Interview with Danny Burton
He looked at me while he was talking to some men who were standing around him. The conversation must have been about bulldogs as I recognized some of the guys as dogmen from the Texas, Oklahoma area. The first time I saw Danny was about 5 or 6 years ago but at the time I didn’t talk to him. This time I promised myself not to miss another chance of meeting and talking to who I consider a real top-notch dogman. When I walked up to him he just turned around and started to walk away from the small group of listeners that surrounded him. When I approached him he turned around and looked at me as if he were saying ‘What do you want?’ (For those of you that have never met Danny before and don’t know what he looks like, let me tell you that with a little suntan it would be hard to see the difference between Danny and Mike Tyson.) Danny invited me to come and talk to him at his place and so I did about four months later. Together with two friends of mine, in the middle of a hell of a snowstorm, we drove up to Duncan, Oklahoma. Danny, his wife Bernice and their two daughters Karen and Danna were all at home watching the television when we knocked on his front door. Before long we were swapping dog stories. My two companions were from England and Ireland, so here we were on a cold Sunday night discussing the qualities of good bulldogs, but mostly listening to what Danny was teaching us about his mentor, the famous Earl Tudor,
about his trip to the far east, and sharing his experience of the subject of conditioning with us. The first time I saw Danny I was impressed with his size and reputation, but when I left, I knew better. This guy wasn’t just big, but honest and knowledgeable too. On the next few pages you will find the interview I had with this man that told me before I started my tape recorder everything that I will tell you is the truth as I know it, and if I can’t tell you the truth as it really is I will tell you nothing. Turn the page and listen to Danny Burton…..
Danny, how did you get started in these dogs? When I was just a young boy I never even knew that something like a bulldog existed, not until I was about 14 years old. You have to remember that in those days you couldn’t even get a magazine on pitdogs unless a dog fancier recommended you. So back then it was real hard to get started in any way. The first picture I saw of a pitdog was Pete’s Sparks’ HUNKY dog. This is the dog he won with in Cuba. Sparks used to run an ad in the GAME COCK magazines at the time and when I saw that picture I said to myself that’s it. My uncle was in the game cocks like a thousand other guys in this state because it is legal here. This uncle of mine had a friend who was also a game cock man, but also owned a bulldog. His name was Darryl Tabot and he told me one time he knew a real bulldog man that lived in Hobart, Oklahoma. He told me that if I was interested h would take me there and so he did the next Sunday afternoon. That’s how I met Earl Tudor for the first time in my life. Earl lived on something like 23 acres and Earl was… well, it’s hard to explain but Earl was very cocky, he looked just like a bad dog. When I saw Earl that first time I remember I was really scared of him. He walked around me and didn’t say a word. Earl’s place was like heaven to me. He told me he was almost out of the dogs and that he had no more than 42 dogs left at his place. His dogs were vicious, not that they would bite you, but when a stranger came along they were all excited like you turned that switch that makes them go off! When Earl was younger he used to have more than 100 game dogs and a lot of game cocks. The next time I went back alone and finally after a lot of visits I started to get closer and closer to him. It was Earl who took me to my first show and that was in San Antonio, Tx. In those days it was just a misdemeanor and if I remember right they had five fights on Saturday and another five fights the following Sunday.
What dogs did Earl keep on his yard when you met him the first time? He had SPIKE, JEFF, NIG, LUCKY and that type of dogs, plus some of those old brood bitches. SPIKE was already old and retired and he told me one time that SPIKE made him $1700 in just one month because he bred him to 17 bitches in one month and his stud fee was $100. At that time, I thought that was all the money in the world.SPIKE was considered the hardest biting dog of the twentieth century. Only one dog that was ever fought with SPIKE lived after the fight and that was Mayfield’s OLD LIGHTNING was busted up pretty good in his chest. It probably lasted something like 15 minutes or so. Earl always told me that each time you put a scar on a dog you take so much out of him and he could spot a good dog real quick. Earl never rolled a dog very long so this was good enough for him. NEVER quit! I was so excited at the time and I can’t even remember what type of fighting dog he was but TIGER DAN was on top most of the time as he was a more talented dog. But . The LUCKY dog came from Howard Heinzl just like the DIBO dog, but the NIG dog was Earl’s favorite dog. Earl really liked NIG and used him as a stud dog just like LUCKY. NIG was a solid black dog, really good looking. Earl was already 76 years old when I met him the first time and eventually traded NIG to somebody in Witchita, Tx. At that time they changed his name to SMOKEY. There is a lot of controversy about the NIG dog but there were only two other people there when I rolled TIGER DAN against his sire NIG and that was Earl Tudor himself and Don Maloney. TIGER DAN was a brindle dog and a hard, punishing bulldog. I really can’t remember how long the roll took but it was real vicious and NIGNIGNIG did never, ever quit!
