King Oorang Airedales
President Warren G. Harding's dog, Laddie Boy, seated on a high backed chair on the White House Lawn, ca. 1921-1923. The chair pictured is now part of the Ohio History Connection artifact collections, catalog number H15957.
Walter Lingo was a resident of La Rue, Ohio. During the 1920s, he owned the Oorang Dog Kennels. Lingo used the kennels to breed Airedale dogs. He claimed that:
The common man of Great Britain found it necessary to create a dog different from any other in existence. The bird dog became lost in the bush when at stand, the hound was too noisy and retrievers lack stamina. Therefore, these folks secretly experimented by a series of cross-breeding old types, including the otter hound, the old English sheep dog, the black and tan terrier, and the bulldog. From this melting pot resulted the Airedale, so named because he was first produced by the people along the dale of the Aire River between England and Scotland. The new dog combined the good qualities of his ancestors without their faults. It was a super dog.
Based upon this information Lingo sought to create an even stronger Airedale. His efforts resulted in the King Oorang, which Lingo described as the "world's great all-around dog." Upon creating the King Oorang breed, Lingo embarked on a mail-order business, selling his puppies to people across North, Central, and South America. To continue the breeding process, he opened his own kennel known as the Oorang Kennel Company in the 1920s. Although these dogs were demanded worldwide, many of Lingo's neighbors described the Airedales as killers, prompting Lingo to enlist the aid of celebrities for endorsements. Perhaps Lingo's most famous supporter was Jim Thorpe, a 1920s celebrated athlete of American Indian decent.
To further promote his dogs, Lingo created the Oorang Indians. This was a professional football team, playing in the National Football League, based in La Rue, Ohio. Jim Thorpe was hired as the team coach/player who organized the squad and drafted the players. He was instructed to only recruit competitors who were of American Indian heritage.
Overall, the Oorang team was a publicity stunt to amplify the Oorang dog kennel’s fame. The Indians only remained a team in the NFL for the 1922 and the 1923 seasons. La Rue, Ohio was and remains the smallest community to sponsor a National Football League franchise. The Indians were mainly a traveling team who were meant to publicize the Airedale terriers; they went to the large metropolitan cities to expose the audiences to the dogs. However, they did play one home game in the town of Marion, Ohio since La Rue was not large enough to have a football field. In the team's first season, the Indians finished twelfth in the league, with a record of two wins, six losses, and zero ties. The next season, the team finished eighteenth, with one win, ten losses, and zero ties. The Oorang Indians ceased to exist after the 1923 season when their novelty wore off.
The Oorang Indians players did not just participate in football games. Lingo also required them to work in his kennels, caring for his dogs. Players were also involved in half-time shows. For example, they had to parade around the football field, walking the terriers. The goal was to influence fans to purchase the dogs before they left the stadium. Finally, Lingo even had one of his players, Long Time Sleep, wrestle a bear during one half time. Many football historians credit Lingo with creating half-time shows.
After the Oorang Indians' collapse, Lingo continued to sell his Airedale dogs. Unfortunately, the Great Depression struck in the 1930s, prompting Lingo to scale back his business. People could no longer afford the Airedales, prompting Lingo to have approximately three hundred puppies put to sleep in 1929 alone. He eventually tried to establish a business that manufactured items for dogs, but this venture did not succeed. Lingo died in 1966.