THE TRUTH ABOUT A FEW OLD STRAINS BY RICHARD STRATTON


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Earl Tudor

I only met Tudor once, and I was only nineteen, while he was in late middle age at that time. However, he was still matching dogs, as he had a dog entered at a convention. He had a certain charisma, as he had a definite following among the younger dog men and considerable respect among the older ones. And he knew a lot about dogs, too, and he had proven that many times. He had a great influence on the future generation, as he didn’t have any children himself, so he was a father figure to such people as Don Mayfield, Jimmy Wimberley, Danny Burton, and Don Maloney. Howard Heinzl’s idol was John P. Colby, but he was good friends with Tudor, and he liked him enough that Tudor got a lot of good dogs—including Dibo—from Howard. However, Tudor’s interest was not in the breeding of the dogs. He was more of an action man than a breeder. The pedigrees didn’t fascinate him all that much. “Good dogs are where you find them,” was one of his favorite sayings, as he was well aware that good and bad dogs came from all strains and all types of breedings. He loved the dogs though, and he bred to the ones he liked. He always said that he looked at the pedigrees after he bred the dogs. That was his way of saying that there was no magic in a great pedigree. But a lot of great dogs passed through Tudor’s hands, so he made breedings to a lot of them, and he managed to produce his share of good ones. That was because he had a great eye for a good dog and what his qualities were. But he never established a true line. He always just had a bunch of good dogs, and he made occasional breedings, and he did sell dogs, both pups and grown dogs. A lot of good dog men got started with “Earl’s dogs,” but I don’t think any of them ever deluded themselves with the idea that the Tudor line was a distinct line unto itself. The reason Earl produced so many good dogs was that some of the best dogs in the country came through his yard. And he bred best to best. The idea of breeding best to best is fine, but there is a flaw in it. If the breeding of the animals is not good, you are going to get a good dose of filial degeneration. That term simply means that any breeding is going to produce progeny that revert back to the average of the ancestry. But poorly bred dogs do occasionally turn out to be great ones. And why not? More of those breedings are made than the carefully planned out ones!

Maurice Carver

Like Earl Tudor, Carver was a charismatic fellow. I got to meet him when he was a newcomer to the dog hobby, although he was already into matching dogs. I only met him one time, at a convention put on by J. T. Collier in Columbia, Tennessee. He was probably only thirty-some years old at the time, and I was twenty. Bob Hemphill was trying to talk Carver into taking up the breeding of dogs, and Maurice responded that he simply didn’t have the patience for the pups to grow up so that he could try them out. But he was destined to become a famous breeder, but not everyone knows the full story. The secret to Carver’s success was that he had an uncanny eye for a good pit dog. He was the equal of Tudor in that regard, but, unlike Tudor, he also was an avid pedigree devotee, and he made it a practice to verify the accuracy of pedigrees. Hence, he came up with a pretty good line of dogs, and that would be something of an understatement. The Joker here is that he eventually became something of a dog broker. That is, he made a little extra cash by selling dogs—not just puppies, but grown dogs. For his standard operation to work, he had to know a lot of dog men and to be able to evaluate good dogs, and that was exactly the case with him. He knew a lot of dog men, and he knew their dogs and which ones were the good ones. Whenever a guy was down on his luck and needed a few bucks, Carver was there to pay a modest price for a good dog, and he added it to his inventory. He had a lot of dogs going out, so most didn’t stay for long in his kennels. Now, there was no chicanery here. Carver never misrepresented the dogs, for you got no pedigree from him. To the people getting the dogs, though, they were Carver dogs, and they had a high degree of gameness—and why not? Carver was as good a dog scout as professional scouts are in the sporting world. Perhaps better. That is not to say that the dogs Carver bred himself were not good ones, for they certainly were. It was just that he never had enough dogs to keep up with the demand. Besides, it is much more profitable to buy dogs cheap and sell them high—and that is what he was doing most of the time. None of this is intended as a knock on Carver, as he was a fine dog man. This is simply a matter of explaining a problem. It is really hard to know which Carver dogs were really dogs he bred and which were the “brokered” dogs. That’s all right; they’re too far back in the pedigree to matter now anyway. My purpose is to inject a little reality into the discussions about old time lines. (To me, of course, these are not “old-time” lines, but I realize that they are to all you younger dog men out there.) Some of the best dogs came down from Carver, but we don’t know the breeding on a lot of them. And those that have the breeding back of them may be flying false colors. It’s hard to know because sometimes Carver would relent and give the breeding on a dog to a person he considered special. Other pedigrees are the results of dog men that researched out the dog’s breeding, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. The lesson to be taken away here is that the Carver dogs were among the best, but he also sold dogs that were not his breeding, so it becomes difficult to separate the whimsy from the whamsy here! It is pretty much an academic question now anyway, as the dogs are so far back in any pedigree that their breeding doesn’t have a lot of influence on today’s dogs. The knowledge gives us something of an asterisk on the history of the different lines.

Frauds

People who have read my books know that I don’t badmouth any dog men of the past or the present. However, there was a particular dog man that I won’t name who made a good living selling dogs all over the country and all over the world. He had a couple of high profile dogs in his stable of dogs, so his dogs were in high demand. The demand was so great that he couldn’t keep up with it. With Carver’s example before him, he shipped “ringers,” dogs that he had hung paper on. I remember once that he showed me how easy it was to put any kind of registration on a dog, whatever the registry—including AKC and the British Kennel Club. The main point here is that people were getting dogs that they thought were down from some great dog, but they were no such thing. This particular person got dogs as cheap as he could—sometimes even out of the dog pound—and shipped them off. The difference between this person and Carver is that Carver never tried to fool anyone as to the breeding of the dogs he was sending out. If you got a dog from his strain, you got a registration, and you could send for a pedigree. The other difference was that Carver made sure that the dogs he sent out were of top quality, and his guarantee was good. In addition, his prices were reasonable, whereas the other unnamed person had no compunction about charging outrageous prices for short-bred dogs—or for dogs straight out of the dog pound.

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The purpose of this article has merely been to shed a little extra light on the history of the breed. Earl Tudor was a great dog men, and some great dogs have come down from him. However, he didn’t take pedigrees seriously, and he wasn’t above registering two litters alike, just to save on registration fees. Carver also was a great dog man, and he may have sent out more great dogs than any other single breeder—but they weren’t all his! That doesn’t distract from his reputation. It just puts it in perspective. And that’s been the entire purpose of this article to provide some perspective and little grist for the mill of those who may attempt future histories of the breed

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