Where do you believe the rumor started? I believe Don Maloney spread the rumor because he was a jealous man and couldn’t accept the fact that Earl took a liking to me, and of course, I had TIGER DAN which was a son of NIG. Don Maloney was a friend of mine and a good dogman, but he could never accept that somebody else would have dogs as good as his. I personally don’t even breed dogs to sell and you will never see me run an ad in the mags trying to sell pups or whatever but the truth is that NIG never quit! NIG was a producing dog, and the best fighting dog that ever lived was his grandson on both sides of the pedigree. This was the PIT GENERAL dog. He was by far the best and most devastating bulldog I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.
Where did Earl get his dogs from? Did he ever tell you about what bloodline or type of dogs he liked the best? Yes, he did. Earl liked the Henry dogs the best. I don’t know where they come from but they were mostly black, big headed, red eyed and crazy to work. Also, I believe that his daddy had some bulldogs before they came to Oklahoma. Originally, they were from Kentucky. Back in Earl’s time, which was around the turn of the century, there were no airplanes and etc, and he told me this himself; if somebody would send him a bitch to bred to one of his males and he liked the bitch he wouldn’t send her back, but just keep her for himself. Most people were too afraid anyway to come pick her up because in those days that part of the world was pretty much outlaw territory. I’m sure that’s how he got some of his good dogs. He also bought a lot of dogs and bred some of his own when he got older. Earl was a very smart man, but also a strange man. For instance… he had no children because he didn’t want any and he once told me that the world was getting sorrier every day, and didn’t want to bring anybody in a world like this. When Bernice got pregnant, I was scared to tell him and I didn’t. Don Maloney told him.
What made Earl so bitter, so disappointed in life? I don’t know. Everybody respected Earl as a dogman but he would say the stangest things. His philosophy was to treat everybody like a son-of-a-bitch until they proved themselves differently. I remember I was really scared of Earl when I first met him. He had been breeding and raising these dogs for so long that he picked up some of that courage. And the older he got the worse it got. One time he told me he wanted to go out guns blazing, that’s what he said, ‘I want to go out in style.’ I remember Earl and his brother Bert got into an argument once over some dog magazines and when Bert was real sick and laying on his deathbed his last request was to see his brother Earl. But Earl didn’t go and he didn’t go to his funeral as well. That was his way of life. To me Earl was a special man and he taught me so much about dogs, conditioning and that kind of stuff. For instance, he told me that heat will stop a dog quicker than anything, pain won’t stop a bulldog, but heat will. Earl most times wouldn’t roll a dog until he was 18 or 20 months old and then he would roll them for only a few minutes. To me, he was the best dogman that ever lived and it’s hard to disagree on his methods of schooling and conditioning a combat dog.
Do you believe the old time breeders were better than the modern breeders? I don’t know, but let me give you an example. Earl would usually take all the females out of a litter when they were born and kill them. He didn’t want anybody to be able to breed to his stuff and didn’t sell many dogs. Earl was never in the dogs for money. He was a true dogfighter and there are not many people like that around these days. If I have a bad bitch and a bad male I just breed them to each other. I’m not really interested in pedigrees and that stuff. I like the conditioning. Maybe someday I will get interested in the breeding, but not right now. I don’t think there is any specific bloodline or family of dogs that has got a monopoly on anything. There is good and bad in every type of breeding. I personally like the Boudreaux bred dogs. You could say that most of the dogs today come from Tudor, Maloney, Boudreaux, and Mayfield bloodlines.
