Origin of the Roundheads
Written in the 1920s
Here is the data on the Roundheads, a major portion of which came from Mr. Allen's pen. He says: To begin, I might explain my first Roundheads who were black and black red fowl, black legs, black eyes, Warhorse type in color. I got my first Roundhead cock from Colonel F. E. Grist of Fort Gaines, Georgia. This cock I learned afterwards was bred by John McCoy of Marblehead, Massachusetts. I attended a tournament in 1890 at Montgomery, Alabama. Colonel Grist had over 100 cocks there; among them was a Roundhead cock. Colonel Grist had fought him 8 times. He fought him twice in Montgomery without removing the heels. He never got touched. I tried to buy the cock but he would not sell. Later, I wired him for a bunch of cocks. In the lot was this Roundhead. I fought him twice one night in Monroe, Louisiana without removing the heels. He never got touched. I immediately wired Colonel Grist to ship me a whole yard of Roundheads, which he did. I bred the old McCoy Roundhead, a 12-time winner, over the Judge Gordon hens, hence the Allen dark leg Roundheads. The old McCoy was black red, dark red eyes, darks legs, and speckled all over. I fought these cocks all over the country before I ever heard of the Saunders Roundheads. (Mr. Allen crossed the Dr. Saunders Roundheads over his old stock as related by him as follows.) Nearly 30 years ago (about 1902) the late Dr. Fred Saunders, of Salem, Essex County, and Massachusetts wrote to me to send him 2 dark fowl (hens) describing exactly what he wanted, for short heel fighting. After giving the matter my most careful thought, Mrs. Allen and I drove out to the Hyman brood yard. I caught two of the best hens, sent them to Dr. Saunders and told him there was no charge. He answered and said, Allen you seem so nice, I would like to lend you one of my brook cocks for 60 days with the understanding he be returned at that time. I wrote him to ship the cock, that I would comply with his request. The cock came. He was a dark black-breasted Roundhead, yellow legs, white in wings and tail, and red eyed. I could see deep down in his eye, one of the best-bred gamecocks I had ever seen. The quills in his feathers were red. (Mr. Allen goes into detail as to how he placed this Saunders Roundhead cock over his first Colonel Grist hens and old Travelers) Old White Leg and Yellow Leg from this yard must have won 10 battles and died a natural death on the brood yards. Two of them were fought by Dr. Saunders and in a number of mains. They were the most wonderful cocks I had ever seen. They had the brains of a Corbet. Not a gaff was ever pulled out of Old Yellow Leg or Old White Leg. After discovering the wonderful cocks they were, I tried to get more from Dr. Saunders but he did not want me to have them since I sold fowl and he did not want to meet them, his own bloodline, in the pit. Mr. Allen said the history of the origin of these Roundheads was lost in a fire when his house burned down in Port Gibson, Mississippi in 1920. Mr., Allen quotes from memory what Dr. Saunders said as follows: I sent a man in Vermont $6.00 for two stags and two pullets, out of different hens One of these pullets showed a Roundhead. I sent back to the same man and got a cock, a full brother to the daddy and bred to the Roundhead hen for as long as he lived. Then each season I bred a son to her as long as she lived. The daddy to the above pullet/hen was Dennis Mahoney cock, as well as the cock I bought. They were the best fowl ever to cross the Mason/Dixon line, going in either direction or Allen; you will find it that way. When I lose these fowl, I am done with the game. Yours Truly, Dr. Fred Saunders. (I the writer is adding that these Roundheads have been bred father to daughter then to granddaughter, and son to mother, etc. for approximately 85 years according to my records and previous history.) Mr. Allen further writes: I walked a great many cocks for Dr. Saunders and exchanges and loaned him cocks to fight and finally afterwards persuaded him to send me more of his full Saunders. He sent Old Speck, a spangle. The he mated a full yard of his Roundheads and bred them in a barn lot in Salem, Massachusetts for our mutual benefit. He sent 5 stages out of the mating, one a spangle, was bred to the old dark stock. They were wonderful cocks and beat everybody in the country. The following season Speck was bred to a yard of his own daughters. The cocks were fought in a tournament in Montgomery, Alabama and won the first money 9 out of 11 fights. They were fought all over the country and pronounced the greatest cocks ever seen in the South. Old Red Eye, Little Red Eye, Bull Neck St., Skin Head, Old Buck Eye, and a number others where never whipped, and died on the brood yards. They were too smart for other cocks. For nearly 30 years we lost only 2 mains. Mr. Allen gave the reason for losing the two mains was because they were fought in San Antonio without first being acclimated to a high altitude, as were the World Olympics in Mexico City. As the writer of this article (1977) I can say that 30 years ago I discarded all other fine fowls because of our Roundheads were superior, the Clarets were hardest to give up. These Clarets were largely used in the 2 mains Mr. Allen lost. The Roundheads best the Clarets consistently for many, many years. But, we still like the smart branch of the old Claret, next to the Roundheads. Colonel Allen