Group Seven: SAN RAFAEL SWELL SADDLE HORSES
According to Arlin Davidson's many letters to me in 1971: "I was raised in a corral full of leopards. I have owned and raised Appaloosas for 51 years; my father and grandfather raised them before me. We have had spotted horses in the family for over one hundred years." Arlin voiced the belief that the spotted horses of this particular pattern came out of the San Rafael area of Utah, making their way to Wyoming in the early 1900s. He agreed that they were not the same as Appaloosas, but had proven very compatible to the Nez Perce horses of the northwest.
To go back into history, the original Morman immigrants settled in the small valleys of the Utah Territory where irrigation water was available over the western Rocky Mountain areas. Utah didn't become a state until 1896, so the territory covered a much larger area. The first generation Utah-born Mormans went into ranching on the desert lands or range areas.
Arlin's grandfather, Amasa Davidson was one of these men. He cowpoked allover the west during 1870s and ~Os, becoming a well-established rancher during the 1890s, until his death in 1930.
The desert lands of Utah were known as the "west desert"-and the "east desert". The San Rafael Swell was part of the "east desert". From the time of the earliest white settlers of the Utah Territory, there seems to have been leopard-spotted horses running native on the San Rafael Swell. Several different Utah family groups caught these San Rafael horses and kept that blood down through the years. Most of the Davidson, Kelsey, Nielson, Olsen, Seeley, Swasey and Dellaphane horses were related.
Amasa Davidson spent over two months during the late l870s to "run in the King of The Mountain off the San Rafael". "King" was a blue leopard. "The Kid" (named after "El Cid", a. Spanish hero), was the result of the intensive leopard breeding program of Amasa Davidson. Prince, a red leopard born in 1890, was a double-bred grandson of King, and Sis, a sorrel leopard, had five or more crosses to King. The Kid was born May 13, 1913. He had hundreds of dime to quarter sized black spots over his entire body. "He was a magnificent horse for that period of history," Arlin states. "Grandfather only got a gelding and six fillies from The Kid before he was stolen: . Blue Nellie, Van Dyke, France, Babe, Toots and Echo.”
The Kid was stolen sometime in June or early July 1916. “None of our family ever saw the black spotted San Rafael stallion again.” Arlin states. Several posters offering rewards for him were triggers leading to a number of men losing their lives. “I don’t know if there were any hearings on these killings. I am certain there were no trials,” Arlin adds.
Sometime during the latter stages of World War I, Amasa Davidson got word that The Kid was now in Cheyenne. They didn’t find the horse. “I remember Grandfather talking about a ‘double cross’ regarding The Kid. After Grandfather came home, he gave up and never tried to find The Kid again.” Arlin Davidson had great respect for his Grandfather.
CHUB'S POWDERFACE #24,129 (UTAH F13ll)
Frank Scripter's old horse Chub's Powderface is a traceable descendant of the San Rafael Saddle Horses. His sire Chubby Pawnee #1434 was out of an unregistered mare Black Maggie, who was sired by Flag #1882, and out of a black leopard unregistered mare Maggie, who was sired by Utah #1311. Flag was also by: Utah.
John L. Taylor, the breeder of Powderface, credits the leopard pattern to Utah. Utah is the only known descendant out of the mare called Babe, who was a daughter of The Kid. Other information was gathered from Esther Ferguson, the widow of Lew Ferguson. He purchased Utah from Carlos Jensen of Bear River, Utah. Jensen owned Babe almost all of her life.
Cliff and Dolly Klemo owned the mare Utana F1958, a daughter of Utah. When bred to Apache II F1607, she produced Butana F2l58, who in turn sired the bay leopard Butana's Orbit #20,778, out of a Thoroughbred.
"An indication that the leopard spotting gene came from Utah is that there are 14 horses registered in the old Stud Books credited to Utah F13Il. Therefore, it's proven that Chub's Powderface did, indeed, go back to the program of Amasa Davidson, who ran his original horses in off the San Rafael Swell in the late 1880s." Scripter states.
Frank studied the first four ApHC Stud Books horse by horse, plus the Foundation horses ~ Stud Book #5, and extracted the following: Eight San Rafael horses owned/bred by Arlin Davidson using Verda Star #792, whose grand dam was Manti Sue; a grand daughter of The Kid, through his daughter Van Dyke. The early Stud Books also show 67 horses bred in the State of Utah, indicating leopard line breeding with 20 of them having descriptions of leopards. France, a daughter of The Kid, was the grand dam of Utah's Dixie and Frost's Polkadot. Utah's Dixie was the dam of Starduster and full brother Bar 13 Starduster.
Quoting Frank Scripter, "The original horses of the San Rafael Swell in the 1880s that Amasa Davidson pursued in his intense breeding program of leopard horses to about 1920, preceded Claude Thompson's by 20 years. Although many people poo-poohed Mary Hare's article about The Kid at the time she published it (1972), I've pursued the background of Arlin Davidson's family through records that are provable, census records and extensive research has shown that Arlin Davidson spoke the truth about his grandfather."
To quote. a 1994 letter from Palmer Wagner: -”When I wrote up the Utah Appaloosa history (for his book), I found you have to begin with the Davidson Appaloosas and go on from there. It isn't a matter of proving Arlin Davidson's story, it's impossible to keep from proving it after an intensive search of people and places that he (Arlin) mentions."
In today's Appaloosas, any horse having Chub's Powderface in its breeding will therefore have the blood of the "San Rafael Saddle Horses" in their veins!
So there you have it! Whether our leopard-spotted horses came from the Russian boats in Til1amook Bay (Ghost Wind Stallions), from the Spanish Conquistadors (Francis Haines), or whatever, we'll never know for sure. That's what makes the Appaloosa so intriguing.
MARY P. HARE
Sources: Arlin Davidson's "The Legend of The Kid~ Jan., 1972 Appaloosa News; Sundance Newsletter Sept. 1994 "Biography of Chub's Powderface,” ApHC Stud Books; Frank Scripter’s letters; Palmer Wagner letters to Prank Scripter and to me.