Did Earl like Maurice Carver pretty good? I’m going to tell you exactly what Earl told me. He said he didn’t like Maurice. Earl could sit down with somebody for five minutes and figure somebody out pretty good. He was blessed with that gift. Earl was like a mind reader and thought Maurice was a bullshitter. I really didn’t understand the relationship they had at the time, but he never spoke too bad about him or spoke highly of him either. Maurice was the kind of man that could tell a story and you knew it was a lie, but it was so damn good that it really didn’t matter if it was true or not.
Do you believe that it was pretty much accepted in those days to steal a dog from somebody else? Well,…..yes, maybe so! Earl told me that if you want to be good at anything the first thing you need to learn is how to cheat; because if you know that, then nobody can cheat you. He taught me how to cheat first, but I have never done anything like that in my life, my pride won’t let me.
What more can you tell me about the NIG dog? Well, NIG ended up with Don Mayfield. He paid something like $300 or $500 for the dog to Sam Kennedy and in those days that was a lot of money. NIG was a producing dog. I had the Plumber’s ALLIGATOR dog and worked him for 2 or 3 fights. He was a big black dog, and I won his champion fight with him. You could spot a NIG bred dog a mile away. Their characteristics are that when you walk up to them they would piss all over themselves, 9 out of 10 will. They were some kind of shy and would roll over on their back when you touched them. I bought my TIGER DAN from Earl and he was out of NIG and Womack’s MERT. He was a brindle. Earl gave Bernice a puppy that is registered as Mayfield’s SPOOKIE but that really is my SPOOKIE. I don’t really care because like I said before, I’m not in the business of selling dogs and Don can do that as far as I’m concerned. But anyway, Earl gave that puppy to Bernice when she was four years old, she was solid black. Later we bred her to TIGER DAN and this breeding produced the best dog to ever walk the earth. His name was PIT GENERAL. This dog was a true super dog, I have never seen anything like him again in my life after he got stolen.TIGER DAN won two fights for me but SPOOKIE would never fight. She was a cold bitch. We had two males and seven females. The females were all cold, wouldn’t hit a lick. But the males….oh boy! They were something special. PIT GENERAL had a brother that I liked better than him, his name was SATAN. One time when I was at Sam Kennedy’s place, SATAN got off the chain and killed three hogs and then jumped on a dog called KILLER that had won four fights. They killed each other. PIT GENERAL was a 42 to 44 pound dog and at this weight he was unbeatable. He was absolutely awesome, an ACE in every way. He was one of the hardest biting dogs in the history of fighting dogs. At one time, I had some good dogs. There was RANGER, a four time winner I got from Earl. This dog was a full bellymate brother to JIMMIE BOOTS. He was a 52-54 pound dog. Also I had VICK, GATLIN, and another one called BOBBYSON. I put GENERAL on all four at the same time and he just literally murdered them all as fast as I could go and get the next one. The next day Don and Phyllis Mayfield came up here and all the dogs were in the house except GENERAL. He was the only one standing on his chain. Don said “What did you do Danny?” I told him I rolled some dogs yesterday and he said, “Why did you roll them all into each other and not into this black dog?” I said I rolled them all against that black dog and he said “What! How much do you want for him?” I sold him the whole lot, and that’s how he got GENERAL.
