Old Family Red Nose - a deeply preserved bloodline

I think it is appropriate to write this article, since a lot of confusion is made around this aspect, especially in social networks, where there is not much reliability of content, most of those "texts" cite sources that will hardly be consulted by the reader, especially due to the language issue (online translators don't translate technical expressions or slang, much less the context), and they also cite broken links that open pages that no longer exist.

Such a fact is an issue. Adding to this problem a personal interpretation of the source quoted by the writer, which will rarely be consulted, will result in a supposedly technical text but without consistent argument.

The next article that will be written after this will deal with the history of the OFRN strain in Brazil, which will be reported citing all sources, without omitting names, either of people or dogs. In the course of writing this text I will leave the hook that will be resumed in the next.

Leaving personal interpretations aside, let's get to the facts about this line, already established in the APBT' s circle since a long time. And this consecration was not something magical that occurred overnight, but rather the work of breeders who sought to select functional dogs within the genetic basis available at that historical moment. But obviously not everyone went the same way.

A widely quoted author on social media texts (and rarely consulted in the original source) is Richard F. Stratton. In 2007 I bought the book The World of The American Pit Bull Terrier, wrote by the same author, having read in addition to the book, several other texts written by him since then. One of these Stratton articles occasionally cited is “The Modern Champion of the Old Family Red Nose Strain”, which tells the story of a specific dog.

Interestingly, many of those who write such texts, in addition to personal interpretation of what Stratton writes, do so in anachronistic manner, just as a way of giving credit to their own opinion. An attempt to give credibility to what is being written, in confidence that the reader will never consult the full text or even a part of it. When Stratton speaks in this article of modern lines, he was referring to a particular group of dogs of the 1920's, 1930's, and 1940's, which is quite clear.

I attached below the link to the full original text, on Stratton's own page, for the reader to consult:


Thus, about the same Stratton's article, and perhaps the key point of the matter, a fairly recurring piece to try to put on the same level as our OFRN ancestors, which invariably were selected by function, every today's dog (remembering that the term "modern" used by Stratton in this article is a term that refers to 5 dogs from the 20's, 30's and 40's), is the following passage:

“There was a time when adherents of the line were frustrated that any dog that showed that coloration was considered a member of the OFRN line. To be considered a member of that strain, the common belief was that Centipede, Lighthouse Vick, Owen's Tanner, Harvey's Red Devil, and Cyclone should be in the pedigree”.

Notice my dear reader, Stratton does not claim that those names mentioned in a dog's pedigree are not enough for the dog to be an authentic OFRN, at any time. In fact he makes no mention of it, actually he says just the opposite (including according with other articles he wrote, which I will quote below): “There was a time when adherents of the line were frustrade that any dog that showed that coloration was considered a member of the OFRN line”. The passage is quite clear, those who were sticking to the reds were frustrated, obviously because so many red dogs were being considered OFRN's, even if they were not. Stratton goes on: "To be considered a member of that strain, the common feeling was that Centipede, Lighthouse Vick, Owen's Tanner, Harvey's Red Devil and Cyclone should be in pedigree". Thus, this fact was a “common feeling”, that is, feeling of those who did not really know the history of the line. Trying to interpret otherwise what the author really meant leads to the disclosure of partial texts mentioned at the beginning. We follow with another excerpt used in dubious texts by social networks writers in an attempt to justify the unfounded thesis that any current dog of any color descends from an OFRN:

“The point I am trying to make is that all of those dogs were bred so much that any of the modern day dogs that show that coloration are bound to have those dogs back in their pedigrees — and so do dogs with other colorations, but they aren't held up as representatives of the strain!"

Now when he quotes "dogs that have been crossed so much", he refers to Centipede, Lighthouse Vick, Owen's Tanner, Harvey's Red Devil, and Cyclone, 5 dogs of the 1920's, 1930's, and 40's, whose "bastard" offspring were mixed with other bloodlines, which mingled into others and so on, so from the early 1900's until the 21st century there was considerable genetic loss along the way (except for a few breeders, by which this line remains to this day - a fact not even mentioned in those dubious texts). An important fact to notice is: Stratton is better known as a writer than as a breeder and if that weren't for the work of a few good breeders to preserve this line, it would be probably extinct. Needless to indicate that the color was a major factor that culminated in the denomination of the line precisely due to its striking red strokes, besides the numerous other qualities above the average dogs of that time, otherwise the term "RED" would be the same way unnecessary.