was a most brilliant man. Once he was major of this town, three times clerk of the court of Clairborne County, Mississippi, clerk of county board of commissioners, County Treasurer, Clerk of the pension board, etc. But his greatest talent was not in politics, but in his ability to recognize a premise or a change when he spotted the ability of the Roundhead thus revolutionizing cock breeding. Now to my knowledge, the above is not a complete enlightenment of the Roundheads, as I know the picture of one of the first Allen Roundheads of over 75 years of age in our book, "The Gamebird" on page 9 is that of an Asil. Further, our Roundheads occasionally come Oriental after having been inbred father to daughter, to granddaughter, and hens bred the same way, and show the deadly heel, brilliance and style of no other fowl. The Million Dollar Bargain Cock was bred to 7/8 his own blood. The Great Spangle won 2 fights as a 6 year old for a neighbor cocker. Bambo, the son of the cock "Colonel Allen" was bred and bred over his offspring many times. All our Roundheads are deeply inbred, then line bred to other lines of the family, and still come larger, smarter, and gamer. All our fowl are closely related and our Bambos direct descendants come darker. But 95% come black-breasted reds, red eyes, pea comb, and white and yellow legs, just as they did 30 years ago. A dark red or a spangle, or slight pumpkin does not hurt. We want to share our Roundheads with people who especially like this particular type fowl. For this reason we offer the following: Have the foundation for deep inbreeding without losing strength or size. Cool, calm, collected, and can win with a single stroke and are good sound fighters up to old age. We do not breed fowl that get cut or get excited. Some people do not like this type fowl and are happier with other kinds. We have never had a complaint about the record but sometimes have other complaints, such as fighting
style. Nevertheless if you have the best straight comb fowl available and the best of everything else you can meet the big time and break even with anybody and it makes no difference who! Except the man who shows the best Roundheads! This is why we got rid of all other fowl over 30 years ago.
By Harry Charles
My recollections of chicken fighting go back almost 70 years. I was born in 1900 and started earning money when I was 6 years old by running errands and doing any small odd jobs. By the time I was 8 years old I was trading horses. At the age of 10 I owned a livery stable as the result of successful horse-trading. Judge Ernest Lacey was a probate judge in Jasper. In 1910 he rented horses and buggies from me and took a liking to me. He started taking me to all the local chicken fights, and I soon learned to handle, spar, and pit the chickens. The yellow-legged Roundheads were originated, to the best of my knowledge, by a man named Burrell Shelton who lived in Mississippi. Just after Shelton died the owner of the Mountain Eagle Newspaper in Jasper, Alabama, bought a setting of eggs from his widow. Judge Lacey bought the chickens hatched from these eggs and continued to breed the Roundheads. These were known as the sidestepping Roundheads. Lacey crossed these Roundheads with the Blue Moon chickens owned by a man named Moon who lived in Kentucky. He also crossed them with the Whitehackle, and these crosses all had white legs. The white-legged Roundheads you buy today have some Blue Moon and some Whitehackle in them. Judge Lacey gave me chickens and gave me money to bet at the fights. Several of the other fighters also gave me Roundheads. Back then the cockers all fought in the woods. Chickens were carried in tow sacks, and the tow sacks were tied upright to trees so the chickens could stand up. You could find the fights by following the sounds of roosters crowing. Judge Ed Long was president of the First National Bank in Jasper and was also a probate judge. He bred and fought Roundheads, as did Lacey. At one time Long fought Lacey a main in the woods on Long's farm near the Warrior River. Long won because he had the best conditioning. Both men were active chicken fighters. Both won a great many fights and both lost a great many too. One night a man named Ware got his chickens lost. I helped him find them in my Model T. He said he would send me some chickens, and he did send me nine. I took a Glover keep and had my coops against the barn with no scratch pens. I was going to fight these against tough competition. Judge Lacey wouldn't go with me because he didn't think I could win and because he wouldn't bet against me. The judge loaned me his handler. He was anxious to meet me when I got back. I won 8 out of 9 fights and $2,200. I had $100 to start with. At that time they made up pots, I doubled every time to cover the pots. In this bunch of cocks I had a great White Dom. This is where I got to love White Doms. I moved from Jasper to Birmingham about 1920 and then moved to Atlanta, Georgia, about 1924. It was there that I met Colonel Eugene Dickey, an attorney, and Mr. Hogg, a beer distributor. They took me to a derby at Albany, Georgia, and what proved to be a fight I shall always remember. The derby was held on a large plantation and was attended by hundreds of people from all over the United States. The owner of the plantation killed cattle and hogs and fed all the people 3 meals a day. The meals were free and there was no charge for admission.
