in the sport refer to them as good blood or good brood stock. Many seem to proceed under the assumption, that once a bloodline is good it remains good forever. Many well-meaning people have continued to breed Colby dogs exclusively, thinking all that was necessary to preserve the quality of the strain, was to breed to a dog that had the name Colby on his pedigree.
Pictured is Colby’s Jerry 1900.
I believe that we have to continuously strive to improve the strain, in order to keep it as good as it was or is. It’s an accepted theory, that in order for an institution to continue, it must change and continuously seek to improve. To preserve a bloodline, there is more required than just breeding to dogs whose pedigree shows a particular name. Change is required in order to prevent change in the quality of dogs produced. The Colby strain was developed by change.
FriendsI have heard people say, that the dogs of yesteryear were gamer than those of today. Could it be, in some cases, because we have tried to play Pat and in doing so have lost ground. The people that have bred Colby dogs exclusively for these many years, thinking they were doing what was best, have perhaps underestimated their own ability to breed good dogs.Many of them have bred dogs for 40 years or more and could have perhaps contributed much more to their own dogs, by using their own ideas and experience. New ideas are necessary in every field. Sports records are consistently surpassed by those not satisfied with repeating someone else’s past performance. Last year’s record won’t win this year’s meet.
Were the dogs of yesteryear really superior? I’m sure many dog men of the past would think we have it too easy, because we don’t have to grow secret vegetables and cook our dog’s food or boil their water. Penicillin has replaced many old remedies, making better dog care possible. I have read some diets that top dog men used. While some were good, none could compete with any good commercial dog food available in countless supermarkets. The poorest feeder today is able to provide better nutrition than the best feeder of yesteryear. We also have refrigeration and other conveniences.
It is not my intention to criticise old-timers and their methods. How many of us would be feeding as many dogs if we had to cope with the same adverse conditions? I think our mission however, is to pick up where they left off, emulating their objectives rather than their methods. The Colby dogs of the past, fit the description of good blood, as their pit records indicate. The Colby strain was developed on the principle of Best to Best. When that principle is no longer employed there is bound to be a drastic change in quality. In a very short period of time a great strain of dogs can be reduced to a strain that can do no more than refer to their pedigree and say “My great, great, grand-daddy was a pit dog….I think!”