Interview with Bobby Hall
Famous dogs of the past. Legendary warriors, they’ve lived and died, but still live on in the minds of thousands. Who has never heard before of the “Big Bad Black Bullyson” dog! A myth? Perhaps . But if there is one man who can tell use the inside-story on the renowned Bullyson it is Mr. Bobby Hall from Houston, Texas. This is the story about a man and his dog. Bobby Hall and Bullyson. A pair that made the world shiver…..
When the plane landed in Houston, Texas it was already dark, but the humid hot air was still ever present. After a quick drive to the Hilton and the following drinks at the hotel bar, I went back to my room and laid back, trying to relax and think of the questions I was going to ask Bobby Hall the following day.
I had spent the last days reading his book “Bullyson and His Sons”, now my mind kept drifting away into a “long ago time” when all the great gentleman dogfighters would meet to determine who’s dog earned the title of being the Best, proven under fire Champion.
I was only hours away from meeting Mr. Bobby Hall, I was about to meet one of the all time great dogmen and with the last thought in my mind I went to sleep.
The next morning was like many others, sunny, humid and began much too soon. At breakfast I started to concentrate on the upcoming meeting with Mr. Hall.
Only minutes after I got back to my room, my concentration was broken by a phone call with a soft, friendly voice asking me if I was ready for my complimentary continental breakfast, a “How ya doing boy” told me this was Mr. Bobby Hall.
It turned out I landed at the wrong airport in Houston, but he insisted on picking me up at the motel. He arrived after no more than 45 minutes. When I opened the door I was immediately struck by his big smile, Texas hat and eyes that looked at me straight and clear as trying to analyze my thoughts. With him was a nice young man called Rudy Flinkevleugel, visiting from Holland, Bobby, who had a hard time pronouncing his name, called him “FinkleWinkle”.
Upon arriving at his home the door was opened by a tall, attractive, brown eyed lady that turned out to be his wife Jeanette. The day was spent with dog talk, a few drinks and plenty of good food.
His house was surrounded by dogs that were chained up and inside were many trophies, pictures, and other memories of yesterdays Champions and other well known dogs from the past when dogfighting was not yet a felony and a popular spectator sport. The back porch was also filled with photos, wall to wall, of famous bulldogs and people like Danny Burton, Norman Hooten, and many others from all over the world. The night was filled with the trading of stories and drinking lots of champagne. It was obvious that this man had more than just one interesting story in him and that a good interview was on hand. Talking to him was like reading his book, interesting, instructive, and above all entertaining.
The ice was broken. The stage was set.
The next morning early as we sat in the shadow of the back porch, with a cup of Jeanette’s good coffee, I started the cassette-recorder.
Except for the sleeping sounds of MS. BOOBS, a brindle female and Bobby’s most favorite brood bitch it was peacefully silent when I landed my first question: “Mr. Hall, what is in your opinion a good Bulldog?” Without looking at me he answered in his typical soft spoken manner; “Well, first of all a dog that is “game” above everything. Then second would be a bite like a knock out prize-fighter like Tyson. A dog that can get it over with in 20 minutes, because there is very few of them like that and I think also a stifle dog. I prefer one of those over any of the others.” I wasn’t expecting this kind of answer, so instead of shooting my second question on the list, I asked him what his definition of that much spoken word Gameness was and why he liked a stifle dog so much. Again he didn’t hesitate and readily replied; “a Game dog is one that will crawl across, fall, stumble, get back up and finally reach his opponent again after he is worn out,” slowly he puts his arms on the table and continued, “If you got a stifle dog, it’s like getting in a fight with someone and you throw up your guard and they start running around and hit you in the back, you’re not used to that, it’s so awkward. In other words they don’t come straight at you like you expect them to, stay there and punch it out. It’s an unorthodox style and confuses so many dogs and you can get the early start and the match is over before it begins.” Now I felt I was getting somewhere and continued to question; “Can you give me an example of a Game dog?” “Yes, I sure can”, he replied. “The dog that lost to BULLYSON, the on that Bert Clouse had, that was the best example that I’ve ever seen of it. He showed something like 300 people what a Game dog looks like, he lost the fight, but the crowd gave him a standing ovation. This happened almost 20 years ago, but it is rare that you see a dog like that.”
