Floyd Gurley

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Floyd Gurley
Date of Birth:
Date of Death:
Place of Birth:
Known For: Author and Publisher "The Scientific Breeding of Gamefowl"

Floyd Gurley (Author and publisher of "The Scientific Breeding of Gamefowl") (taken from his book)

Almost all the relevant things included in this book come from the mind and experience of Floyd Gurley. A breeder/cocker for more that 50 years. Floyd has developed a system and outlook on poultry that is unique and extremely successful, thanks to his powers of observation and his unique experiences.

First, Floyd worked for many years in Commercial Poultry Breeding Operations where he had daily exchanges with scientists in the fields of poultry nutrition, diseases, physiology and genetics, among other disciplines. Floyd took advantage of this to learn as much as he could. He learned so well, that some of the poultry geneticists as the University of Delaware used him to help analyze breeding problems they were faced with.

Secondly, Floyd was able to hook up, after some early years of disappointment, with some of the “old-timers” in the sport in the Northeast who made available to him the practical experience that had accrued in over 100 years of cocking in the Northeast, the bastion of game chickens. Also, he was able to obtain inbred “seed” fowl that still forms the basis of all his breeding.

Thirdly, Floyd has a natural scientific bent of mind. Without the advantage of formal education, Floyd nevertheless had the most important mental quality of all: he takes nothing for granted and tests everything he hears until he proves it for himself. An early example of this was an experience he had with one of his early partners, Harry Walls.

Walls had access to the Kearney Whitehackles direct from Harry Kearney, son of Mike Kearney, and keeper of the tradition of the old hard-hitting, never-say-die type of power fowl. It was a given for Mr. Walls and the Kearneys that these fowl had to be fought light in flesh. For one derby, Walls permitted Floyd, the junior partner, to put up a show for a major tournament. Floyd did so, but kept the fowl heavier in flesh since he had reached the conclusion that many of the losses of these fine fowl was due to their lack of physical reserves. Their gameness and wallop helped them overcome many difficulties that their light condition forced them to get into. When Walls felt the fowl, he told Floyd that he had ruined them and that he wanted no part of the stake in the tournament to follow. Floyd said that in that case he would put up the stake himself. After Floyd won his first fight, he asked Walls if he wanted to reconsider and go half and half. Walls said no, he had been lucky to win one fight. After winning the second fight, Floyd asked him again, as he did upon winning the third. Walls turned him down both times and Floyd didn’t ask him again. After winning the Tournament alone with straight wins, Walls told Floyd “I don’t know what to say.” What he never said was “I was wrong!” He did however, let Floyd prepare other entries and made available to Floyd the pure Kearney’s and Spangles that Floyd has to this day.

Another key stage in Floyd’s life was when he became a feeder for Bob Carpenter, one of the premier sportsmen of this or any generation. Known primarily as the owner of the Philadelphia Phillies for 29 seasons, he was equally associated with horse racing, football, basketball, boxing, hunting, dog breeding and physical fitness. He served on the Delaware Racing Commission, brought the first professional basketball team to Delaware, enjoyed hunting from big game in Africa to duck and quail on his plantation-estate in South Carolina. The trophies and mementos from these hunts and expeditions he housed in his private museum at Montchanin on this historic Brandywine. As far back as 1937 Field & Stream magazine named one of his dogs the finest retriever in the United States. Bob lived to see some of the acknowledgement he deserved when, on June 11, 1990, barely a month before his death, the University of Delaware held the ground-breaking ceremony in Newark, of the Bob Carpenter Sports/Convocation Center.

Floyd ran the breeding operations at Carpenter’s estate of Dilwyn in Montchanin, Delaware for 13 years. There he was able to undertake scientifically a long and meticulous program of pedigree breeding that he would never have been able to carry out without Carpenter’s encouragement and financial backing. There were as many as 5,000 fowl on this farm for many years. Floyd would like to think that it was, to some extent, his own influence that made Bob take such a keen interest in genetics. With the knowledge gained in their gamefowl breeding programs, he went on to develop some of the best bird dogs in the country through selective breeding as well as to rescue, almost single-handedly from near extinction Delaware’s state bird the brave fighting Blue Hen. These chickens were carried around and sparred for their entertainment and morale-boosting qualities by the revolutionary troops under General Washington. Upon Bob’s death these Blue Hens, so difficult to breed on account of their genetic heterozygosity, were placed in the care of the Delaware State Veterinarian to see that the rare breed was perpetuated.

More personally, Floyd knew that in his own undertakings he could always count on the generosity and sponsorship of Bob Carpenter. As Floyd was leaving for the Claymore Tournament held at the Virginia Sportsmen’s Club just prior to his death, he told him “Now, don’t go down there and let those guys whip you!” It was Floyd’s great regret that Carpenter could not be there to witness their entry’s performance. Afterwards Floyd called him and told him “to dust off the mantle,” that he was bringing home the trophy. He had answered the phone in a weak voice but let out a war-whoop when told they had won. Incidentally knowing how sick he was at the time, the entire elite group that is the Claymore shared equally in the jubilation of this win.

In spite of winning hundreds of derbies, mains, and tournaments in his 50-year career, this is one of Floyd’s favorite achievements, ranking along winning the Kearney Memorial three times and retiring the trophy, and doing it with Kearney’s old fowl.

Another major advantage that Floyd enjoyed was that the pit he frequented almost every week, the famous Northeast Pit in Montchanin, was also the pit of choice of some of the best cockers in the United States. Men such as Frank Shy, Paul Keefer, Joe Z., Bernard Kassler, Joe Ross, Harry Parr, Dick Dorsey, Ted Pauser, Bob Doyle, Dick Radke, Kemper Marley, Richard Bates, the Kozura family, the Cantrells, Clay Brittle, Duke Hulsey, “Barber” Almony, Gordon Wright from Canada, Henry Page, John Sears, Harold Germaine, Henny Stiner, Charlie Pearce, Heinie Mathesius, Ray Ellis, Red Boggs, Harry Kearney, Jerome Vogeler, Harry Walls, Bob McGarrity, Bob Waldek, and many, many more fought here. By fighting against the best, Floyd was able to guarantee that his fowl were severely tested year after year.

Bob Carpenter will always be remembered as a sportsman of the truest blood and one of the greatest sportsmen of our time. For Floyd, it will always remain an honor to have shared in some of his dreams and aspirations. But a great many besides Floyd will miss the generosity and encouragement of the consummate gentleman-sportsman.

Now you, the reader, will also benefit from the developments made at the Montchanin Breeding Farm in what was possibly the largest sustained effort made in the United States or anywhere to develop uniform and successful breeds of gamefowl.

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