ShowSight Presents The Australian Shepherd

The AusTrAliAn shepherd TALES ABOUT NO TAILS by nAnneTTe l. newbury

W ith the advent of tail docking bans in Europe, every docked-tail breed of dog in the United States has been dealing with the potential of a full-tailed dog exhibiting in the AKC breed ring. Breed clubs have been issuing state- ments for years on their points of view of this trend, clearly stating how they wish AKC judges to appropriately judge a tailed exhibit… the Australian Shepherd is no different. Or are they? Compared to breeds that have a known and documented history that span centuries, the Australian Shepherd is a rela- tively new member to the world of purebred dogs. Developed almost exclusively by ranchers and farmers in the western US, an accurate record of the breed development remains elu- sive and unknown. We do not even truly know how the breed became known as the “Australian” Shepherd. Suffice to say that ranchers who needed dogs to work and fill a specific chore on the ranch quickly were enamored with the eye-catching “little blue dogs.” Photographic evidence shows Aussie look-alikes throughout the 1800s, especially after the 1840s. In all likelihood, the breed developed coin- cidentally with the human immigration at the time. However the breed history was never completely captured. Ranchers mated selected superior working animals with other superior specimens, creating offspring and generations that worked, but had no official registry. Oftentimes it resulted in differ- ent breeds or even cross-bred dogs being used on each other to produce superior working stock. The focus was on an improved working dog.

Recently the United States Australian Shepherd Associa- tion (USASA) board approved a statement on the judging of tailed Australian Shepherds in the United States. The statement was clear that any exhibit with a tail longer than four inches (as called for in the breed standard) is to be faulted. It is clear that it is a judge’s job to determine how that fault should be applied to the dog as a whole. In order for a judge to be able to do justice

to this breed it is important to know the history of the breed regarding no tails. This is not a simple case of a docked-tail breed showing with a full tail… far from it. A key point is that this is NOT solely a docked-tail breed. This breed originated as a natural bob-tail. The docking option was included to maintain breed type and unifor- mity. The earliest written and approved breed standard available is from 1959. The Animal Research Foundation (ARF) standard was written by Mr. and Mrs. Don R. Breazeale, pio- neer breeders of the “Australian Shepherd Blue Heeler.” This standard was adopted and published in the 1959-1960 Winter Edition of Tom Stodghill’s Animal Research Magazine . “TAIL: Should be on level with body. Always natural bob- tail. Long tails are permissible but not desirable and should be cut off.”

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