July 17, 1949 at age 17
with Peggy Davis on board
(photo courtesy Appaloosa Journal)
In May of 1932, Phil Jenkins' mare, Cheeco, slipped out of her Colorado mountain pasture to have her foal, a red leopard colt. Thus, the story of Sundance begins.
The dam: Cheeco
After spending two months breaking the "wild outlaw," Jenkins said that with another month of work, and under the guidance of an old cowboy by the name of Lafe Green, she became a cutting horse. Lafe Green was in his eighties and had worked at the XU Ranch where Phil Jenkins had hired on as a cowboy and hoped to do some trapping over the winter. While Lafe was training Phil as his replacement at the XU, he relayed to him the story of how the Conquistadors introduced the Arab-bred horse to the New World and how some of these horses got loose, ran wild, and kept their blood pure Spanish for nearly three hundred years. Lafe looked Cheeco over and pointed out all the Appaloosa features and told Phil that he felt she was pure Spanish. Jenkins later remarked, "Her...ability to bore a hole in the wind when she ran told me her blood was pure Conquistador-Spanish," undoubtedly based upon Lafe Green's earlier history lessons. Jenkins went on to teach Cheeco several tricks and stated that she would come to him on command out of pasture.
The sire: Daylight
Daylight was a chestnut (red) leopard stallion, owned by Charles Cummins of Kersey, Colorado. Frank Scripter, in November 1989, wrote about some notes he had in his files (source unknown) that read as follows:
"According to Phil Jenkins, Daylight was a freak of nature, and a throwback to an ancient ancestor. It is stated that Charles Cummings of Evergreen, Colorado, had a black TB mare which was bred to a grey Arabian horse from the Kellogg Ranch in California. This mating produced Daylight, the sire of Sundance, who looked just like Sundance."
Mr. Scripter said that the story was told to him by someone whom he considered a reliable source or he would not have written it down. He said that at that time, he was grasping at any and every straw to try and establish lineage. At the same time, he acknowledged that some of the information was disputed by other sources.
Could the following be Daylight's pedigree?
___ Gray Arabian stallion | (Kellogg Ranch) | | DAYLIGHT ____________________| (red leopard stallion) | | | |___ Black TB mare (by Sands of Time)
While Phil Jenkins kept saying that Sundance's dam, Cheeco, looked like an Arab, and since Sundance showed a lot of Arabian traits, the Kellogg Arabian story provides for more speculation.
Different sources, including Jan Haddle's, The Complete Book of the Appaloosa, identify Daylight's dam as a Thoroughbred mare by Sands of Time. Daylight was foaled in either 1928 or 1929 and died in 1945. Of note in this pedigree is that Rock Sand, the grandsire of Sands of Time, is also the maternal grandsire of the great Thoroughbred, Man O'War.
The following was extracted from an article written by Robert L. Peckinpah, and appeared in the February - March 1951 issue of The Horse Lover's Magazine
In a January 1972, Appaloosa News article by Mary P. Hare, the information from Doc Edwards, the last owner of Sundance, was:
"The way I got the story, the horse known as Starbuck Leopard was left at a livery stable in Cheyenne, Wyoming, by a drunken cowboy. He was later purchased by John Campbell for the feed bill, and John Starbuck bought the horse from him."Ms. Hare's article also refers to a story that appeared in the September 1949 Western Horseman, by Ben Johnson, entitled, "The Truth About Starbuck Leopard," telling of Starbuck's acquisition of the stallion"
"I attended a horse sale at the Denver Stockyards. A man from Wyoming had a leopard spotted stallion and 3 pure white mares that he put through the ring but did not sell. After the sale I offered him $500 for them and he sold them to me. The stallion was 5 or 6 years old and I named him Leopard."
It is mainly from Mary P. Hare's in-depth work in her article "A Jigsaw Puzzle in Time"--The Legend of 'The Kid,' that the following information was extracted.
THE LEGEND OF 'THE KID'
It is believed that Starbuck Leopard died from old age in 1939 or 1940. Josef Stransky's records that he kept on his horses, including Starbuck Leopard, were destroyed in a fire. Mrs. Stransky had not been that involved with the information on the horses and, after Mr. Stransky's death, many of the details were forgotten.
From the interview in the Western Horseman article, the 73-year-old Mr. Starbuck stated that Leopard was a "5 or 6 year old around 35 years ago," placing Leopard's foaling date back around the 1913 time frame that will be discussed later. He said that Leopard had come from Wyoming, but didn't know anything more about his background.
