Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Much Maligned Hancocks

Few bloodlines inspire as much admiration or as much cursing or snorts of derision as the working horse line of Joe Hancock horses. Depending on what side of the fence you sit on, they are either the epitome of the working horse world or they are nothing but a bunch of big, coarsely-made broncs.


A Hancock is NOT always what they seem. Joe Hancock sired a relatively uniform set of get, big, with plenty of bone and plenty of speed...and then the family branched.


The only place I know to make any sense of this is in the beginning, with old Joe himself.


I'm sure that almost everyone has heard the stories, turned legand, some turned urban myth about Joe Hancock. It is true, he was a hair's breath away from being gelded. It is also true that he has draft blood...the consistent bone, feet and size we see on most Hancock bred horses today is no accident. On the top, Joe Hancock is a son of John Wilkins, who is a son of none other than Peter McCue. But Joe got a good dose of speed from his bottom side too. The Mundell Mare, his maternal grand-dam was also the dam of a noted sprinter in the early 1900's, named Jeff. The Mundell Mare was bred to a fine riding-type Percheron. Most of us think of modern Percherons, but it is told with authority, that this particular Percheron was Ralph Wilson's personal riding horse, used to work cattle and even match raced. I have always found it interesting and petty, that people make such a big deal about the 1/4 draft blood that Joe Hancock had when it is pretty obvious in some other founding stallions were not of the purist blood either....


Old Fred being the first one who comes to my mind. His breeding is unknown and he was origionally used as a freight horse. There is little except draft blood that will put this kind of size and bone on any horse. A smidgeon is all it takes.


But anyway, Joe Hancock was sent to race, and race he did. He was unbeatable. In his recorded race history, he was only beat one time at the 1/2 mile. His advantage was his ability to break so hard from the starting line. Those tremendous hips and powerful loin(thanks to his draft grand-daddy) rocketed him from stop to all out in one huge push. This is the trait that probably propelled the Hancocks from the race track to the arena. That and their size. Joe Hancock's size is a bit debated. Some say he was a solid 16H, but most agree he was probably between 15.2-15.3H. That is still a pretty good sized horse in my book.
Another hot topic is the look of the Hancocks. Joe Hancock himself was a good looking individual. It's true, that as he matured he thickened up and that is something we see in a lot of Hancock bred horses. The one's I have been around, keep right on growing and maturing until they are 6 to 8 years of age. That is pretty late by modern standards, now that most people want to see a fully developed 3y/o. There are several types of Hancock horse out there now as depicted by the three stallions I have pictured below. All are heavily in-bred and line-bred Joe Hancock.
I think if all Hancocks looked like this stallion, people would find little to fault them on...


But most look like this stallion...

Sadly, we also see this type...
Now, one thing I really want to point out...the red roan stallion, Drew's Hancock and the heavy blue roan stallion, Blue Apache Hancock are in fact...3/4 brothers. They have the same sire and their dams were sired by the same sire. Pretty interesting huh??

Blue Apache Hancock was featured on FUGLY(my introduction to that forum and not a pleasant experience) as everything that is wrong with foundation breeding. I have to say, the Hancock bred horses we have are bred the exact same way that his owner crosses bloodlines, and I don't think I have ever rode more athletic or intelligent horses. They are big, stout, fast and incredibly easy to train. Which is where I think a lot of people get into trouble with the Hancocks. But that is a discussion for the next post.

15 comments:

Adventures Of A Horse Crazed Mind said...

Another great bloodline post. Personally, I am not a big fan of Hancocks for my personal riding horse, but that is just based on my personal experience with them and with trends in type I see of Hancock bred horses for sale. The Hancocks I've known have always reminded me of Appys in personality, (I am not an Appy fan either (sorry) but that is not to say I dont RESPECT an Appy or a Hancock horse- I just like a different type!) I think the Hancocks I've known are all very tough, build sound, hard working, gritty horses...which is great but doesnt always make them IMHO, "pretty" nor easy to ride, train, or work with. Stubborn, big buckers, and hard headed, ranch type horses that can get a job done. Like most "working" animals I dont think that the qualities that make them tough make them easy for beginners/recreational riders.

Most Hancocks I've seen tend to be linebred Hancock too! I rarely see Hancock bred horses with only a little bit thrown in there. Also, I wouldnt EVER turn my nose up to see a big foot or bone on a QH, no matter where it comes from!- we could use a TON more of it!!!

Andrea said...

My brother in law really wants a hancock bred horse. he loves them. I personally think that the blue roan would look a lot like the red roan if it was in "shape". It's bone is a bit bigger, but if that horse had more muscle and was used as a heading horse, DANG!!!

