The Bloodlines Chart

The Bloodlines Chart

The American Quarter Horse breed is based on 11 families of horses. Almost all of them are related in some way.

The Bloodlines Chart at the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum in Amarillo, Texas

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The American Quarter Horse Journal logo

By Jim Jennings and Richard Chamberlain

The history of the American Quarter Horse is lying on the floor of the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum. Visitors stand on a bloodlines chart that measures 12 feet by 24 feet in the facility’s Great Hall. As the visitors look down around their boots at the significant Quarter Horse families that are shown in great detail, many of them wonder just how their own horses are related to these legendary horses.

The chart begins with the foundation sires Janus (foaled in 1746) and Sir Archy (foaled in 1802) and comes all the way, 24 feet across the floor later, into the 20th century with those horses who received the first 20 numbers in the AQHA stud book.

Designed by Dr. Darrel Sprott

The Bloodlines Chart was designed in 1946 by Dr. Darrell Sprott, a veterinarian and Quarter Horse judge who spent his life studying the breeding of the American Quarter Horse. Dr. Sprott designed the chart, for the most part, from information found in the early AQHA stud books. However, he acknowledged that there could be errors, as well as differences of opinion, on what is shown as the breeding of some of the early horses.

Most of the records kept in the beginning had to do with the horses’ speed, even though in addition to racing, those horses also made their living as cow horses on the stock farms and, in some instances, even as plow horses. But since there were no shows, until rodeos started popping up across the country around the end of the 19th century, charting a horse’s speed and race record was the only way an owner could back up the bragging he was doing on his horse. And, you have to remember, the name Quarter Horse comes from the animal’s speed at a quarter of a mile.

Bloodlines Chart at the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum in Amarillo Texas


The earliest horse mentioned by Dr. Sprott on his chart was Janus, the most well-known and influential of those early sires. Janus was foaled in England and imported in 1752 to Virginia. Appearing in nine of the original 11 families of Quarter Horses that are shown on the Bloodlines Chart, the imported Janus was by the English stallion Janus, a son of the Godolphin Barb. Before coming across the Atlantic to the New World, our Janus excelled at the 4-mile heat races that set the standard in his home country. Over here, Janus was the standard.

In 1838, the American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine stated that, “Janus was a small horse, of great beauty, uniting uncommon muscular development to limbs delicate and handsome. His legs and feet were fine as those of a deer. He was a chestnut, speckled on the rump as he grew old; a small blaze in the face and a hind foot white.”

According to Patrick Nesbitt Edgar, who compiled the General Stud Book of 1833, Janus stood about 14.3. Edgar said, “The stock of old Janus, in Virginia and the southern states, has been distinctly marked for the last 50 years as if he had been of a different species. For power, swiftness and durability, they have been equaled by no other breed of horses.”

drawing of Janus

Janus (drawing by Mac McHugh)


Though Janus died in 1780, his fame and blood spread afar through foals such as his grandson Printer, who is considered to be the founder of one of the major Quarter Horse families on the Bloodlines Chart. According to the American Studbook, Printer was foaled in Virginia in about 1800, taken to Kentucky as a suckling colt and died in 1827 or ’28 after standing in Pennsylvania and Ohio, where Joseph Battel in the American Stallion Register wrote “his stock were widely scattered and very notable for their speed, especially in quarter races.” However, as mentioned earlier, there are some differences of opinion, and long-time equine historian Alexander Mackay Smith, in a 1980 Quarter Horse Journal, said that Printer was foaled in Kentucky in 1795 as a result of his dam being stolen and ridden from Virginia to Kentucky while she was in foal. He also said that Printer lived his entire life in Kentucky. The original owner of the dam said that Printer was by Fleetwood by Janus. Smith said that Printer died in 1828.

Sir Archy

The second oldest horse on the chart is Sir Archy, who ran with and beat the best horses of his day. His line comes down to us through both the Steel Dust and Shiloh families. With sons such as Timoleon, Sir Solomon and Copperbottom, Sir Archy succeeded Janus as the greatest sire of his time.

“Sir Archy is a rich bay color having no white about him excepting his right hind foot,” noted the American Turf Register. “He is a horse of commanding size, fully 16 hands high, with great power and substance.”

In 1839, Gen. Sam Houston brought Sir Archy’s son Copperbottom to Texas, where the stallion immediately set about upgrading the frontier stock in the new republic. At the same time, Sir Archy’s blood was leading directly to two of the Quarter Horse’s most well-known foundation sires: Steel Dust, through Timoleon, and Shiloh, through Sir Solomon.

drawing of Sir Archy

Sir Archy (drawing by Alvan Fisher)

Steel Dust

Steel Dust was foaled in 1843 in Kentucky and brought to Texas as a yearling by brothers-in-law Middleton Perry and Jones Greene. Named for a rust-colored 19th-century medical concoction called steel dust (or anvil dust, which was supposed to bring good luck in charms), the bay colt was by Harry Bluff, a grandson of the esteemed Kentucky Whip, and was out of a granddaughter of Sir Archy’s son Timoleon, thus being a cross of the two most popular bloodlines of the day. At maturity, Steel Dust packed 1,200 pounds into the compact body of a sprinter standing 15 hands.