Awesome Buck

By the way, then it would be very simple through forcing another interpretation of what Stratton wrote, to get a dog from any other line instead of a true OFRN, because according to the same misinterpretation involving 5 dogs in the 1920's, 1930's and 40's have been bred a lot, by the mid 2000's any APBT would be a legitimate OFRN. Of course not. Similarly, it is not an ADBA title or any other title that makes a dog an OFRN. To verify that someone would research to the dog's genealogy, preserved by a very restricted number of serious breeders. Nowadays, to find a good OFRN you have to know the history of the breed and its main breeders very well, in short - you have to know where to find it and pay the price that is worth an authentic Old Family Red Nose .

Furthermore, given such a partial interpretation, we would be trashing William J. Lightner's own work, as will become clear below. Now yes, speaking modernly, with this misinterpretation of what Stratton wrote we would also be throwing away the work of breeders who masterfully kept this fantastic bloodline preserved, such as Dan Gibson for example, D. M. Norrod, John & Linda High, Patty Ballard, Carol Gaines, Kimberly Allison, John Collins, among others and no less famous true guardians of the strain. Breeders unlike others who were not concerned with preserving the OFRN's but with their own personal advancement, went to the opposite way by dedicating their lives to keep the authentic Reds.

Speaking of Dan Gibson, another OFRN guardian, this important OFRN strain's maintainer, through the breeder César Pimenta, Rising Force Kennel, had some of his magnificent products brought to Brazil, such as the missing RFK Pepper of Canchin , probably the last descendant of those Gibson's dogs brought by César to leave us…

Following attached the link to the pedigree below - (but this will be the subject of the next article).

Hook: RFK Pepper of Canchin, grew up and died with the breeder Wagmar de Souza, who also earned him as a gift from friend and also breeder César Pimenta when the dog was a pup. Pepper has notoriously kept all the line's features, as will be commented in the next article, another further proof that the OFRN is a deeply preserved line (of course not by all breeders, instead of it, by a small group), you can not find those reds anywhere. It is not any dog of any color that represents the Old Family Red Noses.


Concluding this first analysis, Stratton never wrote that the * "bastard" offspring out off of the 5 dogs mentioned above, who lived in the 1920's, 30's, and 40's are best suited to be considered representatives of true OFRN's, so let this be very clear.

* This term applies in particular to Centipede, whose owner was a member of a famous band and was always traveling, leaving the dog with other people and not caring that the dog was bred as the "faithful keeper" wanted - in relation to the other dogs, Stratton simply said that they have been bred a lot, without clarifying whether if they were planned breedings or not.


To reinforce my thesis, I will cite another article by the same author which is in line with my analysis of the OFRN's deep preservation to the present day and also in agreement with what Stratton wrote about the OFRN's. This article is “Story of the Old Family Reds”.

The full article is available below for the reader's consultation, but in this particular study I will cite the most relevant excerpts to the analysis:


“Ours is a breed that has a definite mystique. Part of it, no doubt, stems from the fact that it is an old breed and deeply steeped in tradition. Old strains are a particularly fascinating part of this tradition, and the Old Family Red Nose is one of the better-known old strains”.

Clear and transparent, no more comments about it.

Corroborating the correct reasoning, following another excerpt:

“The first big splash made by the red noses was back around 1900 when the great breeder William J. Lightner, utilizing Old Family Red bloodlines, came up with some red-nosed dogs that really made a name for themselves. Now Lightner once told me that he did not breed for that red-nosed coloration. In fact, he did not even like it and he only put up with it because the individual dogs were of such high quality. Eventually Lightner gave up the red-nosed strain when he moved from Louisiana to Colorado, where he came up with a new strain that consisted of small dark-colored dogs with black noses. He had given up on the other strain because they were running too big for his taste and because he didn't like the red noses”.

