When talking to somebody who owns a pit bull terrier, it is unavoidable that the subject of pedigrees come up. Pedigrees make up a very important aspect of breeding any type of animals, but especially so with high performance animals such as pit bull terriers. When it comes to breeding and raising puppies into full grown, healthy dogs, some people seem to have more success that others. Anyone who has experience in the field will tell you that it takes a lot of time, money and patience along with plenty of common sense before any good results will come off. Unmistakably, Gary J. Hammonds from Texas is one of the very few that can look back at a very successful career, breeding a high percentage of good dogs. Some of the better known dogs that he bred are such as Frits Jansen’s Champion Spike, which turned out to be one of the best producing dogs in Europe. Ronnie Anderson’s Champion Spade, Champion Smiley and Champion Goose. But the dog that Gary gained the most fame with is, without any doubt, the Rufus dog who proved to be one of the best producing male dogs in the World. Gary is known to be a very scientific breeder and is most famous for his Alligator line of dogs which are still playing an important role in the breeding program of many serious breeders around the world. During my trip through North Texas, I decided to look him up and ask him about his experience on the subject of breeding dogs. Upon arriving he spontaneously agreed on doing an interview. While Gary was finishing his last preparations for the weight pull of the following day, I started to ask him the next question:
Gary, why have you chosen to breed the Alligator bloodline?
Years ago, I had access to a bunch of dogs and I had mainly Bruno/Heinzl dogs. I could have taken Bullyson and good Corvino bred dogs, but I've seen the Alligator stuff and really liked what I saw. The main thing that I liked so much about these dogs; Soko, Renee and Alligator was that they were smart dogs, they were hard to hurt, and they were real game dogs. This was 10 or 15 years ago. The sire and bitch to these dogs were not really impressive, they were Nig and Satin Lady, but together they certainly produced some good dogs. I didn't like either of them as individuals, but they sure produced. At this moment, I have about one hundred and ten dogs and most are bred from this bloodline.
Some people that I have spoken to told me that Nig was a cur. What do you think about this?
I've heard the same thing. I don't know if it was true. But, too many people tell the same story that it had to be true. See, Nig was one of the last of the Tudor stuff. Nig was heavy Jeff and Baby breeding, so when you got down to that end and you wanted to breed to that stuff you were pretty much limited and Nig was, I suppose, the best producer of them all.
How did you get started with these dogs?
When I was 3 years old, I had a Bulldog that saved my life. He pulled me out of a bar ditch that was flooding and without that dog, I would have drowned. He was not a full blooded top line Pit Bull, but he was ¾ pit and ¼ farm dog. He thought he was 100% Bulldog and looked like it too. He would jump on anything. His name was Tipp. That’s how I got started with Pit Bulls and I have had a love affair with them ever since.
How do you feel about heavy inbreeding?
I sure like inbreeding. It's a tool that if you take it a generation or two far you will lose what you are inbreeding for. Those types, those characteristics, that are linked with inbreeding, many times, are lost due to too heavy inbreeding.
What do you do to prevent this from happening?
With every generation, you take a hard look at what you've got and you decide if the individuals from that generation are good enough to breed back to the previous generation, like; father to daughter, mother to son, or whatever and if you can't justify it then you don't need to carry it on any further. Although, you could very easily cut-cross in that generation, or even introduce a catalyst blood to that family of dogs to keep it vigorous. Sometimes that’s the only thing you can do.
What’s the catalyst factor in your breeding program?
I've used Bullyson and Bruno/Heinzl as the catalyst and with good results. Right now, I've got a little stud dog that is out of the Nigerino type stuff. Jolie Blond bred to Mitzie and I think that's going to be a good catalyst along with the Ralph dog that I have. He is down from Pedro. I think either of these can be good catalyst blood. Pedro is from that Rascal type breeding and he was owned by Garner.
What is the main quality you are looking for in a stud dog?
An ability to reproduce. The qualities that a dog has to have in today’s environment, whether it's pit environment, catch dog, weight pull dog or whatever. The qualities I breed for are gameness and intelligence, a good example is Gary and Christi, Athens and Saigon. Saigon is a tremendous weight pull dog and comes from a good family of dogs, he is straight out of my stuff. But, you don't see many of my dogs that are good weight pull dogs.
