Joe Hancock was bred by John Jackson Hancock who homesteaded approximately 20 miles south of Perryton in the Texas Panhandle. He was noted for raising fast horses in the late 1800s.
Excerpts from "Legends"
In 1885, John Jackson Hancock gave the name of Joe David to one of his sons. Joe David grew up with horses and nurtured what was to become an abiding love of racing. It was Joe David who would eventually become responsible for raising and racing Joe Hancock.
In 1930, Joe David and Cora christened one of their sons Tom Hancock. Tom and his wife, Rita, reside in the nearly 100-year-old farmhouse at Nocona, Texas. Tom never saw Joe Hancock race, but he did grow up with the stories surrounding him. He's preserved old photographs and he made notes and chronicled as much as he could about Joe Hancock before all those associated with him passed away. That, then, is why the story of Joe Hancock is best told by Tom.
Most accounts of Joe Hancock describe him as a big horse who stood a solid 16 hands. That, however, is not the way Tom remembers the stallion. "He stood 15.2 or maybe 15.3," he attested, "but certainly not 16. He was dark brown with that white blaze running down his face."
"Two of Granddaddy's neighbors were bachelor brothers named Ralph and Dave Wilson. Ralph owned a registered, little-boned Percheron. Daddy said he was a black horse that stood about 14.3 hands and weighed around 1,100 pounds. He wasn't a draft-horse type, which is what most people think of when they hear the word Percheron. He was Ralph Wilson's personal saddle horse. As the story goes, Ralph Wilson would ride that Percheron to town or to gather cattle, or he'd run you a race on him."
"Granddaddy Hancock bred five or six of his mares to the Percheron. Among the ones bred to the Percheron was the Mundell mare. The following year, she produced a brown filly who would become the mama of Joe Hancock. No one called her anything other than the Hancock Mare.
"Regardless of what anyone may have said about Joe Hancock, there were some noted horsemen in whose opinion he was outstanding. Elmer Hepler often said he was one of the best-looking horses he'd ever seen. Tom Burnett of the 6666/Triangle Ranch was also quoted as saying Joe was one of the most outstanding-looking horses he'd ever looked at. Newt Keck, who saw Joe when he was a 2 and 3 year old, always insisted Joe could go to the track today and not be out of place in terms of conformation. He said he looked good then and he'd still look good today. He further said Joe had the best hip and one of the heaviest loins he'd ever seen on a horse. My mother, Cora Hancock, always said Joe was not only good-looking but a perfect gentleman as well."
"I think Daddy must have started trying to figure out how to keep the colt as soon as he saw him and he finally managed to trade Granddaddy for him. The next problem was getting him from Perryton to Nocona. Daddy finally borrowed a wooden, open trailer from Dave Wilson. They loaded the brown colt and started the 2-day trip home."
"Daddy turned Joe out in a pasture," continued Tom. "He later found out the colt had gotten a mare in foal. The result of that fortunate accident was a filly who was the image of Joe himself. She wasn't as big, but everything else was the same. None of us knew it at the time, but that filly was to become the foundation mare for all Daddy's horses as well as mine. We called her Winnie Mae but in later years, her registered name became Jose Wilkens. One thing for sure…she was extremely fast."
"My daddy and oldest brother Jack, broke Joe Hancock as a 2 year old. It wasn't long before they discovered what they'd always suspected to be true - that he had a world of speed. They ran him two or three times around Nocona and Spanish Fort and he showed his heels to everyone. Daddy was convinced the colt could run. That's when he made the decision to take him to a trainer named Elbert Bird Ogle. At that time, Uncle Bird, as we called him, was a renowned trainer of race horses. He lived in Claypool, Oklahoma, so Daddy got on a saddle horse and led Joe across the Red River to Claypool. Payment for training back in those days - in the mid-1920s - was simple. Daddy paid Uncle Bird one dollar a day and furnished the feed."
"The first race Uncle Bird put Joe in was at Comanche, Oklahoma. He walked up to make the entry and the man writing down the information asked for the colt's name. Well, the colt didn't have a name. Uncle Bird commented he was owned by Joe Hancock at Nocona, so just call him Joe Hancock."
"Before his career was over, Joe was open to the world at any distance from the starting line to three-eights of a mile. I never heard of a horse who beat him at the quarter, but there was one by old Chester B. who beat him one time at a half-mile. Other than that, Joe always won his half-mile races. A lot of times he did it by being so fast away from the line that the other horse couldn't catch him."
"I have no idea how many times Joe ran or how much money he earned for his supporters. I know he bought some farms for people. There was one banker from Oklahoma who was a hard gambler and he backed Joe with a lot of dollars."
"There finally came a time when Joe Hancock simply ran out of competition. He stood pat at three-eighths of a mile, but no one wanted to take on the brown stallion. He'd run for a good half-dozen years and it looked as if it might be time for his life to take another direction."
"I can remember Daddy telling the story about the day George Oble came to our house in Nocona", chuckled Tom. "His purpose was to buy Joe Hancock. They visited and visited and dinner time came. They ate and visited some more. George was still there when supper time was coming around."
"Finally, Daddy thought to himself he'd get rid of George if he'd just price the horse so high George would give up and leave. Don't forget, these were the Depression days. So, Daddy said, 'Alright, give me $1,000.00.' That was certainly a lot of money then, but George didn't lose a breath in accepting the price. He paid Daddy right there and picked up ol' Joe within the next 2 days. He delivered him to Tom Burnett at Iowa Park, Texas. What did Mr. Burnett pay George for Joe Hancock? $2,000!"
"Joe lived out his days with Burnett at the 6666/Triangle Ranches. Joe was out in the pasture when he cut his foot on wire. A bad infection set in and the foot was a mess by the time Joe was found and taken to Dr. Smith in Abilene.
Dr. Smith gave Joe total attention. He brought him out of the problem, but then Joe foundered about a year later. He was put down July 29, 1943. He was 20 years old, provided the 1923 foaling date is correct."
Many ropers of today say that Joe Hancock was the all-time greatest sire of rope horses. Even third and fourth generation Hancocks have made good rope horses. Old-time ropers say that the Hancocks were big, stout and tough with lots of bone. Because they were so durable, the Hancocks could stand up under a lot of hauling.
Many of today's Hancock-bred horses still have the typical Hancock conformation, even after all these years. Joe Hancock is indeed a legend and in 1992 he received recognition for his contribution to the Quarter Horse industry when he was inducted into the AQHA Hall of Fame.
A Western Horseman Book
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