Look my dear reader that there was great repercussion caused by the Reds because few dogs brought by the hands of a single dogman "made their names by themselves”. Stratton goes on to argue that Lightner has given up on OFRN's because they were developing too fast, and not because they were dogs that had lost their aptitude or failed to perform their function. May this be emphasized once again. Instead of that, they were exceeding his expectations. Interesting to notice, Lightner did not like the color, but it became the trademark of the strain, along with all other qualities by which those dogs became known worldwide, to the point of composing the own expression that named the strain.

Wallace's Bad Red

Likewise in this specific OFRN article, Stratton never wrote about dogs that did not have OFRN in their genealogy (with the exception of Bob Wallace's first squad, a problem that was fixed later with the acquisition of 7 purebred dogs when rescuing the almost extinct line). Stratton also does not claim that the OFRN's were selected solely on the basis of their coat (remember that Lightner did not like the color and he only remained on it because of the quality of the dogs), and even less wrote that would be those “bastard” dogs from the previous article the real OFRN. Stratton would never write something like that as it would go against everything he wrote about Old Family Red Noses. As Stratton wrote, authentic OFRN's were always selected by function, and that is so important to keep cleared as the historical context.

To settle the question definitely, I have selected a truly masterful paragraph to conclude all my expository arguments so far, especially with great respect for the true “guardians” of one of the finest APBT lines ever developed. To assert that any dog of any color descends from the OFRN strain would be a great insult and a tremendous disregard, throwing in common trench relaxed breeders like Stratton himself claimed to be primarily responsible for the near extinction of the strain and breeders who selected the best dogs for years and years of dedication and planning. My dear reader, delight with the cake icing:

“Another breeder who was almost synonymous with the red-nosed strain was Bob Wallace. However, Bob's basic bloodline was not pure Old Family Red Nose. But in the late 40's he was looking for the red-nosed strain in order to make an "outcross." (Bob was a scrupulously careful breeder who planned his breedings years in advance). Unfortunately, he found that the strain was nearly gone, most of it having been ruined by *careless breedings. He managed to obtain seven pure red-noses of high quality whose pedigrees he could authenticate. The strain was subsequently saved for posterity and in the 1950's became the fashionable strain in Pit Bull circles. In fact, it was Bob Wallace himself who wrote an article in 1953 called [There Is No Magic in Red Noses] in which he tried to put a damper on the overly enthusiastic claims being made by some of the admirers of the strain. No more fervent admirer of the Old Family Reds ever lived than Wallace, but he obviously felt that the strain could stand on its own merits”.

* careless breedings are made by careless breeders.

Splendid passage that overthrows any attempt to unworthy the fantastic reds, even the trial to level every single dog today with the OFRN strain. The OFRN line and all its incredible features have been saved for posterity. And I say once more, this rescue job was not a kind of magic, but it was something serious and consistent, accomplished through generations of selfless breeders. We should never allow that job being trivialized by anyone, ever.

Certainly there are good OFRN's today as there were in the old days, as well as there are amazing dogs to be found in kennels that traditionally preserve dogs with all ancestral characteristics, however it is not anywhere you can find them, especially when you don't know where to seek.

Rodrigo Di Luca


* While researching to compose the next article, with grateful satisfaction I've found an article written by E. L. Mullins, published at the old Rising Force Kennel site, with conclusion by Tatiana Pimenta, César Pimenta breeder's wife, wich proves previuos' article information about the deep preservation of the Old Family Reds, wich I transcribe below:


"First of all, this is not a review. I can not possibly say anything concerning the "Old Family Red Nose" dogs that has not already been repeated a hundred times before. This, therefore, is simply another record of what history has already given us and a re-introduction to the very significant part of the history of the American Pit Bull Terrier.