There is a lot of growing interest in breeding dogs for weight pulling, etc. It seems that most of these people are not interested in gameness and other traditional qualities.
No, they aren't. But of course there are a lot that are just pulling dogs. For instance, a lot of weight pull dogs are straight stifled UKC type dogs that would have a hard time with the more fighting type dog whether it be a good fighting dog or not. At the APBA Nationals, I see more and more of the pull dogs that look like the old fighting dogs with the roached back and long legs.
Do you make a distinction between a fighting dog and a stud dog?
In my opinion, what you need in a stud dog, whether he is a fighting dog or not is a dog that can reproduce. Sound, genetic structure both between the ears and in the heart, and also, the body has to be sound. Too many times people lose track of this and they breed to Champion so and so or Grand Champion, etc., but because of their title, it doesn't mean they will be able to produce that type of dog. So, what I look for in a stud dog is a relatively tight genetic pool, and a family rather than two or three good individuals.
But that means you have to by pedigrees and you know as well as I do there are a lot of dogs out there with fake pedigrees on them!
Yes, I use pedigrees, a great deal, but it's not just what you see on paper. Like the dogs I've messed with, I've seen their grand-parents first hand, as well as the parents and other similar bred individuals and I've used those dogs instead of the dogs from another part of the country that I was not sure about the pedigree.
About pedigrees. Practically all of your dogs go back to Maurice Carver stuff. There are a lot of rumors about him mixing up pedigrees when he was still alive. Since you work a great deal with pedigrees, do you believe to know the true ancestry of your dogs when it goes back to Satin Lady, for instance?
I believe so, and I'll tell you why. It was too screwed up of a breeding, as far as on paper, not to be the truth. If you look at Satin Lady, she was a scatter bred bitch out of Ironhead and Black Beauty. She was a big black bitch and I asked Maurice about it on one of my visits to his place. I asked him; “Maurice why did you make a breeding like that?” And he said, “Well son, I tell you, I thought it would be good.” Maurice had a way of mixing blood on papers and pedigrees and whatever it took to make it work. I think that part of the reason for Maurice putting out bogus pedigrees was to keep the secret to himself. I sincerely believe that the pedigrees on the dogs that I use to be right. If they're not, it's too late to worry about it anyway because I'm 3 or 4 generations away from what Maurice owned or sold to old man Williams, like the Satin Lady bitch and others, but I will say this, in the seventies Maurice Carver was the best breeder in the country. He bred more dogs in those years, first class dogs, than any other 5 top breeders in the country. But, as far as the pedigree thing, I really sincerely believe it's no more than Maurice's way of keeping his secrets secret. He would sell you the cake, but keep the recipe.
What about your Howard Heinzl dogs?
They were certainly good dogs but, and I hate to say this, they lost a lot of what they were famous for in the sixties and seventies. It is no fault of Howard because he bred with some real good dogs with nice genetic backgrounds and put it together the way it was suppose to be. I think he lived and bred those dogs just too tight and they played out. It would click if you would cross it, but Heinzl kept it pure. The stuff he used before and what I liked so much was line bred; 50/50 Colby/Dibo. That combination was hard to beat. My Taffy bitch was one of those combinations. She was a hell of a dog and I saw some more that were bred the same way, that would make the owner proud. She was a double Musty bred dog off Bat and Twiggy.
Texas is a very big state with an awful lot of Bulldogs and a great number of dog men. Some claim the best dogs and breeders are in Texas. Do you agree with this?
I think we have a tremendous base in Texas because there have been a great deal of breedings between the top dog men from Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana and to a lesser degree in Mexico. When you have a situation like this and the competition of the last 40 or 50 years right here in Texas between top dog men, it's only logical that you come up with some top notch bulldogs and dog men. Also, another thing that has made the Texas dogs so good is that several breeders from here went out to buy dogs from Corvino, Heinzl, Tudor, Kinard and Boudreaux. All these very good bloodlines were put together so it's just the situation that arose. I'm sure at some time in history, there will be another spot in the world the dogs will be just as good as the dogs in Texas are right now, but they really have to do their work to get there.