Ms. Hare wrote an article, "Accent on Spots," that appeared in the Appaloosa News. The lead picture to that article was captioned, "Starbuck Leopard." Arlin Davidson, of Sandy, Utah, come across the article and photograph, and finally, after more than a year, was able to get in touch with Ms. Hare and share some most interesting information.
In the "Accent on Spots," article, Ms. Hare suggested that the Colorado/Wyoming area may have been the cradle of the early leopard lines. Arlin Davidson had a different belief, that the spotted horses of this particular pattern came out of the San Rafael area in Utah, making their way to Wyoming, in the early 1900's. While agreeing that Appaloosas were not the same as the spotted horses in that region, he said that leopards had proven compatible to the original Northwest Appaloosa strains.
In several letters to Ms. Hare, Mr. Davidson shared a wealth of information about his family and their connection to a horse known as "The Kid." Mr. Davidson was raised around leopard horses and had owned and raised spotted horses for more than 50 years, with his father and grandfather raising them before him. With spotted horses in the family for more than 100 years, Mr. Davidson said he was not a real leopard fan so the names of Starbuck Leopard and Sundance were not familiar to him and he had never seen the Starbuck Leopard's picture until he came across "Accent on Spots."
Upon seeing the photo, he was shocked. It was "THE KID." He immediately recognized the horse since he had seen dozens of pictures of him and knew all about the horse. Mr. Davidson said, "It was just like seeing a picture of an uncle or aunt that you are familiar with but they're wearing the wrong name -- you still know them."
He then proceeded to show the photo to his father, who was in his 80's, and about a dozen other people, all elderly folks but who would have known 'The Kid.' When showing the picture, he would only say, "I just found an article with a picture of an old-time horse, I'd like you to look at it." Without exception, each one said, "why, that's grandfather's horse, the one he called The Kid, the one that "H" stole."
Grandfather, in this case, was Arlin's grandfather, Amasa Davidson, who was part of the Utah Territory's "first-generation" of Utah-born Mormons who went into ranching on the desert lands and range areas. This part of the late 1800's was the era of cowboys and ranchers -- empire builders of the West. Mr. Amasa Davidson cowpoked all over the West starting in the late 1870's and became an established, well-respected rancher during the 1890's until his death in January 1930, in San Pete County, Utah.
Understanding the area geographically, the desert areas of this territory were know as the "west desert," starting around Levan, Utah and extending westward to include most of the present state of Nevada, and the "east desert," which ran eastward from San Pete County (just about the center of Utah), and included the vast area known today as the Colorado Plateau. The infamous "Robbers' Roost", of outlaw sagas, and the "San Rafael Swell" were in this "east desert" area.
Several Utah families caught leopard-spotted horses that ran wild on the San Rafael Swell, and kept the blood throughout the years. Most of the horses from the Davidson, Kelsey, Neilson, Olsen, Seeley, Swasey, and Dellapane families were related. It was in the San Rafael area that Amasa Davidson spent over two months during the late 1870's in capturing a blue-spotted stallion that he named King of the Mountain, or "King."
Arlin Davidson related that as far back as he could remember, his folks were ranching in southwestern Wyoming, just a few miles from old Fort Bridger. His grandfather had bought the ranch earlier and his father ran it for a couple of years before Grandfather Davidson moved the rest of the family to Wyoming in 1910. Arlin's father, a school teacher, as well as several of his rancher uncles had some leopards, while his grandfather had many of them. They didn't call these horses "Appaloosas" or even "leopards" -- they were simply referred to as "San Rafael" horses, horses that were known as long-lived, fast, distance goers, athletic, and smart.
Recalling those horses, Arlin Davidson told about Prince. Prince stood 16 hands and had bright red spots over his entire body. He had been a good sire, was an excellent cow horse, and had been gelded late in life. Arlin's father learned to ride on Prince. Foaled September 6, 1890, Prince was the result of mating a grand daughter, named Blue Cotton, of the old stallion, King of the Mountain, to the Cassity (Cassidy) Leopard, whose actual name was Mineguard -- a name sometimes seen in old-time leopard pedigrees. Mineguard was a San Rafael horse, and reportedly the same horse which Butch Cassidy, organizer of a rather large outlaw gang known as the Wild Bunch, had used in the Cortez bank holdup a few months before.
"Now regarding the Cassity (Cassidy) Leopard," Mr. Davidson relates, "Grandfather owned several far-flung ranches on the desert. One day while at the Hot Springs Ranch, a wounded rider came in -- nobody asked another's name in those days, but Grandfather recognized the man from posters, to be Butch Cassity (Cassidy), but he didn't let on. The rider said his name was "John" and stayed around a few months until his wound healed. During his stay at the ranch, Blue Cotton got mated to his leopard horse, Mineguard. That cross produced Prince."