When we discuss the origin of the "Old Family Red Nose" dogs, we are really discussing the original dogs bred by such men as William J. Lightner and Con Feeley. It was around 1914-1916 that Red Howell, Al Dickson and Joe Peace had dogs from the first litters off of Lightner's "Vick" and Lightner's "Pansy". When the First World War came along, Joe Peace and Al Dickson were drafted and Red Howell was left with the dogs. Red Howell sold some of the dogs, however, most of the dogs he placed in capable and reliable hands of those he knew he could trust. During this time they were known as just food pit dogs. The name "Red Nose", at the time, had never been used to describe a particular line of dogs. It would be Dan McCoy who would later be credited as the first man to coin the phrase, "Old Family Red Nose" dogs to describe and distinguish these dogs as an individual line or strain of the American Pit Bull Terrier. History later gave us the litter of Ferguson's "Centipede", Hemphill's "Golddust", Morris' "Pinkie", and Howell's "Banjo", as well as their close relative, William's "Cyclone".

Robert H. (Bob) Hemphill, along with Red Howell, went to the kennel of Harvey and Owens in Amarillo, Texas and together they purchased "Golddust". "Golddust", of course, later went to Harry Clark and then to D.A. McClintock, where he died. Earl Tudor obtained "Centipede". "Centipede" was then loaned to Red Howell. Later, Earl Tudor sold "Centipede" to Dave Ferguson. Earl Tudor was also the man who owned the dog called "Cyclone" and eventually sold him to Jim Williams's. It is felt that if Earl Tudor and Red Howell had not won such great battles with these dogs mentioned above, as well as others, that made this particular line so popular. This was the first time you really began to hear about "Red Nose" dogs as a strain.

Now, not all of the offspring were whelped "Red Nose" from this stock. Some people still feel that the blood in the Con Feeley dogs was much more "Red Nose" then that of the Lightner dogs. It is said W.C. (Bill) Roper bred some of the best "Red Nose" dogs, sent to him by Jim Williams and Bob Wallace. I.D. Cole of Arizona also bred some extremely high caliber dogs, bred down from Slattery's "Mike" and William's "Blade". I.D. Cole also owned Cole's (Fulkerson's) "Spook", a direct grandson of the old Lightner's "Spook".

However, the "Red Nose" dogs were never controlled by any one individual or select group of individuals. Many of the "Red Nose" dogs were produced through different crosses. In fact, there were many breeders and fanciers of the "Old Family Red Nose" dogs. There were men such as W.J. Lightner, Con Feeley, J.P. Colby, D.A. McClintock, Dan McCoy, Harvey and Owens, Ferguson, Ferrel, Conklin, Anderson, Bourgeous, Plemmons, Dickenson, Hanson, Williams, Roberts, Cole, Leo Kinard, Ed Crenshaw, Joe Beal, Jake Wilder, just to name a few. However, two of the leading breeders into the late 1960's and the man more often associated with the "Old Family Red Nose" dogs were Robert H. (Bob) Hemphill Jr. and Robert Forster (Bob) Wallace. Robert Hemphill had been friends with Earl Tudor as early as 1914. Hemphill became personally interested in the Lightner dogs and in the 1920's began an extensive search to locate and obtain high caliber dogs from this line.

It was Dan McCoy who received word of the Frenchman who lived in Louisiana by the name of Bourgeous. Bourgeous had received several dogs directly from Mr. William Lightner and for many years had bred and raised these dogs strictly for his own personal satisfaction. Bourgeous was extremely successful in preserving the "Red Nose" strain. Robert Hemphill went with Dan McCoy to Louisiana and aided by Gaboon Trahan, they purchased several dogs from Bougeous. Hemphill's kept only the highest caliber of these "Red Nose" dogs and began to form his foundation stock from them. Hemphill's early advertisements reflect that he had been raising "Old Family Red Nose" dogs since 1927. Throughout his life, Robert Hemphill remained dedicated to the breed and faithful to the "Old Family Red Nose" line. Old advertisements throughout his life reflected his great devotion to keeping the line pure. Until 1966 he advertised strictly "Old Family Red Nose" dogs. After that time, his ads began to reflect the adage of 1/8th to 1/16th "Dibo" breeding.