PART TWO: GARY J. HAMMONDS
If you were to breed a bitch outside your own yard, which male would you pick?
Right now, I'm picking the Macho dog up from Gary. He comes from Rick Burns and he is a Thibodeaux bred dog. This man bred some very good dogs down from the Clint stuff and that Stompanato blood that he had. I sure like what Macho produces. There are several good stud dogs around the country that I'm sure he wouldn’t be afraid to breed to. One of them is a little dog here in Dallas; the Jap dog. He is a Grand Champion and goes back to some of my blood that I used several years ago. He should be a good producer. Two other good ones are the Wino dog in the North East, and Greenwood’s Oscar in the North West. Patch Eyed Pete would be worth a gamble too. There are a few others I would like to try, but I probably will not for the simple fact that I've got several dogs on my yard that I like very much.
Who would you describe as being the best breeders in the country?
I can think of a few that I consider very good breeders. Pat Patrick would of course be one of the better breeders. He is a real scientific breeder and has proven himself in the fact that he probably produced as many good dogs as anybody. There are a hundred people who breed some good dogs, and especially in Texas you have a great number of good breeders. (I hate to name one for overlooking the others) but Jim Uselton is an awful good breeder. I don't know if he is still breeding it, but the Red Bill line has been real good for him. Also, someone else I have a tremendous amount of faith in is Wendell Trussels. Through the years, I've seen Trussels' bred dogs that were not suppose to be good, but they were sure good dogs. Also, from what I understand, Sorrels and Girley Crum breed some good ones.
What was your relation with Ronnie Anderson?
Ronnie was a real competitor. Ronnie was a good friend of mine and as tough as ever come down the path. One of the reasons why I think Ronnie was so good was that he had a tremendous eye for a Bulldog. He could spot a good one and tried them very hard. In his days, he was probably one of the very best conditioners in the country. He started out with some dogs that he got from me. I believe the second dog he ever owned was the Spade dog and of course he made Champion with him. He was into some tough, tough competition in those days.
What about Ronnie’s Champion Goose and Champion Smiley?
Yes. Goose was off of Rufus and that bitch from Trussels called Midget. There were two Champions in that litter, Smiley and Goose and there was another dog in the same litter that won two and got killed the third time out. His name was Gator. When we bred Rufus to Midget, it produced all first class dogs, except one. The one that lost was 16 months old, so that happens. The best dog in that litter, and Ronnie might disagree with me, was a little dog I called Reginald. PJ ended up with him and, as far as I know, never did anything with him. Reginald was head and shoulders above the rest of that litter. The reason why I liked him so much was because he was a very smart dog and used the head to his advantage. He was a very defensive dog, plus he was a dog that could take you out.
God bless George, he and Mac were good friends of mine. He was a very good person deep down. I lived just down the road from him. George started out by buying any and every dog in the country and was just going to get there by maximizing the quality instead of minimizing. George made tremendous impact on the Bulldogs here in Dallas/Fort Worth area. He sure would keep things stirred up. He used and liked the Nig-Alligator stuff.
He was a top conditioner and handler. I guess I heard about him before I heard about anyone else. I had a good friend that helped me more than anybody else in getting my first dog, his name is John Langham and he told me about Mayfield. What a tremendous conditioner he was and a top competitor. I saw Mayfield match several dogs and that was pretty good. He was a hell of a conditioner. The first dog I saw him match that I was really impressed with was the Swig dog off Weldon Stockton. All of this was before there was a law against fighting dogs, somewhere in the late sixties. I saw Swig go into a little dog that Jimmie Jobe had, a dog called Rusty. Well, Rusty was an odds-on favorite. He was a hell of an ear dog and was hard to get to. I remember that Mayfield brought in Swig and he was 5 lbs lighter than I would have brought the dog in and perhaps about 2 lbs lighter than Ronnie Anderson would have brought him in. Razor was thin and one of the strongest malnourished looking dogs I've ever seen in my life. That's when I developed a great amount of respect for Mayfield as a conditioner. The dogs Mayfield had at that time were probably pretty good dogs, but he often used dogs that belonged to other people like Weldon and a lot of George's dogs. Mayfield and George made a team that were real hard to beat. I never had much dog dealings with George or Mayfield. I bought the old Bud dog from Mayfield, which was a pure Heinzl dog. He was bred like Greenwood’s Gentle Ben.