Just before I was getting to my next question, Jeanette came out of the house carrying a portable phone. It was Mr. Teddy Bear from Tokyo, while he was talking to his far away friend I rewinded the cassette-player to see if it was recording alright. Fortunately it was working perfect. While Bobby was still on the phone I looked through my list of question that I prepared the morning before at breakfast and decided to ask him next about the bobtail dog, BEN, that made fame in Taiwan and about his famous PRINCESS bitch who, according to some rumors, was now owned by a gentleman in Mexico.
When Bobby said goodbye to his friend and returned to his seat with a fresh cup of coffee he had a smile on his face, after I confronted him with my next question he began where he left off, “A true Game dog is very rare. To me a pedigree is not as important as the individual quality of a dog because I take each dog on his own, but when you start breeding every once in a while you will get a fluke, a superdog, but is not producing and that takes time to find out, also money, so you can understand how hard it is for the breeder and how important it is to breed with nothing than the gamest of dogs. PRINCESS was out of MS. BOOBS sired by my old ROBERT. She is a BULLYSON bred dog all the way, I think she was my all time best female, she would rate up there with my FOOTS bitch who won over the highly regarded COLORADO bitch. PRINCESS is now owned by a gentleman named Arnold, he is from Monterrey, Mexico, but comes to the States quite often. The BEN dog is a different story. I bought him from a man named Biscuit and conditioned him for six months before I sold him to Mr. A Chain Cao; a very nice man from Taiwan. His new owner matched him into GR. CH. MIKEY and won the fight. I thought the dog was in top shape considering the caliber of dog he went into. Then they’ve made the mistake of matching the dog too soon, it was only three months later to his next match, which was much too soon. Although he won this fight too, he was not in the shape he should have been. “At this point we were really into the interview and I thought it was a good time to switch the subject to the more serious questions. I realized that the next few minutes would make the difference between a friendly chat and an interesting interview. I waited for a few seconds before stating my next question.
“Mr. Hall, the BULLYSON dog is considered by many to be one of the All Time Greats and you wrote a book called “Bullyson and his Sons”. Why didn’t you write about the BULLYSON vs. BENNY BOB match in your book since this is the fight that raised a lot of controversy? “Well, he replied, “at the time that I was writing the book I had to stop somewhere because I spent 3 years on it and couldn’t cover the whole thing. My new book will be out sometime in 1989 and I will take up where I left off. The next book will be “Sons of Bullysons”. There has been a lot of controversy on BULLYSON, lots of things have been said and a lot of them are true, and a lot of them are just hearsay, but the whole truth will be told in my next book, blow by blow. There will be a lot of exciting things to talk about, I will go into each son of his, of course it takes a lot of time for research and to get all the facts straight so there can be no question on them and that’s the kind of book I’m trying to do.”
The answer was honest, but Bobby was certainly avoiding the essence of the question. I wasn’t really satisfied so far and decided to try a more direct approach.
“According to several people that witnessed the BULLYSON vs. BENNY BOB fight, Maurice Carver, who handled BULLYSON, picked him up at the count of six because he wouldn’t scratch. Also, several years ago Don Mayfield, as well as Bobby Smith, sent in articles to various magazines that Maurice could not get BULLYSON to scratch and that he asked Floyd Boudreaux if he could get him to cross the Pit, all at no avail. What do you have to say about this?” Bobby, who was sitting to my right side turned his head slightly, looking at me he slowly replied; “Well, that’s true, but that’s only a way of bowing out, I see it like this….the fight was over, someone had to win, someone had to lose, but what gets me is why the dogmen can’t figure it out for themselves. Only common sense will tell someone that if you really looked at it and researched it…; BULLYSON was a 49lb dog, that’s what I brought him in at before, he was not a 52lb dog. BENNY BOB could have easily fought at 53 or 54lbs, so even Ray Charles could see the outcome of that. When you have two dogs that are equal you can’t give away that kind of weight. I would say that BULLYSON was a deadgame animal…” I interrupted Bobby’s analysis, “even though he did not attempt to scratch?” “Right”, he said. “He was definitely into shock, no doubt about that. You have no idea about what kind of dog BENNY BOB was and how he could bite. You would have had to been there to know what kind of dog they were up against and saying that his son killed him is a complement in itself.” I had been listening to his answer real good and was fascinated on how easy he handled the question. After reading his book this was the one question that was burning on my mind. Almost like MS. BOOBS could sense my excitement of being here started to bark, producing a low deep sound. Jeanette would now come out of the house and sit with us listening to the rest of the interview.
