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The Color of Gameness
by Richard F. Stratton

It is hard to believe now, but I do remember as a youngster how I couldn't quite understand the more experienced pit dog men's preoccupation with gameness. I was more impressed by flash, agility, and talent. My thought was, " Give me the talented dog and let the other guy have the dead game dog!" Now, I know that I am getting old, because I worry about the younger Bulldog men being so preoccupied with barnstormers and not giving sufficient commitment to gameness. There is consolation in the fact that, if these young guys stick around long enough, they, too, will come to appreciate gameness.

I'm going to have more to say in a later article about the nature of gameness and just why it has always been deemed so important by the experienced pit dog man and is even treasured by people who simply want a Bulldog as a pet. For this issue, I simply wanted to discuss color.

Almost all dog men develop a preference for a favorite color in their favorite breed; however, that preference is always quite changeable–depending on what color their most recent favorite dog was. There are some misconceptions, too, about certain dog men favoring a particular color. For example, most people think that Bob Wallace had a particular predilection for red, red-nosed dogs. As a matter of fact, he did greatly admire the Old Family Red Nose line, as his original strain was partly founded on it. But his greatest all-time dogs were Searcy Jeff, Toney, Pistol Pete, Hillbilly, and Madame Queen–all of them brindle dogs. Only King Cotton, who was white, and Curly, who was red and red-nosed, deviated from the brindle pattern among his all-time great ones, so, although Bob certainly appreciated the red ones, he liked the brindles, too, because so many of his good dogs had been that color. One of the last dogs I got from him was Wallace's Star, a black-faced brindle female.

In addition to the fact that dog men develop a preference for a certain coloration, some of them develop a prejudice against a given hue. One pit dog man, who probably just as soon wouldn't be named, swore up and down that he never saw a game red nosed dog in his life. Now his favorite stud dog, and possibly all-time favorite dog, is a red-nosed dog.

I have heard dog men claim that only certain colors within certain strains were game. Some genetic traits can be linked like that, but I think gameness is far too complex a trait to be linked to a specific color. One dog man, who liked black dogs, even cited some scientific evidence which linked a dark eye to the "fast-twitch" type of muscle cell. Examples to support the speculation were the cheetah, a very fast animal, with a black stripe running through the eye, and certain other fast predators. I was unimpressed by that part of the evidence, as I was familiar with many predatory animals, some of them of the ambush type, who all had that line through the eye. To me, it always seemed that the line through the eye was an adaptation toward camouflaging the eye. Prey animals are very much aware of eyes, and it helps predators to have their eyes partly concealed or made to look smaller. Still we have had plenty of good black dogs, including one of my all time favorites, Grand Champion Hope.

At the other end of the spectrum, that most knowledgeable of dog men and a very valued friend, the late Howard Heinzl, never cared for black dogs, and he insisted that black was not a Bulldog coloration. Believe me, I never argued with him, but black is depicted in extremely old pictures of Bulldogs, and, besides, black can come from other colors, from buckskin crossed with cinnamon red, for just one combination. Some of Howard's favorite dogs were white, as some of his best had come that way. His Polly and Dutchess were examples of that. Also, Howard's favorite all-time dog man was John P. Colby, and old "J.P.'s" favorites had been his Pincher and Galtie, two white dogs with black spots.

As for Tudor, he liked any color, as long as the dog was a good one. The only exceptions were the red, red-nosed dogs. Not that he couldn't appreciate them, but he didn't like the color. He admitted that Centipede was truly a great dog but lamented what a shame it was that he was one of those "yellow-eyed, red-nosed dogs." Even Lightner, perhaps the single person most responsible for the emergence of the red-nosed line, told me he never liked the looks of them and got rid of them because of that and because of the fact that they were running too big. How ironic then that this very coloration became a badge of distinction during the era of Wallace and Hemphill and O'Neal, not to mention Jim Williams, and remains so unto this day!

As for me, I know I have the reputation of liking the Old Family Red Nose dogs, and I do as a strain, but they are not my exclusive favorites. I think some of the prettiest dogs are the tawny red colored dogs. If they are well built, this coloration makes them look like young mountain lions. I also have a particular preference for pied dogs, like Dibo's grandsire, Gimp, and Jimmy Boots, not to mention my own Hoover dog, who was a beautiful animal in his youth. Now, like me, he is beginning to lose his beauty!

When I was a mere thirteen years old, I studied the Armitage and Colby books, and I developed favorite dogs in each, and they were almost always brindle. Galvin's Pup was a particular favorite, and he is still my ideal of what a Bulldog should look like. Brindle has always been a traditional Bulldog coloration, even though some other breeds carry it (and they may very well have gotten it from crosses with Bulldogs), but it is usually not appealing to the general public. The point is, though, that there are different types of brindles, with different hues and shades. I prefer the gun-metal grey type of brindle, with a black face–but, surely, even the general public would like the looks of Galvin's Pup!

In the final analysis, though, it isn't the color that counts. You have to be around these dogs a while to realize that gameness is their essence. That is what you build upon; everything else is gravy. So, as for color, I think we can safely say that they come game in all colors. For that reason, I don't care about the color. Just color mine game.