Do you believe the breed has improved over the years?
Tremendously so. I think the dogs we have today are 20 or 30% better than the dogs back in the sixties, and perhaps 5% better than the dogs in the seventies. I look for the dogs to get better if the standards are kept and if the people are responsible in how they breed dogs. Because the genetic pool of good dogs is bigger than it has ever been before. The thing that I've seen happen with Bulldogs is that the popularity has grown immensely and a lot of people get Bulldogs that don't need them. We have seen a lot of bad media on the dogs with the result that the general public doesn't look at Bulldogs as any other breed, but see them almost like a great white shark. A wild animal that is looking for something to mouth, something to kill. If we can change that image in the public eye, for what reason, and if the breed continues to exist, we have to do that. The main thing that I think is a problem and probably will be until the dogs are gone is indiscriminate breeding. What started out with a genetic pool of very, very few dogs that were man aggressive has changed into a situation where we've now got several first class dogs that are very man aggressive, that's a trait the old timers surely wouldn't have carried on. I don't know if it is all that bad a trait, but when it is in an uncontrollable man aggressive trait, it sure can cause serious problems. Man eaters in the wrong hands, are also bad for the breed.
Being a President of the Long Star State Pit Bull Club, what’s that all about?
The club was formed years ago by Perry Reneau to create a better understanding of the breed, to sort of fight the laws that were being enacted at the time. At that same time, I became affiliated with the club. I went to Austin and spoke against the felony law, in other words, like spokesman for the club. Next time when the election came up, I was elected President and have been ever since, which has been 4 or 5 years now. We had 70 or 80 active members and about 20 or 30 workers. Most members are from this area, but also from Louisiana and Oklahoma and several other places. We can use everybody we can get, but this number of members is pitiful when you start thinking about the large group of Pit Bull owners in this Dallas/Ft. Worth area.
Where did you get Rufus?
I got him from some people in Ft. Worth that are named Burnett. They had him as a pet, just a backyard dog. The reason why I liked him was because he was double up on that Satin Lady side of the pedigree and I figured that was the strength. I know that if you tighten the Nig stuff, you seem to lose something because I've seen the tight Nig dogs and didn't particularly like them. Some of them were good, but most were not. The Satin Lady stuff was a gamble. I didn't bred Rufus a whole lot because I didn't get him until he was 7 years old. I had Rufus for a long time before I figured out he was deaf. The only deaf dogs from the Alligator line comes from Rufus, but most of these deaf dogs are pretty game dogs. I do think it is a disadvantage for a dog to be deaf and I certainly wouldn't like to breed a line of deaf dogs, but I get one in every fifty or so dogs down from Rufus that is deaf, but they are almost all those dogs and their littermates are always game dogs.
What were the most successful combinations you have made?
Well, I was very reluctant to use the Bullyson line of dogs back years ago and one of the first people to encourage me and told me it would do good with the Alligator blood was Carver. I remember that I thought he had good luck with it and I probably would fall on my face trying, but I've had good results with it, even better than with the Alligator/Bruno cross. Rufus bred to Black Sister produced Michelle and Ch Spike of Frits Jansen, who proved to be as good a dog and also produced a good percentage of top Bulldogs in Europe. Black Sister was from Stomper and Bonnie Boots, that’s Bullyson and Eli Jr. Stomper was a very good dog, a rough mean crazy Bulldog. I don’t know if he would have been my type of dog, but I sure was impressed with him. We bred Rufus to Lucelle which was a Stomper kind of bitch and we got Ch Brutus which is registered as Simba. Also, we got Ch Tar, Allyeyson, and several other good ones. Then I bred Rufus to Maurice and we got Jay Howard’s Ch Jack. Maurice was out of Carver’s yard. And of course the breeding to Midget produced a bunch of good ones. Midget went back to Gr Ch Art and Black Georgia, so you are talking about a tremendous genetic pool and it is hard to go wrong when you breed such a bitch to a producer like Rufus.