Concerning the Lightner dogs, some fanciers and under the false assumption that W.J. Lightner bred only "Red Nose" dogs because of his overwhelming association with them. Those who have really done their homework know that this is not the case at all. He also raised great blacks and dark colored dogs as well. The pinnacle of Lightner's success as a breeder is demonstrated through two dogs; Hall's "Searcy Jeff", owned through time by Jim Searcy, Bob Hemphill and Dr. Hall and then Bob Wallace, was reputed as being the best of the "Red Nose" blood that could ever be bred. The second dog was "Colorado Imp", owned by Jeff Runyon and said to be the best of the black and/or dark blood that could ever be bred. Both of these dogs being bred from the same basic foundation dogs of the same man, William J. Lightner. When these two dogs met each other at Medicine Park, Oklahoma in 1937, they proved William J. Lightner to be one of the greatest breeders of all time. After this meeting, Bob Wallace told Hemphill that he was going to buy this dog, "Searcy Jeff", even if it costs him a thousand dollars! Later, in 1937, when Hemphill left that part of the country, he divided up the dogs with Red Howell and Dr. Hall. Dr. Hall received "Searcy Jeff" and Bob Wallace did eventually buy "Jeff" from him. Also in 1937, Robert Hemphill sent a young dog back to William Lightner, that dog now appears in many of the "Old Family Red Nose" line of today, that dog is known as Lightner's Pumpkin.

Bob Wallace is also remembered in history for his association and great success with "Old Family Red Nose" dogs. However, there are two main misconceptions concerning Mr. Wallace that should be cleared up at this point. One is that Hemphill and Wallace were partners. They were not. They both shared a deep respect of the "Red Nose" dogs and were both dedicated to keeping the line pure. They were both successful breeders in keeping the line pure, strong and beautiful. They even shared common breeding and interbred their dogs within each other's line, but they were not partners.

At the age of thirteen, Bob Wallace met and became friends with the "Old Timer", Ben Flannery. Throughout his teens, Bob Wallace owned many outstanding Bulldogs. He later obtained dogs from bloodlines of Dugan's "Pat". The second misconception concerning Bob Wallace was that he bred primarily "Red Nose" dogs. His original was quiet variable in color and were extremely talented dogs. Though these dogs did not show it, they carried a large amount of the "Red Nose" blood. One of the first foundation females of Bob Wallace was the famous Shipley's "Penny". Shipley's "Penny" was a direct descendant of the old Corcoran dogs. Wallace had always considered Corcoran to be one of the great breeders of all time. Other great dogs that are considered part of the foundation of the Wallace dogs were ones such as, Ferguson's "Centipede", Hall's "Searcy Jeff" and the famous Wallace's "Tony". "Tony" was said to be Wallace's' pride and joy. Wallace bred Shipley's "Penny" to "Centipede" and produced these three great dogs, "Stinger" "Scorpion" and "Spider". He later bred "Searcy Jeff" to "Spider" and produced Wallace's "Madam Queen". When he bred "Madam Queen" to "Tony" he produced the ever-famous Wallace's "King Cotton". Other famous dogs appear in many of the popular "Old Family Red Nose" dogs of modern times are Wallace's "Red Rustler", "Red Rock" and "Red Rube", as well as the famous producing female Wallace's "Red Raven".

The old advertisements of Bob Wallace during the 1940's clearly reflect the breeding and maintenance of the old Corcoran and Lightner Line of dogs. Most of the advertisements were stated in bold print. During the 1940's Bob Wallace began to look "Red Nose" dogs to outcross his own with. At this time he felt that his own dogs were getting as tight as could be productively bred. When he began his search he found that the pure "Old Family Red Nose" dogs were almost extinct. Most of the lines were ruined or contaminated through careless breeding. However, he was finally able to locate and obtain seven pure "Red Nose" dogs of high caliber, whose pedigree he could authenticate.