What happened to GENERAL after Don Mayfield got him? He matched him against this guy from Oklahoma. His name was Billy or something. The dog he used was a good head dog called DUKE. GENERAL couldn’t get him for a long time, but when he did, he bit him in two. GENERAL was then matched into Freddie Jones’ BLACK BART. In fact, Pat Patrick wrote Don a letter at the time saying that this BART dog would take meat away from a bear and that he wouldn’t even roll a dog into that BART dog. Don ask me at the time what I thought about it and I told him it wouldn’t be a problem as I tried to hurt GENERAL with all I had but I couldn’t. This fight was much talked about just like the Tyson-Spinks fight, dogmen came from all over the country just to see this one. GENERAL killed BART in 52 minutes and then after the fight he was stolen. I got a letter from Roland Fontenot with some pictures of GENERAL and in the letter he said that he knew the fight was over in seven minutes, because he had broken both shoulders on BART and later on in the fight he literally took off BART’s leg. GENERAL was a freak of nature, he would eat a dog, literally rip them apart and start eating them. He was so aggressive that he wouldn’t even breed a bitch. One time while Don went to town to do some shopping, a bitch that was in heat got loose off the chain and ran up to GENERAL. He killed her while she was in full blossom. Jimmy Wimberly found the bitch and he told me he saw how GENERAL was standing over her and just tearing her muscles out of her. I know now who stole GENERAL and several told me this was true, but I don’t want to tell who it was because it would do no good now.
Was it an Oklahoma or Texas dogman? I really don’t want to say anything about this because you could pinpoint it. It’s out of respect that I don’t want to bring this out in the open. But the thing is, that GENERAL was a double bred NIG dog, and this, plus the fact that NIG never quit, makes me believe he was a good individual plus a hell of a producer!
What is the second best dog you have seen, Danny? Well, years ago I matched into Raymond Holt’s JEREMIAH, and Stinson’s ART. They were both very good dogs, but I’ve seen so many good ones that it is kind of hard to just pick one or two out. Another fight that was real interesting to me was when Ralph Greenwood matched into Jim Stinson. Stinson used a black dog called CANNON. This dog was a punishing dog that I had seen kill dogs before in 20 minutes. Greenwood used CRAZY DUGGAN, and he won the fight eventually because he was the gamest dog. A real classic match.
What about your grand champion HANK dog? HANK was a turning dog. He would give you heart failure every time you watched him, and I always tried to sell him after each fight but nobody that saw him was impressed with him enough to buy him. He won over Carver, Louis Cheeck, Fontenot and Chicken Sam. He beat some pretty good people. HANK was definitely a game dog. You had to kill every hair on the dog to stop him, but he never did. He would always turn real early in the fight, shut his mouth completely and turn away from his opponent 100%, but he always scratched. I finally sold HANK to Pat Patrick for $1500. HANK had two brothers SMITH and JESSE and they, just like HANK, were very game dogs too. I have never been good at selling dogs perhaps because I was never interested enough doing do, but I’ll tell you something about another dog I had. His name was PETERBUILT. He was out of the O’BRIAN dog and a bitch named BABE. I bred this dog myself and later Doyle Reddick ended up with him. I don’t know if it’s true about the dog quitting, but when he was at my place, he never quit. I didn’t like the dog because one time he would look outstanding, and then the next time he would look like a plug. So one time I had a bunch of dogmen at my place and we were rolling some dogs. I rolled this dog, too. He was doing pretty good and I said anybody that wants this dog can have him for free, but everybody turned around and walked away. He was about 20 months old at the time. He was no good and nobody wanted him, but what I’m saying is, that I couldn’t sell a dog if I wanted to. The same with HANK, each time I would offer him for sale nobody was interested in him. Later, I believe, I traded PETERBUILT for some other dogs, and I believe Reddick made something like $35,000 with the dog. I thought I couldn’t win with him because it’s like when I go to the rodeo they always give me the baddest horse in the bunch and every time I go to a dogfight I get the baddest dog, too. I guess it’s like what a friend told me once… “Son, you’re hard to beat and they know it, that’s why they come with the best they got.” I don’t care really, because it’s like what Earl told me, “if you’re going to be beat, be beat by a good one.” So, in other words, it’s not a disgrace to lose. It’s all part of the same game! I know I’m not going to have any easy spots and I don’t want too anyway. But it sure would help to get some bread on the table once in a while.