“The most notable thing was his immense muscular development, which seemed to reach a climax amounting almost to a positive deformity in his bulging jaws,” wrote Dan Casement, a founding member of AQHA. “This appearance is characteristic of the Steel Dust strain.”

Steel Dust was a year older than Shiloh, who was foaled in Tennessee and brought to Texas in 1849. Both were topflight running horses on the match-race tracks all over North Texas. It was inevitable that they would meet.

And meet they did, in 1854 on a track with wooden starting chutes, near Lancaster, Texas, where their owners lived just south of the little village of Dallas.

“Steel Dust was so eager for the show that he reared and plunged all the time he was in the chute,” said Henry Batchler, whose father owned Shiloh. “When he made his leap to clear the stall, he struck the wall and ran a splinter into his shoulder, which disabled him. Father galloped Shiloh over the track and claimed the forfeit, to which the judges decided he was entitled. As a result of the injury to his shoulder, Steel Dust went blind and never raced again.”

Steel Dust lived until the late 1860s. Shiloh died in 1874. Steel Dust blood flows in the Cold Deck, Rondo and Peter McCue families. Some historians, including AQHA’s first executive secretary, Bob Denhardt, say that Steel Dust sired Cold Deck. But according to the Bloodlines Chart, Cold Deck was by Old Billy, a son of Steel Dust’s rival Shiloh. Cold Deck was a dark, rich chestnut; heavily muscled; weighed 1,175 pounds and stood 15 hands, and he was incredibly fast.

old photo of Steel Dust

Steel Dust (Credit: courtesy of American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum - 2006.6.1BE)

Cold Deck

Cold Deck supposedly got his name by Nathan Floyd of Carthage, Missouri–who owned his dam, Lady Wolf–making a killing in a poker game the night Cold Deck was foaled. Floyd said he did it by manipulating a cold deck (stacked deck) into the game.

But even if Steel Dust didn’t sire Cold Deck, he did sire the horse’s granddam, Ram Cat, who was the dam of Old Billy.

Old Billy

Old Billy was foaled shortly before the Civil War. When his owner left to fight for the Confederacy, Billy was chained to a tree. The owner’s wife fed and watered him, but by the time her husband returned from the war, the horse’s hooves were so long they had to be sawed off before they could be filed down. A lifelong scar with no hair remained when the chain was removed from his neck.

When Bill Fleming, another Confederate soldier, returned to Texas, he liked what he saw well enough to buy the horse. Soon, Old Billy became so well-known and sought after as a stud that “Billy horses” commanded the same respect in South Texas that “Steeldusts” did in North Texas.

While all this was going on, other stallions, such as Roan Dick, were adding foundations. By Black Nick, a son of Stewart’s Telegraph, Roan Dick was bred by Robert Wade of Illinois and foaled in 1877 out of a mare by Greenstreet’s Boanerges, a grandson of Printer. Roan Dick offspring were famous for their speed.

Old Fred

Then there was John Crowder, a son of Old Billy who sired the palomino race mare that was bred to the Printer- and Cold Deck-bred stallion Black Ball to produce foundation sire Old Fred.

Bred in Missouri and foaled in 1894, Old Fred was spotted by Coke T. Roberds while the horse was pulling a freight wagon. Roberds took him to his ranch at Hayden, Colorado, where his friend and neighbor Siria "Si" Dawson owned Peter McCue.

Peter McCue

Peter McCue, bred by Sam Watkins of Petersburg, Illinois, was foaled in 1895 and died in 1923. Peter McCue was by Watkins’ stallion Dan Tucker, who was by the Cold Deck son Barney Owens and was out of Butt Cut, a mare who traced to Steel Dust and Printer. Peter McCue became one of the greatest sires ever for Quarter Horses, where he now figures in the pedigrees of more than nine out of every 10 of the more than 6 million horses registered. Peter McCue stood in Illinois, Texas and Oklahoma before winding up in Colorado, where Dawson and Roberds crossed him on Old Fred mares and Old Fred on Peter McCue mares. Both Roberds and Dawson are members of the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame, as is Peter McCue.

old photo of Peter McCue

Peter McCue (Credit: courtesy of American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum)


Then there was Traveler, whose breeding is unknown. Most people figure that Traveler was foaled about 1880. He was described as being a blaze-faced sorrel with scattered roan hair, and powerful hind-quarters.

The first time we hear anything about Traveler was when a couple of brothers named Self, from Baird, Texas, saw him pulling a dirt scraper on a work crew that was building a right-of-way for the Texas and Pacific Railroad near San Angelo, Texas. The Selfs really liked Traveler’s looks, so they bought him and entered him in a race against a well-known race mare named Mayflower. No one thought the old work horse had a chance–he even had scars on his shoulders from the harness collar–but witnesses to the race said that Traveler outran the mare so badly that Mayflower’s jockey could have thrown a rock from the back of his horse and not hit Traveler.   

