The Old Family Red Nose Story
The bulk of the line derives from Ireland and was brought to the country during the Irish migration resulting from the famous potato famine. These dogs were small and closely inbred, but their gameness was infamous. Characteristics of this bloodline include a copper red nose, red lips, red toe nails, and red or amber eyes. Some think the strain was bred for looks and others feel that the strain can stand on its own merits. Some of the most reputable breeders in all Pit Bull history have contributed to the preservatoin and development of this strain.
People like Lightner, McClintock, Menefee, and Hemphill/ Wallace just to name a few. McNolty said, "Regardless of one's historical prespective, these old amber-eyed, red-nosed, red-toe-nailed, red-coated dogs represent some of the most significant pitbull history and tradition that stands on four legs today" 30-30 Journal (1967).
Today's breeding's have produced greats like GR CH 'PR' Misty Kona and CH 'PR' Castillo's California Sundancer. Kona was then bred a couple of times by Tekla Castillo to GR CH Dynamite Red Rock, producing GR CH 'PR' Castillo's Stormbringer, GR CH 'PR' Castillo's Red Alexis, GR CH 'PR' Castillo's Satin Lace (who was breed to GR CH Sato's Royal Windsor who was out of GR CH Red Rock to produce CH California Girl., GR CH 'PR' Castillo's Satin Lace was breed to NTL GR CH 'PR' Jericho's Dream Weaver and produced GR CH 'PR' Satin's Kahlua (See our Ancestor's Page). You can look at a Castillo pitbull and tell they are from her line, something not found with many pitbull breeders of today. Therefore, it is not a surprise that you will find many Champions and Grand Champions in our dogs pedigrees.
STORY OF THE OLD FAMILY REDS
Written by Richard F. Stratton
* Appeared in the January-February, 1975 issue of Bloodlines Journal.
First, an overview. No one really knows when these dogs first came to this
country, but the great breeder William J. Lightner once told me that his
grandfather raised them before the Civil War. It is quite possible that they
were even here during the Revolutionary War. In any case, it is clear that dogs
of this breed came from various parts of Europe, specifically Spain and Sicily.
But little is known about these earliest importations, because nothing was
written about them. (Books and periodicals containing information about dogs
were rare in those days.) Their existence can be inferred from artwork,
however. The most famous importations were from Ireland, and were generally
made by the Irish themselves after they emigrated to this country.(The bulk of
the Irish pit dog importations coincides or closely follows the great Irish
migration that resulted from the famous potato famine.) Most of the Irish dogs
were small and very closely inbred, but their gameness was
proverbial-especially that of the group of strains that was known as the Old
Family. The following article I wrote on the Old Family Reds (just one segment
of the Old Family bloodlines) is reprinted from Bloodlines Journal.
STORY OF THE OLD FAMILY REDS
It has always seemed to me that the good old Pit Bull is a breed that is at
once primitive and futuristic. He looks no more out of place in the ancient
landscapes of 16th century paintings than he does in the ultra-modern setting.
It is beyond my capabilities to imagine an end to him, for every generation
seems to supply a nucleus of hard core devotees completely committed to the
breed. In any case, you can look into the murky past, and you will find it
difficult to discern a beginning place for the breed, and, fortunately, the
future seems to threaten no demise either.
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.
The appearance of the red-nosed dogs always attracts attention, but it takes
a little getting used to for some people to consider them truly beautiful.
However, no one denies that they radiate "class." Characteristically,
a dog of the red-nosed strain has a copper-red nose, red lips, red toe nails,
and red or amber eyes. Some think the strain was bred for looks. Others
consider any dog that just happens to have a red nose to be pure Old Family Red
Nose. It is hoped that the following will dispel such notions.