“Do you know what happened to BENNY BOB after his fight against BULLYSON?” “Yes I do,” Bobby answered, “he went back to Willie Brown’s yard and later on he went out to California and was matched into Ralph Greenwood’s JIMMIE BOOTS. That was the most vicious and best fights I’ve ever seen. It was like when you were watching it you knew it couldn’t go on another five minutes. It was really like two full grown men with icepicks and you knew it just couldn’t go on any further, but that five minutes would pass and then you knew for sure it was impossible to go on another five minutes.
The whole fight was like that…you knew it had to be over because no two dogs could take that kind of punishment. I’ve never been in a match like that before. Rick Halliburton and Willie Brown did the conditioning on BENNY BOB and did Ralph Greenwood on JIMMY BOOTS, I think both dogs were in super shape. After the fight I would have bet you $100 that it didn’t last longer than twenty minutes, that’s how exciting it was, but it lasted nearly two hours with JIMMY BOOTS being the winner.” “Did you condition BULLYSON for his bout with BENNY BOB?”, was my next question to Bobby. “No, Maurice Caver conditioned him, but I didn’t feel he was in a good shape, not that it really matters because he couldn’t have whipped him on his best day. You can’t give away that kind of weight with dogs that are just as even. After I sold BULLYSON to Red Walling he left me the manager of the dog in the world at that weight. I even challenged his litter brother ELI JR. but he never should have matched into BENNY BOB.”
At this point I felt like changing to another subject and asked Bobby about his stud dog BERT, where he got him from, etc… He told me the dog was about five years old and that he bought him from Dennis Meier who had the dog from Don Maloney’s wife. She has given the dog to Dennis since he had helped Don work the dog for his first match and really took a liking to the dog and she couldn’t take care of the dog after Don’s tragic death. Bobby also stated that the dog is not open at public stud service and that he would cross him with his bitches only.
“Some time ago I had a dog called BOWSER that won over a two time winner within about one hour. BOWSER was a great dog,” Bobby continued, “but had one problem; he wouldn’t work the Jenny or the treadmill, luckily you could turn him loose in a lake and he would stay in there all day until he couldn’t walk. I had sold BOWSER to friend of mine called Shankbone, but then came Bert along and whipped BOWSER in a little less than two hours; I couldn’t believe it. The next thing that I’ve heard was that my good friend Danny Burton and his amigo Tony had lost that BERT dog again with a two time winner they had. After this I started to check into the dog a little bit and called somebody in Oklahoma because I knew Dennis lived out in the country without a phone and I paid this man $50 to drive to this little town where Dennis lived and had him call me. He did and I met him in a place called Bowie in Texas. When he brought the dog into the motel room he reminded me of a great warrior, every scar on his body was showing, he was practically 90% scar tissue. I got the dog home, at that time he weighed only 45lbs, the same he matched at. What really made me buy BERT is while talking to Dennis he told me how he conditioned the dog and revealed to me he only worked the dog five miles a day behind a truck and that showed me that old BERT won his last two matches strictly on his heart. In other words you would have to kill every hair on him to win. At the time he also brought a six generation pedigree I looked at it and almost every dog in the pedigree I had seen go the last thirty years. I was so happy to get the dog I can’t tell you. After losing my stud dog ROBERT to cancer at the age of 13 years, I began my search. I was looking for a super stud dog, but a outcross that would “click” with my BULLYSON blood.
I had been looking for the All Time Great stud dog for a long time and this dog was my ultimate dream to have. A perfect stud dog. He is the only dog to win three straight fights in one year with a total of six hours of battle time.”