What is your Andy L. dog out of?
He is out of Rufus bred back to Michelle, she is one of Rufus daughters. Michelle was stolen after her first match where she did pretty good. Andy L. is a pretty good dog. He is 8 years old. Andy Leteff had a brother to him called Rooster, that was a good dog too.
What about your BRUNO dog from some years ago?
He was a good one. I sure liked him. Everybody thought he was a cur, but he gave me 1 hour and 56 minutes against George’s Comer in Louisiana. I got him from some people in Arlington that had him as a pet. He was a little over 1 year old when I got him. He was a super dog. Intelligent and rough, and just a real good dog. The minute the fight was over with, Benny Bob, Bullyson, and the Plumbers went up to Rick Halliburton to match Bruno into Benny Bob. Halliburton said he didn't think he was interested. That shows you the quality of dog Bruno was. Benny Bob was a very good 50lb dog. Bruno lost to Gomer which was a Ch. dog, Gomer was a Nig bred dog. I believe Gomer was the first Nig cross bred dog that George used that came from Salty McKnight.
Can you tell a little bit about your Vito dog, and about the brindle male called Pig?
Vito is the ugliest dog in Texas. I won several ugly dog awards with him. He is right out of Rufus and Sue. He is a pure Alligator bred dog. He is producing some pretty good dogs. The man that has most of these dogs is Billy Haynes from Louisiana. He uses them as weight pull dogs. They are not suppose to be pulling dogs, but they don’t know that and they pull pretty good. Billy bred them even tighter than I would have and he had some good results doing it, so the Vito dog is getting so old that part of the year he is not having good sperm anymore, so I have to check his sperm before I bred him. So far he has turned out to be a very good producer for me. The Pig dog is out of Rufus and Maurice. He is a straight cross, but comes from a good family and has produced some pretty good dogs too. His sister, Harry is the dam of that Ch. Evil dog and Rufin, so I look for that to be a good foundation family of dogs for the future. I use Pig quite a bit and like what I'm getting from him. He is a smaller type of dog, although he goes back to Stompanato on bottom and Alligator on the top. Both were real big dogs.
What is the best weight pull dog you've seen?
I've seen a couple that I really like. But up until I saw Big Head, I thought weight pulls were for the other guy, I wasn't really excited about it, but when I saw Big Head come to the track I sat down and watched him pull, I was impressed. When his owner, John Bettes, dropped the pull lead and said, “pull Big Head,” he would drop his head and here he comes. It gave me the chills to see him pull. He was strictly a command pull dog and the best I've seen.
What is the best fighting dog you've ever seen?
That would be a very hard question to answer. I was involved with the Plumbers quite a bit. They had Alligator, Soko, and other good dogs. I got to handle Alligator in some pretty hard rolls. He was a rough “go and get them” kind of dog. He didn't have a defensive bone in his body which would probably get him killed in today’s competition, but still I think there is not a whole lot of big dogs around that could compete with Alligator. He did take the bottom to win a couple of times, went uphill and went into some dogs that would have killed him if they had been more game. I've seen a bunch of dogs I liked pretty good, but even though he is a controversial dog, I have to say that Gr Ch Art was an awfully good dog. I refereed, I believe, two of his fights, one for sure. Also, Jeremiah was a tremendous dog. I saw him win his last fight with no more than 2 teeth and he whipped a dog that Gene Ridley had that was a good one.
What is the best stud dog you've ever seen?
I don't know, there a lot of good stud dogs, but even the best stud dog can miss and produce nothing once in a while.
If you could make a choice between Big Head, Gr Ch Art, or that famous stud of your dreams, which one would you pick?
The stud dog for sure. The one that could produce the good ones. Breeding Pit Bulls is probably the hardest animal to breed in the world. I feel certain that dogs from game stock make better protection animals, better catch dogs, and better pets than the scatter bred stuff in somebody’s back yard. The real dogs are just better dogs. I like to think that I'm a breeder of good dogs and some of them can fight a lick.