Stumpy Heritage

The following is an excerpt from A Dog Called Blue, reproduced with permission from the author, Noreen Clark.

The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog and the Australian Cattle Dog share the same early ancestry. Both breeds were developed from the Halls Heeler and it is thought that Thomas Hall’s imported Drovers Dogs carried the gene for taillessness if, indeed, they were not stumpy-tailed themselves. The later development of the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog, however, diverged from that of the Australian Cattle Dog.

Thomas Hall’s developmental breeding was carried out on Dartbrook and Hall is understood to have been satisfied with the result by c.1840. No records survive but it is unrealistic to suppose that Hall retained direct and personal control of all later breeding. The size of the properties operated by the Hall family, and their distance from the Sydney markets had driven the development of the Halls Heeler. Similar factors would have persuaded decentralised breeding. It is thought that, after c.1840, the stockmen on the various Hall properties bred their own dogs, with interchange of breeding-stock between one property and another.

As a result of decentralised breeding, the Halls Heeler seems to have developed two strains: those bred on properties in northern New South Wales and Queensland, and those bred in the Upper Hunter Valley (Dartbrook) and further south. It would appear that the incidence of stumpy-tailed Halls Heelers was greater in the northern strain than in the southern strain. Emphasis was on breeding for working ability and stamina and, if the stumpy-tailed Halls Heelers were workers of excellence, their taillessness would have been disregarded.

After Thomas Hall’s death in 1870, the Hall cattle empire came to an end. The runs in northern New South Wales and Queensland went to auction with the stock on them. Halls Heelers from the postulated northern (stumpy-tailed) strain were already in Queensland and northern New South Wales, and generally available to stockmen from the early 1870s.

By the 1890s, the Cattle Dog was an exhibited breed in Queensland. Although separate classes were not scheduled at Brisbane’s National Agricultural and Industrial Association shows until 1917, it is evident that the earlier Cattle Dog classes attracted both long-tailed and stumpy-tailed entrants, and that some of the entrants were related. In some shows, Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs comprised 50% of the Cattle Dog entry.

Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs were evidently taken for granted in Queensland; a stumpy-tailed Cattle Dog illustrated an article on the Cattle Dog in The Courier-mail Dog Book (1938).

1938 Illustration

During the years following World War I, the popularity of the Stumpy Tail Cattle as a benched breed began a decline. The period saw a corresponding increase in the popularity of long-tailed Cattle Dogs with Sydney breeding behind them. A change in the regulations governing litter registrations, during the 1950s, accelerated the decline. By the 1960s, only one registered breeder of Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs remained: Mrs Iris Heale of Glen Iris Kennels.

By the 1980s, it became apparent that the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog, as a registered breed, was approaching extinction. In 1988, the Australian National Kennel Council announced the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog Redevelopment Scheme. The Upgrade Program, subsequently implemented, has been successful in its basic aim: that of preserving the bench breed.

The name of the breed was changed to Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog on 1 January 2002 and in December 2002 the Breed Standards Commission of the Federation Internationale Cynologique accepted the Country of Origin Breed Standard for the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog.

In type, the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog has remained more faithful to the inferred Halls Heeler type, as expressed by Nipper, than has the Australian Cattle Dog. The onus rests with judges and breeders, to ensure that the Stumpy’s distinctive type does not degrade.

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