Right at this moment Rudy appeared at the scene. He had been busy with a little black male dog named CATFISH. This little dog belonged to Bobby who had bought the dog a few weeks before and was now conditioning the dog to get in better shape. Looking at Rudy reminded me of what Bobby had told me before about many young men that would come and visit with him trying to learn more about the part of conditioning a dog. Bobby would refer to these men as students like he himself was one time with Maurice Carver. I decided to ask him about his feelings toward the modern dogmen like 20 or 30 years ago. He answered; “The student that you are working with today is going to be your man tomorrow. It takes a lot of time and effort to work with someone, like I’m not wasting my time because the people are so eager to learn, sometimes it’s just unreal how hard they work and that is what it is all about. I have people coming over from England, Holland and Tokyo, most of them young lads under 30 years old. I have a lot respect for them because they don’t have quit in them, they are like a good dog, they hold up real good, work their dogs faithfully and make great students. They remind me of myself 30 years ago when the older dogmen wouldn’t even tell you how to rub a dog down much less getting into the real part that brings a good dog. Of course they are getting better dogs all the time. I have sold SWAMPER to Allen Sanky of England and he is doing very well with the dog, everybody wants to breed to the dog. I had won four with SWAMPER, beating the JO JO dog, which was one of the most famous ones he beat. Also, I sold JAILHOUSE over in England to a gentleman named David Hill. When I sent her over she was bred to my CH. BERT and she had 9 pups in quarantine. Then I sold a real good bitch to Peter O’Donnell, her name was SHORTY and she also had 9 puppies. I really believe that especially in the last ten years there has been a lot more serious dogmen come along over there. They have bought some of my very best and if they watch what they are doing they will wind up having better dogs than we have here.
“Do you believe the people from Europe are able to compete on the same level as far as conditioning and the quality of the dogs?”
“They are coming along very nicely and they have had tremendous progress for the last 10 years. They might be lacking in as many good dogs as we have, but they are getting better dogs and have learned a great deal about conditioning. Give them another five years and…watch out!”
“What about the people in Taiwan?” I was expecting the same answer, but to my surprise Bobby shook his head and said “I would say No. Their conditioning is not up to standards, they don’t have the dogs to compete with us over here and the “good dogs that they did have came from the USA. The people from Europe; that is a different story”. Rudy had left off again and Jeanette went back into the house answering another phone call. The conversation had been very satisfying so far and one of the last items that was still on my list had to do with, what else, the conditioning part. By this time one of Bobby’s friends, Jerry Stine from Austin, came walking up from the house and he took a seat at the table holding a cup of coffee in his hand. It was still early in the morning, but a quick look at my watch told me I had no more than 90 minutes to get to the airport and catch my plane back to Nashville. Not wasting any more time than absolutely necessary I placed my next question. “What was your relation with Maurice Carver?” “Maurice,” Bobby answered, “was a unique person and the most interesting persons I’ve ever met, there will never be another one like him and those people that are like Maurice, and they come along and are few and far between, Frank Fitzwater and Ralph Greenwood are two of them. Ralph’s death recently hit me right in the gizzards because we were not too far apart in age and he was a true friend that knew all the people that I’ve known over the last 30 years, which you can’t replace, those people their gone and that hurts.” He looked at me for a few seconds without saying a word, his smile was gone but his eyes were still pointed in my direction. In a strange way I felt sadness coming over me. It was the same feeling that I had a few weeks before when I, accompanied by my friend Bobby Smith, went over to San Antonio and walked over the land that Maurice Carver had lived on for so many years. The house he lived in was broken down, but there were still many things that reminded one of Carver’s life and the many famous dogs that were kept on this place. Later on, during a telephone conversation Bobby would tell me that Maurice was still alive and will always be remembered for the great personality he was.