by O. Fudd (1957)
Sooner or later, those who write a piece for a game journal has gotta say a few words about Roundheads. Tis well known and a matter of statistics that over the year, there have been more Roundheads fought than any other strain of battle cocks, bar none!
It is also a matter of common knowledge that the most popular of these was and is the Allen Roundhead - as produced by Will Allen of Mississippi. They came light red, pea or knob comb, yellow legged, brown duck wing, or spangle-sensational fighting fowl that literally had everything - clever sparring cocks, side-stepping an opponent's rush and in the clinches they turned on the fan. They were excellent cutters, physically stronger than most strains and adapted themselves to confinement. In fact, they were ideals cocks from nearly every angle being also possessed of gameness, lacking only that awful wallop of the short heel birds. This was not widely known until the past decade, which saw the rise of the Madigin-Hatch bloodlines.
For benefit of younger members of the fraternity it must be pointed out that not every cock bearing the title Roundhead carries the old-time Will Allen bloodlines. Nearly every Roundhead breeder has put in a little shot of sumpin' or other to improve them according to his own ideas. However it is still possible to obtain pure Allen Roundheads tis said. This may be so as the strain was so widely distributed that such breeders could obtain new blood from others without going out of the family if they so desired.
At least according to what Fudd knows, the fighting weights of the Roundhead still run from around 4-6 to 6-6 with good size in the hens. They, by the way, came bluff with red neck hackles, a brown partridge color and spangle. Any of the three colors mentioned for the hens are satisfactory and most Roundhead breeders get some of each if they breed enough of them. The battle record of the Roundheads over the years is too well known to even mention, except that it might be noted that prior to the advent of the Madigin line it was usual thing for the Roundheads to win most of their drag fights, this by reason of their superior bull strength.
Fudd's own experience with the Roundhead fowl is not anything to brag about although I've met'em in the pit through the years to my financial sorrow many times. I've fed and pitted between three or four hundred of the critters, winning and losing, so if this entitles me to an opinion, here goes!
Gaffs, for instance, over the years we found that the medium point jagger pattern was the best all around heel with the high-point regulation a very close second. The exception was in using the straight Jarrett Roundheads and these executed better with a regulation type curve blade.
Among the various Roundhead families, more or less containing the Allen Roundhead bloodlines, or a basic proportion, it was Fudd's opinion that the Jarrett Roundhead family produced more winning cocks in tough competition. They could meet the best and hold their own although out of hundreds of this strain fought by my old friend, the late Dr. George H. Gwynn of Tallahassee, FL, I never saw one that we'd term spectacular. They were simply rough, tough, cutting cocks and they won. His Jarretts were obtained as a gift from the late Honorable Francis B. Winthrop of the same city and one of the "Watson & Co." members. On the death of Winthrop all the fowl went to Gwynn who offered a Fudd a yard of these fowl. I refused them and I had no room to breed but here again the yard was given to my younger brother and the breeding of them fell on me anyway!
The Lundy Roundhead fowl as bred by W.T. Johnson rank right at top. The late C.C. Lundy who originated this family was a personal friend of Fudd and I observed the cocks fighting in South Georgia, Florida and Alabama over a period of many years. There ware no better fowl of the Roundhead family.