Through the years, Traveler traded hands a few more times, and his get came to be known as great racehorses, polo ponies and steer roping mounts. During the first 10 years of AQHA, it was estimated that half of all the registered Quarter Horses at that time were descendants of Traveler.

Traveler, who died in 1912 at the estimated age of 32, passed through several owners before finally becoming the main stallion for Dow and Will Shely at Alfred, Texas, where he sired two of his best colts, the full brothers Little Joe and the horse first known as King (not to be confused with King P-234) in Texas and later as Possum in Arizona. Both were out of the Sykes Rondo mare Jenny.

old photo of Traveler

Traveler (Credit: courtesy of American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum)

Little Joe

Little Joe was owned for many years by Ott Adams, who ranched near Alice, Texas. Little Joe was foaled in 1904 and died in 1929 on the Cardwell Ranch at Junction, Texas, leaving a family including Pancho Villa, Cotton Eyed Joe, Grano De Oro and Zantanon, who secured his own place in history by siring King P-234. King was out of Jabalina, a mare who traced through Strait Horse and Yellow Jacket to Lock’s Rondo.

Lock's Rondo

Lock’s Rondo was by Old Billy’s son Whalebone and out of a Cold Deck-bred mare. Bred in Texas and foaled in 1881, Lock’s Rondo, as a 6-year-old, was purchased for $1,000 by W.W. Lock, who stood him on his ranch at Kyle, Texas. Lock’s Rondo died in 1897.

The First 20 AQHA Registered Horses

It is interesting to look back through the first 20 horses registered with AQHA – designated as foundation sires – and see how they tie into the Bloodlines Chart. According to an article in America’s Horse magazine, after AQHA was chartered in 1940, the newly formed Executive Committee decided that the first registration number would be reserved for the grand champion at the Fort Worth Stock Show. That turned out to be the King Ranch’s Wimpy, who traces back through Old Sorrel to Peter McCue. The 20th was reserved for the first president of AQHA, W.B. Warren of Hockley, Texas, who registered his stallion Pancho, also descended from Peter McCue. The other 18 were to be given to stallions who exhibited preferred Quarter Horse type through their parentage, conformation and performance.

As stated in that America’s Horse article, several of those first 20 are well known to even the most casual Quarter Horse enthusiast, and their contributions to the breed have been well documented. Almost all of the stallions were selected for a reason; most were outstanding specimens of a breed trying to identify itself. They came from breeders who had distinguished themselves by selecting for horses true in type and ability, with hand-written pedigrees and word-of-mouth advertising. Along with Wimpy, the King Ranch’s breeding program contributed the Old Sorrel sons Little Richard (No. 17) and Tomate Laureles (No. 19). Peter McCue sired both Chief (No. 5) and No. 11 Sheik (spelled Shiek in the chart), the latter of which was bred by Coke Roberds in Colorado.

Ott Adams’ Rialto (No. 2) represented an upside-down version of his usual breeding plan, with Traveler on the top side and Old Billy on the bottom. Other sires, like Old Red Buck (No. 9), traced to Coke Blake’s Oklahoma breeding program and descended from both Printer and Cold Deck.

In addition to coming from established breeders, the stallions were individually selected based on conformation and performance. Many of them were proven sires by the time they were registered. So why do we remember some, but not all? It seems the greatest common denominator between stallions we remember was that they stood to the greatest number of mares, or were raised by ranches interested in racing and showing. The fame of a stallion directly corresponds to the ability of his offspring to excel on the track or in the show ring. The cowboys on the JA Ranch in the Texas Panhandle might have loved the Yellow Boy (No. 18) geldings they rode, but they mostly had to brag amongst themselves. The JA didn’t send a show string on the road like the King Ranch did.

Many of the other stallions had the same problem. A cowboy might have loved the way his Brown Possum (No. 15) colt worked–he just didn’t have anyone to tell. And Brown Possum was one of those who didn’t have the advantage of being bred to large numbers of mares. He had only 13 registered foals. Helen Michaelis’ stallion Columbus (No. 7) is credited with only 21 registered foals. Stacked up against Joe Bailey’s (No. 4) 257 foals, they were behind before they got started. There’s always the possibility that, given different circumstances, we might be reading about Old Jim (No. 10) or Pancho (No. 20), because 80 years ago, they were considered to be among the best.

All those horses are gone, but their blood is still prevalent throughout the breed. The winner of the 2021 All American Futurity, KJ Desperado, is descended from both Traveler and Peter McCue. Doc Bar, who loaned his pedigree to countless great cutting horses, goes through the Rondo line to Old Billy and Shiloh, and Zippo Pine Bar, who was a top sire of western pleasure and western riding horses and whom we featured in the August issue of the Journal, takes a like journey back to the beginning of the breed. He goes through Little Joe two different times, which takes him to Traveler, as well as Old Billy, Shiloh and Sir Archy.

So on your next visit to the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum, take some time to look at the floor. A portion of your horse’s pedigree is lying there.

Bloodlines Chart at the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum in Amarillo Texas