Bob Wallace was a man of character and honesty and often stated that there is no "magic" to the "Old Family Red Nose" dogs, that they are just one good line of many. The "Red Nose" dogs have the intelligence, talent and personality to stand on their own merit. Bob Wallace has gone down in history as one of the greatest breeders of his ear. Over the years as a breeder, Bob Wallace was known to sell less than a dozen dogs. He stated that he never sold dogs as a matter of personal principle. The results of his dedication to the breed is still apparent and appreciated in the modern day American Pit Bull Terrier.

This has been a short narrative introduction to the "Old Family Red Nose" dogs and few of the men dedicated to their preservation. It is by far complete or conclusive. Their significance cannot be finalized in a few short paragraphs. Entire volumes could be written on the "Old Family Red Nose" dogs and their place in the history of the American pit Bull Terrier".

As a strain, the Old Family Reds are the most traditional line you can find today. Here, at the Rising Force Kennel, you can get the most traditional OFRN's available in the world, from selected dams by one of the most respected american breeders. Either because of its unusual tenacity or because some of main breeders of APBT history contributed to its development, it still stands today to what was said by Shakespeare almost five centuries ago:

"That island of England breeds very valiant creatures".

Gibson's Hemphill Ono and RFK Lina


Touched By Fire - Richard F. Stratton

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. Similarly, there is much controversy about the grand old red nosed dogs. And like geniuses, the Old Family 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. The term Old Family Red Nose refers to a particular family of dogs that was especially successful during the 40s, 50s, and 60s. They came from the old Lightner strain 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 40's.

It was my privilege to know William J. Lightner and his wife, Mary, back in the 40s and 50s. I just wish I had known what questions to ask them. 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 me, I was not aware of what high regard their dogs were held until I had been in the military and gotten to know a lot of the dog men across the country. Notables such as Bob Wallace, Bob Hemphill, Bert Clouse, and Leo Kinard, to mention just a few, were quite impressed that I knew Bill Lightner.

I wish I had quizzed Lightner about the later dogs, but I surmised 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 the first World War, as the 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 breedings 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 imagine 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.

Patrick's Tombstone

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 perpetuate 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 hard biting 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. Of course, all papers can be faked, but a dog of this line should trace back to Harvey's Red Devil and Lightner's Vick some place.

I can talk about the Old Family Red Nose dogs with some authority, as I knew so many of the people associated with them. But I can also do so objectively, for my present lot of dogs doesn't have a red nose among them. Nevertheless, the blood of those dogs runs in their veins. Wallace's Bad Red is back there. Most of my dogs are down from Grand Champion Hope, who was sired by the immortal Tombstone. Most of the dogs that I have had turn out well for me were down from Tombstone. So that means I have gotten away from the original OFRN dogs, right? Well, not exactly. You see, Tombstone was mostly OFRN breeding, top and bottom. The immortal Black Widow, for example, was three quarters OFRN, even though she herself was black in coloration. And she was Tombstone's paternal grand dam, while his mother was very heavy red nose.

Tombstone's influence has been mighty all across the country, and this is all the more remarkable when it is considered how few times he was bred as compared to so many other vaunted sires. Recently some fine dog men who were natives of Mexico brought a descendent of Tombstone's for me to see. I was thunderstruck when they got the dog out of the van. Before my eyes was an absolute reincarnation of the Old Family Red Nose dogs I had seen back in Wallace's place (and those of other dog men, too) back in the 50s. The dog was Champion Boiler, a three-time winner, and when I saw video tapes of his matches, I was all the more enchanted. His style was exactly that of the old dogs. Take them where they want to go, but keep the mouth from doing any damage. Wear them down, all the while laying on damage, a bit at a time. And Boiler had exactly the same intelligence and attitude of the old dogs. The visit was so striking for me that it inspired this article.

I am frequently asked about the OFRN dogs. A lot of people want a pure dog of that strain. Well, the original strain was an amalgamation of several lines, including Colby (from Tige's sire, among other sources), so I often am overly literal by saying that I don't know of any pure lines left. But the fact is that these dogs are still around. There are still breeders that specialize in them. The challenge is to find the ones which are quality bred.

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." I'm like Lightner in that I didn't like the looks of them when I first saw them, but some of Bob's enthusiasm rubbed off on me. 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 big of magical fire.


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