by Michael Bowling
from Arabian Horse World July 1979
copyright by MICHAEL BOWLING, used by permission
This band of Nebraska horses left influential and highly-regarded descent in Colorado, and over the years other horses of similar quality, some with reputed Arab or Barb crosses as well, were added. This resulted in tough, hardy, very able cowhorses which were recognized in 1934 with the name “Colorado Rangers.”
The Colorado Ranger Horse Association, Inc., was founded in 1938, with a charter limitation to 50 active member at a time. This of course made it impossible for CRHA to take part in the tremendous growth experienced by the horse industry at large in the 1960’s, but a belated growth phase is now under way with the lifting of the membership limitation and the institution of a National show.
“Barbaric” colors appeared as the Colby stock and its descendants were linebred and combined with other colorful range stock, and in fact most Rangerbreds today are of Appaloosa patterns and are double-registered with the Appaloosa Horse Club. CRHA itself has never been a breed founded on color, looking on this trait, quite rightly, as unfixable and unrelated to using qualities. In a sense the Appalooa breeders rather took advantage of this, seeing CRHA horses as ready-made foundation stock for their programs, since better color-odds resulted from CRHA crosses compared to solid-colored grade horses. Through their Appaloosa connection, most CRHA-registered horses today trace to horses of different sources from the foundation Rangerbreds—in fact CRHA is probably unique as a non-color breed which is also devoted to outcrossing as a policy, requiring only one line back to a foundation sire to qualify for registration.
The word “leopard” has caused some confusion over the years, since it enters into the CRHA record in two different ways. There are “leopard” Appaloosa-patterned CRHA horses, and then there are those among the early registrations, which seem to have been named for their relationship to “our” *Leopard. In fact as far as is known, *Leopard was a typical dapple grey who turned white in his later years; the “leopard” Appaloosa pattern was introduced into early CRHA pedigrees by a son of WALDRON Leopard, an Appaloosa horse of unknown background sometimes said to be derived from the nearly-legendary STARBUCK Leopard.
The double *Leopard grandson TONY was described as “snow white with black ears” which is also rather intriguing. This sounds like a description of a black-and-white “medicine hat” overo spotted horse, as much as it does anything. A medicine hat Anglo-Arab does not really seem very probable (though it is assuredly possible: some of the “white TB” foals could be called medicine hat patterned, and I have seen photos of an Arabian foal that also would qualify — though come to think of it, all of these I know of would be “white with red ears”). American horsemen have always had trouble understanding the continuity of the grey phases and their changes and interactions, however, and my personal nomination for “simplest explanation of the description” is that TONY was a grey horse who turned nearly white before he went to Colorado, retaining black pigment on his ears and perhaps his knees and hocks for a while, as sometimes happens.
At this distant remove, it is hard to know what to say about *Leopard and *Linden Tree as individuals, let alone as breeding forces. It would surely not be amiss to quote Randolph Huntington’s descriptions of them, as quoted by Thornton Chard: On *Leopard —
“He was a beautiful dapple-grey (in 1880), fourteen and three quarters hands high; his symmetry and perfectness making him appear much taller. As he stood looking loftily over the meadows below, I thought him the most beautiful horse I had ever seen. With nostrils distended and eye full of fire, I could imagine he longed for a run upon his desert home. Addison (the groom) gave him a play at the halter, showing movements no horse in the world can equal but the (pure bred) Arabian. He needed no quarter-boots, shin-boot, ankle-boots, scalping boot or protection of any kind; and yet the same movements this Arabian went through would have blemished every leg and joint upon an American trotting horse, even though he had been able to attempt the, to him, impossible activity… the knee action was beautiful; not too much, as in toe weighted horses, nor stiff and staky, as in the english race horse, but graceful and elastic, beautifully balanced by movement in the hock and stifle.”
As to *Linden Tree —
“At that time, the spring of 1880, Linden was a beautiful smooth, blue gray, which this summer of 1885 has changed to a white-gray. In height he is the same as Leopard, fourteen and three quarters hands…in build he was more compact than Leopard, being deeper and broader; of more substance but with just as clean and fine limb as Leopard had. The limbs, joints and feet of both horses were perfect. The fetlocks could not be found; there were none. The warts at point of ankle were wanting, and the osselets were very small. Large coarse osselets show cold blood, mongrel blood. The crest of the neck in Linden was thick and hard, the same as in Leopard. This fact will astonish some fancy horsemen, who are led to believe that a thin crest is evidence of fine breeding. My experience of late years is that a thin crest belongs to a long-bodied, flat horse, of soft constitution. The mane in both horse was very fine and silky, falling over so as to cause one to believe that the crest was a knife blade with blade up for thinness. The head of Linden was the counterpart of Leopard in all ways; as in fine, thin muzzle, lip and nostril; also small, fine, beautiful ears, thin eyelids; deep wide jowls,etc.”