I had reached my last questions concerning conditioning. “Mr. Hall can you tell me if you use steroids on your dogs and how you feed and work them?” Well, the work starts off very slow,” he instantly replied. “Anyone needs at least 90 days and if we are talking about a beginner I would say they need 5 months because they are going to make so many mistakes. I will start out at maybe 5 minutes on the Jenny, then 10 minutes to cool out and back on till I’ve done about 30 minutes worth of 5 minutes work outs which is nothing for a dog. Then in the second month I would work him up to what I call 8 hour days. That means a lot of hand walking and etc…it doesn’t mean that your dog is running the Jenny or treadmill the whole day, but you spend the whole day working that dog by hand walking , rubbing him down and so forth. I use both Jenny and treadmill, but I prefer the Jenny 2 to 1 over treadmill. The reason why I switch from the Jenny to the mill is because a dog will get bored within a certain time and it’s like a new toy for him if you switch to something else. I feed once a day, feeding twice a day is just wasting energy to me. The feeding is of course very important. To the beginner I would say get some Science Diet, or A&F dog food, both I like very much because they will hold more fluid in your dog which he’ll need. I feed like ground round meat raw in my food, also I feed a lot of chicken broth. I broil it with real garlic the broth will help to keep the fluids in the dog which he desperately needs so he will not dehydrate. This way you will have a much stronger dog, with a dehydrated dog you have nothing left but a shell. As far as the steroids go, I can not give away my secrets because that is the winning key. I only share that with the type students that I believe in and that will go on and really serious dogmen. Whenever you use the word steroid, people tend to blow that all out of proportion, like your pumping something into a dog. The only thing I believe in is in getting the dog a little help and therefore I don’t use steroids all the way thru the keep. Also, you have to remember that steroids will lower the dog’s resistance on infection and they can’t fight anything off if they get sick. You really have to know how to use steroids, it’s not something you can play with and it’s not… “Can you be a little more specific about what type of steroids you’re talking about?” “No, I can’t because people would give a fortune just to know what I use.”
Jerry Stine stood up and went for his second cup of coffee. I had only one hour left before my plane would take off and I knew it would take me at least 45 minutes to get to the airport. Bobby assured me there was no reason to worry and that he would get me to the airport in time. I looked at the notes that I made on a little piece of paper during the whole interview and asked Bobby, who was waiting for the next question, about the use of special vitamins or a hormone called Azium and if he didn’t believe that a dog with lots of fluid in his body wouldn’t run hot quicker than a dog with less fluid. He continued to answer the last question first. “They’ll definitely run hot if you don’t have as many hours a day in him, that’s working 8 hours a day, 7 days a week. If he is used to that his body is kind of custom to hard work while being under stress. Then you’ll have to keep enough fuel in him where he can go on for along time. It’s like a race car, when they run out of gas their going to stop and it is the same way with any animal, horse, dog or whatever. The vitamins are something I really believe in but, there again, knowing how to give the right stuff is an art. It takes years of experience of learning what to give and how much to give because if you give too much of anything it can work against you. Vitamins are very, very important, it’s just as important as working a dog to me. About the use of Azium, I’d like to say to the beginner…well, the beginner doesn’t know when to put the Azium in, that’s the sad part about it, it’s a drug they have no knowledge of, when it is at it’s peak or anything. Therefore I wouldn’t suggest anything to a beginner because they would do more harm than they would good, again…using this kind of stuff is a knowledge and not something that you give and it works.” I agreed on his last answer, but couldn’t stop wondering if this answer would be really helpful to any real beginner who was trying to learn. I decided to go and talk to a pharmacist about this subject as soon as I had the chance. There was no more than 50 minutes left to get to the airport when I arrived at my last question to Bobby Hall. We were alone and beside the ever sleeping MS. BOOBS there was no sound disturbing this perfect, beautiful Texas Sunday morning in Houston. “Mr. Hall, final question. Who is you best friend? Once again he looked me straight in the eyes, his face was smiling and without the slightest hesitation he answered me with a voice that was filled with love…… “Jeanette.”
The drive to the airport was fast and only seconds before the plane closed it’s door, I fell into my seat, trying to catch my breath after a run that would have made A.J. Foyt jealous. Far above the world, gliding so effortlessly from one cloud to another I thought about what Bobby Hall had told me and what I had learned from the visit. I thought about what he had said to me one time in his car… “If you want to be successful, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication….there is no way I could have done it any different.” Bobby Hall, a man who has clearly motivated himself in a direction of being what he eventually became… A first class dogman, his award of hard labor.
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!”