What about the TONKA dog? I won him in a bet from a guy named Lou Lewis from California. Bobby Smith picked up the pup in his truck and I kept him until he was about 11 months old. Then, Ronnie Anderson bought the dog. I had a lot of dogs at the time, plus I wasn’t really sure how he was bred. He was out of TOMBSTONE and RED BABY. Ronnie made a fortune with the dog and he was a good caliber dog. I’ve seen TONKA fight and I liked the dog. Also, I’ve seen TOMBSTONE against BULLYSON JR. and that was a classic fight. Don really brought TOMBSTONE in thin. He looked like a skeleton, just like a bag of bones, but BULLY just couldn’t kill him. BULLYSON JR. was a bad dog and was all over that red nose dog. TOMBSTONE was a good one, but his gameness was the key, he just kept coming, no matter what BULLY would do to him. Don was a real good conditioner and he could pull one down to that fine line and still have them strong. Don is responsible for some of the training techniques they use today, like the drying out methods for instance. Of course, a dog needs some moisture in his system, but you don’t want him to be too wet and Mayfield really knew how to dry one out. He also introduced the catmill keep and perfected it in a way like many people are using today. Me and Don had been friends for a long time and always remained the best of friends. Don is not really the same Don Mayfield that I met when I was younger, but time changes people. Some people don’t understand and maybe these people didn’t go through what Don went through. And maybe they will do something worse when they get older. I want to remember him like I want to remember him, one of the greatest dogmen ever in my era and if he would come back in the game today, he would prove it to you people, too. He was really a good dogman.
What about that ALVIN dog? Was it really true what Earl said, that ALVIN was the gamest dog he had seen in more than 40 years? Yes. That was true. Earl was serious when he said that, he wasn’t joking. Randy Fox had a dog called ALVIN THE DOG and he was a black and white Lightning bred dog. I matched into him with a dog I found in the park one time. They had four or five fights that day and Don Maloney put that one together. I remember it was snowing that day just like now, and Don charged money for all the fights except for our fight which was the last fight as he thought me and Randy couldn’t come up with dogs that were good enough to look at. I really liked Don a lot, but he was a very jealous person and he had already given away the best dog of show trophy before our fight started. I believe we matched at 39lbs and the fight went two hours and twenty-three minutes. It was a very close fight all the way. ALVIN won the fight and mine died right on the scratchline. It was very good, even match and ALVIN produced some pretty good dogs, too.
What if you had a choice between a deadgame bulldog that would still try to scratch with all his legs broken never taking his eyes off his opponent, but short on talent; or that awesome fighting dog that would practically kill everything you would put him down with in short order and start to eat him up right there in the pit. But if you put a little pressure on him, watch out! Because he might quit! Wow…. That’s a hard question! I don’t really know. I like a fighting dog, one that can win with plenty of ability to take one out quick, but a game dog will probably be a better producer, throwing a higher percentage of game dogs. Talented dogs don’t breed true, game dogs do. But like I said I like a dog with plenty of both, gameness plus ability because you are going to need both when you are going into the good ones.
What about a particular fighting style? I like a fast, hard punishing dog that goes to the stifles and stomach. Earl always said that the best dog is a head dog, because he would keep himself out of trouble. Probably the best head fighting dog I’ve ever seen was the TORNADO bitch. But I like the bad dog best. What I mean is an offensive fighting dog that will take the initiative and never stops trying to kill his opponent.
Do you believe there is such a thing as an offensive head fighting dog? I haven’t seen too many of them. Most of these head dogs are just trying to stay out of trouble. Earl told me you can’t beat a head dog, but it has to be a good one. PIT GENERAL was a real bad gut eating dog and I can’t believe that anything could have kept him out for any length of time.
Do you believe it’s a bad sign if a dog makes a turn during a contest? No I don’t. Sometimes it’s just their style. HANK was the best proof of that. He would start turning after two minutes, yet he was extremely game. I’ve seen a few like that as long as they keep scratching I don’t care if they turn or not.
What is your experience with dogs that start at a real young age. Do you believe in the saying ‘early to start…early to quit’?Yes, I sure do and I’m going to tell you why…. Most people don’t have patience or the common sense to wait until these young starters get older. They start to roll them too hard at a young age, and most people will stop a 12 or 14 month old pup just because he wants to fight. I like early starters, don’t get me wrong, but I’m just as careful with them as with the ones that will start after they are two years old.
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!”