Yeah, Fugly is dumb. Well, sometimes. I like foundation bred horses. And who cares what she thinks about them, really?? LOL!! I am with ya on them being big, stout, fast and easy to train!!

ranchette said...

I'm learning alot about QH breeding. Interesting to learn and see the photos of the horses that "started it all" so to speak.

Melanie said...

Ahhhh...the infamous Hancock horses...lol!!! Aren't they the ones that tend to be more broncy?? I remember someone telling me that a certain QH line likes to buck....

SunnySD said...

Great post!

You know, it's funny. You say Hancock in a room full of QH people, and people start talking about how broncy they are to break out, and how great they are to work on once you're out of intensive care! *grin*

Seriously though, I know an older gentleman who had a lovely Hancock bred gelding probably about 13 or so. Stocky, a bit broad, with a not completely unattractive head.

He wasn't the most comfortably gaited. BUT... this was a horse with a move-out walk that left the pack in the dirt, for all his legs were'nt overly long. He'd ride the same alone as in company - no complaints. He'd work cows, pack a kid, carry a flag in a parade, whatever was asked, all with a prick-eared attitude. He bucked on cold mornings (I was told) until he was about 5, and then he grew up. No more buck, just good sense.

So the guys got to razzing the guy who owned him about not breaking out colts anymore, and wasn't his gelding getting a bit slow & long in the tooth - you know how men do. And he sold his good gelding.

He's spent the last four years going through horses trying to find one to match him.

Don't know if the gelding was typical of the Hancocks or not, but he was definitely a good little horse.

Danielle Michelle said...

I have been impressed with the Hancock line, but agree with your comments. I have found conformation wise they occasionally look a lot better the further down the line, and close line breeding often causes more issues. But not always.

It's just one of those hot topics isn't it?

Andrea said...

One funny thing that my hubby said after I read this, is that this well known bucking horse breeder uses the Hancock line for his bucking stock!! LOL!!!

Oh and I thought of you when I saw and read this!!
http://www.hautecowgirl.blogspot.com/

ezra_pandora said...

I hate to say, but I'd definitely pick out that big drafty looking stallion you said was unfortunate looking :) I like big drafty looking horses :)

kdwhorses said...

Great post! We own a double breed Hancock~"Roo"~our red roan, hubby's day working horse. I will tell you from personal experience that horse has ALOT of heart. He is a massive hunk of muscle, nice build. Yes he is alittle stubborn, but will give you 110 % every time on him. You can day work off him for 12-15 hour days, multiple days in a row and he is the same at the last day as he was at the first. He is also the FASTEST horse we have ever owned. To this day and we have had him almost 3 years, have never been able to open him all the way up. His motor is huge! He is a coming 10 year old now. We have throughly enjoyed him. He is such a loving horse too, I've heard alot about the buck and how they are "mean". That couldn't be the furtherest from the truth with this horse.
His papers are as follows:
Sire~Berts Boy Hancock, Dam~Little Lady Hancock.
On the Sire's side~Bar Talent, Katie Kitten Hancock, Easter Talent, Frosty Doodle, Blue Boy Hancock, Kitty Kid Hancock.
On the Dams side~Blue Boy Hancock, Joes Lady Hancock, Quarter Hancock, Eddie 17, Joe Buck Hancock and Squaw Lady Hancock.

Vaquerogirl said...

I have always liked the Hancock horses. They are super athletic. Let me also say that the Percheron Horses are heavily crossed with Arabian bloodlines way back in the crusades, that is why they are the 'hottest' of the Drafty's, and also have the most sense and style. I think that shows in the Hancock intelligence.

Mikey said...

I like those drafty boys like Blue up there. But that's just me.
The only 2 cents I have to add is that I'd always heard Hancocks could be bad buckers. If they were a good working horse, they were fantastic, but if they liked to buck, they'd dirt a person every time.
Just what I hear. No personal experience.

Callie said...

Interesting post. Most things experienced on Fugly are unpleasant.LOL, Anyway very informative post.

Train Wreck said...

Beautiful Red roan. Very Large dafty looking blue. Maybe the One on the bottom is just a bad perspective? Odd how some foals come out. Registered quality breeding, comes out looking nothing you would expect. Then you get a great looking horse, that is grade? I am glad we don't breed for a living. Great post as usual BEC.

mugwump said...

I have talked dealt with Hancocks in my life. For the super fast, knock-em-out- cookie cutter training that has to be done for current cow horse show animals they rarely work.
Which would have something to do with their modern day reputation.
I notice ropers tend to love them. But it seems ropers will take years to hone their horses, so it makes sense.
A ten-year-old Hancock bred ranch gelding? I'm there. A three-year-old Hancock filly who's tossed her green owner over the rail at her boarding stable? God save me.

Luv my Joe Hancocks said...
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