About the middle of the last century there was a family of pit dogs in
Ireland bred and fought chiefly in the counties of Cork and Kerry that were
known as the "Old Family." In those days, pedigrees were privately
kept and jealously guarded. Purity of the strains was emphasized to the extent
that breeders hardly recognized another strain as being the same breed. For
that reason all the strains were closely inbred. And whenever you have a closed
genetic pool of that type, you are likely to have a slide toward the recessive
traits, because the dominants, once discarded, are never recaptured. Since red
is recessive to all colors but white, the "Old Family" eventually
became the "Old Family Reds." When the dogs began coming to America,
many were already beginning to show the red nose.
The "Old Family" dogs found their way to America mainly via immigrants.
For example, Jim Corcoran came to this country to fight the world heavyweight
champion John L. Sullivan, and stayed to become a Boston policeman. He sent for
dogs from his parents back in Ireland, and his importations and expertise as a
great breeder have earned him a prominent place in American (Pit) Bull Terrier
history. Many other Irish immigrants also sent back to their families to
request for dogs, and the "Old Family" and related strains became
firmly established in the United States.
At this point, there are several factors that are somewhat confusing to a
student of the breed. For one thing, the term "family dogs" was used
in two ways: It could mean a strain of dogs that was a family unto itself that
was kept by a number of unrelated people in Ireland, or it could refer to a
strain of dogs that was kept and preserved through the years by a family group.
However, the old Family Reds seem to be of the first category. Another point
that arises is that with all these importations from Ireland (and there were
importations from other countries, too-including Spain), where do we get off
calling our breed the American Bull Terrier! Well. ..that's a point! The breed
does not really belong to anyone country or even anyone era! However, I don't
believe many people are in favor of changing the name of the breed even though
it is not strictly an American breed. For that matter, it is not really a Bull
Terrier, either! But the name American (Pit) Bull Terrier has become part of
that tradition we were talking about, and I think most of us prefer to keep it
as a formal name for the breed.
Back to the Old Family Reds. 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 themsel ves. 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.
At this point in our story we come upon a comical, but highly-respected,
figure in the personage of Dan McCoy. I have heard old-time dog men from all
over the country talk about this man. Apparently, he was an itinerant fry cook
and not much of a success in life judged by normal standards, but he didn't
care about that. What he did care about were Pit Bulldogs, and he had a wealth
of knowledge about the breed. His uncanny ability to make breedings that
"clicked" made him a respected breeding consultant and a most welcome
guest at any dog man's house-even if he had just dropped off a freight train!
Always with his ear to the ground regarding anything that involved APBT's,
McCoy got wind of the fact that an old Frenchman in Louisiana by the name of
Bourgeous had preserved the old Lightner red-nosed strain. So he and Bob
Hemphill went to that area, and with the aid of Gaboon Trahan of Lafayette,
they secured what was left of the dogs. McCoy took his share to the Panhandle
of Texas and placed them with his associates L. C. Owens, Arthur Harvey and
Buck Moon. He then played a principal role in directing the breedings that were
made by these fanciers. And from this enclave came such celebrated dogs as
Harvey's Red Devil and Owens (Fergusons) Centipede. Hemphill eventually kept
only dogs of the red-nosed strain. According to Hemphill, it was McCoy who
first started using the term "Old Family Red Nose" for the strain.
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.
Many stains have been crossed with the Old Family Reds at some time in their
existence. Consequently, nearly any strain will occasionally throw a red-nosed
pup. To many fanciers, these red-nosed individuals are Old Family Red Noses
even though the great preponderance of their blood is that of other strains.
Sometimes such individuals will fail to measure up and thereby reflect
undeserved discredit on the rcd-nosed strain. However, as Wallace said, the red
noses should not be considered invincible either. They produce their share of
bad ones as well as good ones-just as all strains do.
As a strain, the Old Family Red Nose has several things going for it. First,
it is renowned for its gameness. Second, some of the most reputable breeders in
all Pit Bull history have contributed to the preservation and development of
the strain. People like Lightner, McClintock. Menefee and Wallace, to mention
just a few. Finally, as McNolty said in his 30-30 Journal (1967)
"Regardless of one's historical perspective, these old amber-eyed,
red-nosed, red-toe-nailed, red-coated dogs represent some of the most
significant pit bull history and tradition that stands on four legs today."