Prince reportedly sired many good spotted horses, but the important one here is the black leopard son of Prince, The Kid, born May 8, 1913, at Fort Bridger, Wyoming, whose picture in "Accent on Spots" was labelled as the Starbuck Leopard.
Amasa Davidson was so taken by The Kid, a magnificent horse with hundreds of dime to quarter-sized spots over his entire body, that he gelded the aged Prince in 1915, when The Kid was a two-year-old and ready to take over as herd sire.
Pedigree of THE KID
(Could he be a.k.a. Starbuck's Leopard?)
Mr. Davidson related that his grandfather only got a couple of foal crops from The Kid before he was stolen - a gelding and six fillies.
As the story was told, on the ranch next to the Davidson spread in Wyoming, there lived a kid who was the neighborhood terror -- something of a smart aleck who perhaps wasn't too bright. This kid, referred to in the story as "H," took The Kid one night and ran away from home. This, according to Mr. Davidson, was sometime in June 1916. None of the Davidson family would ever again see the black-spotted stallion San Rafael stallion known as The Kid. "H" came dragging back home several months later, but without The Kid. Until that time, they thought that when the boy came home he would still have The Kid with him.
It appears that "H" got as far as Cokeville, Wyoming, where he wound up in a poker game, lost and couldn't pay off. The winner, referred to as "Al" took The Kid from "H" in lieu of the debt. Broke, "H" made his way over to Soda Springs, Idaho, where he worked for a hay crew the rest of that summer, then drifted back home.
Mr. Amasa Davidson posted a reward of $500 in gold for the return of The Kid. "H's" father, Daddy "R" offered an additional $500, making the reward $1,000 a huge sum of money in those days. The feeling was that a reward that large would locate the whereabouts of The Kid, if anything would.
Four different men were contacted by Amasa Davidson, in an attempt to get The Kid back. Will Henry, a local rancher who was regarded as a "go-between" for the outlaw element and ranchers, was contacted first. Next, a rancher named Morcroft, of Pinedale, Wyoming, was contacted since it had been reported that The Kid has been seen in the Wind River region of central Wyoming. Then, there was Bob Meeks, well-known as a horse thief and former associate of Butch Cassidy. Finally, Will Henry's brother, Joes, an expert old-time horse trader (his name was Joseph, but he was always called Joes.)
While reports came in about The Kid being seen in the Wind River area, and "Al," the card player, was reported to be based in Jackson Hole, but did a good bit of traveling throughout the area from Big Hole Basin of Montana to Brown's Hole in Utah.
The reward on The Kid increased to $1,500 and old Joes Henry went after him like a bounty hunter. It was said that he located The Kid and was riding him alone when he was jumped by several men in the Wind Rivers area. Arlin Davidson related, "In the ensuing fight, Joes escaped with his life but the 'resistors' got The Kid. Three people died over the incident. I don't know if there were any hearings on these killings. I am certain there were no trials."
World War I was nearing an end when Amasa Davidson received word that The Kid was in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Having business in Cheyenne, he went there by train, taking one of his sons and a saddle with him. His son was to ride the horse back home, a distance of some 400 miles. After ten days in Cheyenne, and unable to find out where The Kid had gone, Amasa Davidson returned home, disheartened, and never tried to find The Kid again. Arlin recalls his grandfather talking about a "double-cross" in Cheyenne, regarding The Kid and the reward money.
THE END or THE BEGINNING?
The story has come full circle now. We are back in Cheyenne, Wyoming, around 1917-1918, where, it's quite possible that "a weatherbeaten, half-frozen cowboy rode a leopard-spotted stallion into Cheyenne, Wyoming and put him up at Ann Walsh's stable to be fed." Think about the Old West, of the times of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and their Wild Bunch. If someone had a so-called "hot" horse after a double-cross, where would be logical place to drop it off? Can it be a coincidence that Starbuck Leopard materialized around this same time and location?
There are many mysteries and much speculation surrounding Starbuck Leopard. I believe Frank Scripter was upset with himself for not having followed up on some earlier notes he had about the entire situation. While no one disputed the fact that Daylight was the sire of Sundance, Frank wondered if anyone ever questioned Phil Jenkins specifically about what he knew about the ancestry of Daylight. Another unanswered note he had was, "Was Phil Jenkins the cowboy who rode Starbuck Leopard into the city of Cheyenne?"
Some of our Appaloosas are descended from Sundance. Now, when I am with them, feeding, grooming, or just observing them, I can't help but wonder about their ancestors, in another place and another time.
Sources for this article include:
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