J.F. "Jimmie" Johnson of Leslie, Georgia, had a family of white leg Roundheads that many think the best in the country. Fudd has seen a great many of these cocks fight and there is no doubt, they are good. It seems to me they break higher and hit much harder than most Roundheads and there has been little question as to the gameness of this family. One of the best fighting cocks I ever bred was out of a 2-time winning Johnson cock given my brother by W.H. Wilder which I bred over a couple of hens given to me by my friend Cal Hicks, the hens being Tait or "Old Southern" Roundhead blood that was placed out in the country with the cock just to give him a free farm walk. Cal was unhappy about these hens, as they had previously thrown cocks that wouldn't finish a down bird, which proves against that in breeding game fowl you never know.
The Lacy Roundhead family from Judge Lacy of Alabama also produces white leg cocks and they have consistently held their own through the years. Fudd likes them very much and has used many in the past. Several Alabama breeders have them "right" today and for the man who fancies the Roundhead they are a good bet. On the whole they seem to be a shade faster and deadly cutters as well.
Fudd also remembers the old Toulmin Roundhead cocks from down Mobile way and west of Pensacola, Florida, perhaps the most spectacular of the Roundhead blood. They would then and today, cut the life from the opponent cock so quickly you hardly get seated at the pit side before the crowd starts whopping and Ayelling, climbing all over you to collect on the Toulmin Roundhead! S'fact, ask Roy Greer about these wonderful Roundhead cocks.
The Bell Roundhead as bred by Hemingway of Atlanta, Georgia, hold their own nicely in the big time pits and Fudd points out that it takes game, cutting fighting cocks to do that today.
The old-time Alabama Roundhead family bred by Cowan and T.K. Bruner were always ace high among Roundhead lovers. Even today there is a gent up in North Country that has 'em with just a dash of Whitehackle.
Fudd has much experience with Chick Hall's killer Roundhead and must put in a plug for them, as he knew them some years ago. An old friend, Chas Parks of Tallahassee, FL, always bred two yards of these and from breeding shakes only, produced mostly heavy cocks. As stags they were too clumsy in my opinion but were always desperately game and better than average cutting fowl. Break even was about all we could do with them but you can't expect to do much better than 50-50 against the men who met 'em!
Old Fudd's hesitates not at all to predict that more and more Roundheads cocks will be seen in the pits, that they will begin to nudge out the Madigin Reds and Grays and are ideal fowl for us little Fudds, can be pulled out of coop walks and make a showing against any cocks you might mention.
This dipping into the past and prediction for the future reminds me that every now and then some game journal editorial blossoms out, recommending that game breeders keep one eye on the past and the other on the future. In this regard it might not be amiss to tell about the lady in Natchez, Mississippi, whose story told in antebellum says still goes strong. She sez: "Keep one eye on the past and one eye on the future and you can't help being cock-eyed today!" Which lead Fudd to inquire of our esteemed editors and publishers, just what the hell are they trying to make out of us Fudds's!
One of the best Roundhead families that have produced winners over a long span of years, are those bred by Emmett Mitchell Jr, down Thomasville, Georgia way. Crossed with his Brown Reds they battled out an Orlando win and straight bred are no pushover. Emmett partnered with Ted McLean of Maryland for a spell and this McLean Hatch-Mitchell Roundhead cross made some cocks that had many of us seeking the aspirin bottle and ice pack the next morning whilst wondering what would be the best method of getting more cash, a straight loan from a kind-hearted pawnbroker or robbin' a bank! Old Fudd recalls that he wished he had one of these McLean Hatch cock and a couple of measly pullets from Mitchell, in fact I did obtain a promise from these fellows to let me have such a trio - more or less conditioned promise - their reply being "when hell freezes over!"
Roundhead cocks require somewhat different feeding method than other families and you are just not going to improve them much regardless of conditioning methods. They will fight about as well and maybe cut better when picked up fresh from a walk as they will after a couple of weeks enduring most of Fudd's Conditioning systems.
In conclusion, let me say that there are many more good families of Roundhead breeding in the US, Fudd has mentioned only those with which he was best acquainted although I've seen a few individual cocks from O.L. Ashworth, J.D. O'Neal, R.L. Sanders and others that were as good as any Roundheads.