Breed Spotlight

The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is sometimes confused with the Australian Cattle Dog. Although they may share common origins in the dingo and possibly some imported dogs, they are very different breeds — with different physical traits and temperament. The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog and the Australian Cattle Dog are two separate breeds, which means that crossing them produces a cross-breed, not a pure breed.

After some years of uncertainty in the 1980s when the breed was on the verge of extinction, a redevelopment scheme spanning two decades has ensured the Stumpy’s survival. The redevelopment scheme closed in 2007 with the establishment of a viable gene pool over the preceding 20 years, making the infusion of graded (unregistered) dogs no longer necessary.

The breed now has a place in the purebred dog world across all disciplines, including show, obedience, agility, herding and endurance. It is, of course, still a highly respected working dog and much loved by pet owners as an active, intelligent companion.

Appearance

The Stumpy should be a well proportioned working dog, rather square in profile with a hard-bitten, rugged appearance, and sufficient substance to convey the impression of the ability to endure long periods of arduous work under whatsoever conditions may prevail, according to the ANKC standard. Height should be from 18 to 20 inches at the withers, bitches from 17 to 19 inches.

Temperament

The ideal Stumpy owner is a committed, experienced dog owner. This is not a part-time breed. They are intelligent, active, affectionate and very loyal. They will not tolerate isolation or neglect, they crave family, activity and training — they need to use their brains or they will become destructive and unruly. Early socialisation with dogs and people is recommended for a well-rounded companion.

Training and firm leadership is essential. As a thinking dog, the Stumpy will compensate for any weakness in leadership by taking the place at the top of the pack. ‘Firm’ does not mean ‘hard’, however, as Stumpies can be particularly ‘soft’ and their eagerness to please means that consistency and reinforcement will get you much further than punishment.

It is important to note that the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog breed standard, which outlines the type and temperament of the breed, states that the stumpy is ‘reserved towards strangers’. The Stumpy exhibits his true, loyal and affectionate nature often only to his owner, so don’t be concerned if puppies are ‘stand offish’. However extreme timidity and suspicion should be avoided at all costs. Stumpies will become timid and wary with hard treatment, so firm, consistent leadership is essential. Stumpies are quick to learn and eager to please – owners report quirky, interesting and larrikin personalities.

Differences

There are some key differences that separate the two breeds, including but not limited to the following:

1. The Stumpy has a natural bobtail, although long tail puppies also occur. A Stumpy born with a tail is not an Australian Cattle Dog.

2. The Stumpy is a ‘square’ dog—the length of the dog is the same as the height. The Australian Cattle Dog is longer than it is tall. The Stumpy appears a leggier, finer dog and the Australian Cattle Dog heavier, more thick-set.

3. The Stumpy head is very distinct, with ears are set high on the head a skull that is broad and flat between the ears, tapering to the muzzle, giving the overall impression of a ‘wedge’ shape. Eyes should be dark brown.

4. Both the Stumpy and the Australian Cattle Dog come in blue and red, mottle or speckle, however the blue Stumpy must not have tan points or markings. The Stumpy can have head and body patches—black on blue or brown on red dogs. Nose and toenails must be black on both blue and red dogs.

The ‘Smithfield’ and ‘Queensland Heeler’

The Stumpy is sometimes referred to as a ’Smithfield’ or ‘Queensland Heeler’, although the only thing common to the Smithfield and the Stumpy is the natural bobtail.

The Smithfield is not a breed but a ‘type’ and is ancestral to many breeds, including the Old English Sheepdog which it resembles closely. The Smithfield inherited its name from the Smithfield Markets in London in the 19th century, and it may have been one of the early colonial dogs infused with the dingo in Australia.

Excerpt from Breed Spotlight Dogs NSW 2008

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