Homesteaded in 1890, the Birdtail Ranch has been raising All-Around Quarter Horses for five generations.
Married in 1947, Doug and Nancy were Montana natives, raised riding and ranching. It was Nancy’s father, Curtis Diehl, who first took an interest in the “Steel Dust” horses that had arrived in eastern Montana in the early 1940s. Curtis bought a dun coming-2-year-old named Charlie Russell (by Texas Blue Bonnet) – the first registered American Quarter Horse to come into their part of the country. Curtis bred him to U.S. Army Cavalry remount mares, along with a couple of palominos.
His vision was to breed a horse that “would make better cow horses for us on the ranch,” Nancy said, a sound horse with a good mind, athletic ability and speed. After Curtis died in 1948, Doug and Nancy carried on, determined to buy the best Quarter Horses they could.
They kept a constant eye out for horses to buy – helped by Doug’s travels as an AQHA judge – and they kept good homebred fillies.
With a reputation for versatility and good temperament, they were in high demand for amateurs, youth and 4-H colt-to-maturity projects.
In 1954, the Dears helped form the Montana Quarter Horse Association. Doug was an MQHA director and Nancy the secretary. Involved nationally, Doug was an AQHA director from Montana, and Nancy and her good friend, Mildred Janowitz, lobbied hard for an amateur division within AQHA: “We didn’t quit until we got it in there.”
Doug and Nancy Dear were inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2011.
Their daughters, Barb and Dee Dee, ran barrels on Birdtail horses for many years. Dee won Miss Rodeo Montana and went on to meet Lennard on the rodeo team at CSU. They continued to develop the breeding program for several decades, receiving a 50 year Breeders Award from the AQHA. Lennard was an AQHA judge and built out the All- Around training program for the ranch. Their foundation horses included Silky Lena Bar, Two Eyed Fox, Ribbon Page, Bonjour Investor, and Open Invitation.