We have several images of one kind or another of *Leopard and *Linden Tree. Most frequently seen, of course, are the two “engravings from paintings done from life” which appeared in Huntington’s book on the horses. These rather stolid, lifeless visions differ chiefly in color — one shows dapples and the other is indeed a “smooth” grey — and as old “Ben Hur” (the late H.V. Tormohlen) said in one of his Western Horsemen articles, they could easily pass for harness store dummies. The rather scratchy “Wonderful Arabian Horses” with its imaginary, and highly inappropriate, Egyptian background, does make some distinction between the horses — *Leopard is a bit sickle hocked while *Linden Tree’s hind legs are distinctly too straight, for example — but still is not anything one would like to judge a horse from.
The other two pictures have been called photogravures (a process involving a sensitized metal plate and a photographic negative, which would render a “photographic” likeness) and indeed, that of *Leopard is called such, in the Thornton Chard article in which it appears. This *Linden Tree picture is referred to in that article, however, as “photograph of a drawing” and on closer inspection this proves to be the same image as that of *Linden Tree in “Wonderful Arabian horses,” with the same silly pyramids and palm trees in the background (more visibly present in other prints than in the present version). A photograph with a painted background would not be an impossibility, of course, but it is difficult to make this fit with Chard’s “photograph of a drawing” designation. It is also unlikely that a repainted negative would produce a satisfactory photogravure, and I am not sure the techniques for photographing a retouched photograph (to produce the photogravure from the second negative) were available in the early 80’s when this is dated.
The clincher for me is the fact that *Linden Tree is shown without a bit or headstall. The clumsy photographic gear of the time, let alone the slow plates then available, would not be suited to photographing horses at liberty. I suspect there was a pair of drawings of the stallions and that the *Leopard one was lost, but not before the “Wonderful Arabian Horses” print was derived from them, while a photograph of the *Linden Tree drawing survived.
At any rate, we do have what appear to be a reliable likeness of *Leopard and he is the one we’re interested in—he was the Arab and he appears in our pedigrees today.
*Leopard’s picture speaks for him and as compiler of this review I don’t feel called upon to add to this, except to say that *Leopard probably compared quite well with the foundation desertbred sire of any Arabian breeding company—and that his high-class origin and the repeated references to his air of quality and breeding and his excellent trot suggest that we may wish we had more of his genes in our modern Arabian population than we do. In any event he seems to have had one of the finest, most proper necks ever to come out of the desert.
Evaluating *Leopard as a sire is difficult, since his purebred descendants of the first few generations all had much more of *Naomi in their pedigrees than of *Leopard, and all seem to show her very strong influence. Fortunately we do have photos of ABDUL HAMID II and two of his sons, the result of crossing *Leopard into a distinctly different breeding group. The photos of *Leopard’s two sons and three grandsons (see the crossbreds with this article, and the purebreds in the article on the descent from ANAZEH) are a very attractive group indeed. The weak loin seems to have bred on, and the calf knees (but not through ANAZEH), but so has the fine reach of neck. ANAZEH’s son seems to have slightly soft pasterns, which I had not noticed before—interesting since a lady from Oregon wrote and sent photos of “a granddaughter of a linebred *Leopard mare” with the most extreme case of soft pasterns I think I’ve ever seen. This is not the line from the ANAZEH son however, going back to EL SABOK instead, and his pastern, while a bit short, do not seem soft at all.
There are a good many animals back in our pedigrees with soft pasterns, and many of them are closer to today’s horses, and appear through more sources, than *Leopard—so I find it hard to invoke him as a cause of this fault today.
Well—there you have them—”*Leopard the Arab and *Linden Tree the Barb,” in Huntington’s phrase. *Leopard has Arabian descendants in large numbers today; both seem to have influenced the Colorado Rangers and through them the Appaloosas; and if truth be known it’s likely that both are unrecorded far back in many Standardbred pedigrees.
The fact that you have just read this indicates that they’ve had an intellectual and historical impact in the course of a hundred years, quite likely beyond what anyone ever expected.