ShowSight Presents The Australian Shepherd

The intent of the breed founders is clear. This is a natural bob-tail breed first and foremost. It is important to note that this breed does not just come as a natural bob-tail or a full tail. In reality the breed can produce tails of varying lengths. This is different than other docked-tail breeds. It is generally considered that we started docking for uniformity and to address the tails of all varying lengths. The next and most impactful mention of the importance of the natural bob tail for the Australian Shepherd is in a subse- quent breed standard, published by ARF in the 1960s. It goes into great detail about the natural bob tail, including breed- ing advice to preserve the breed featured trait, a description devoid in modern breed standards: “Tail: The tail should always be a natural bob—the shorter the better—but not tailless. Purebred Australian Shepherds will produce a high percentage of puppies with natural bob tails. These natural bobs will vary all the way from a two-inch tail bone to about one-half the length of the normal tail length of other breeds. Aussies retained for breeding purposes should be selected for the natural bob factor—again, the shorter the better. Other things being equal, no Aussie should be used for breed- ing if it has a tail more than one-fourth the normal length. Long-tailed Aussies should never have a tail in which the bone reaches below the hock point of the rear leg. Pups’ tails over one-fourth normal length should be docked shortly after birth. Owners and breeders of good Aussie bitches should always base their breeding programs on a foundation or ‘hub’ stud which has a natural bobtail in which the bone is no longer than two or three inches. Only through this type of selective breeding can the true type of Australian Shepherd be produced. Faults: long tails, tails over one-fourth normal length, tails of any length where the bone is twisted or ‘screwed.’ the bone must be straight, with not a hint of kinking or swirling.” Never has a more clear statement about the importance of the natural bob tail trait in the Australian Shepherd been written. While this expansive statement was eliminated from later versions of the breed standards, it is important in terms of the breed’s development. It is equally important for judges (and breeders) to know in order to preserve and protect the breed and breed type going forward. It is important to note that the first official breed club, The Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) was not formed until the 1950s and one of their first formal breed standards was approved in 1968. Their wording on tails is abbreviat- ed from the detailed description of their predecessors, but their intention on the preservation of the natural bob tail remains clear. “Tail: Should be natural bob, or on long tails should be docked for working dogs.” In the 1960s the International Australian Shepherd Asso- ciation was formed on the west coast also with the intention of gaining AKC approval for the breed. Their first breed stan- dard, adopted in 1969 states, read as follows. “Tail: The tail is an extension of the spine; natural bob or docked. A tail longer than four inches at maturity shall dis- qualify in the conformation ring.” Their wording is clear on a full-tailed exhibit—it was enough of a distraction from the breed to be designated as a disqualification.

USASA: Stance on the tail

From The UniTed STaTeS aUSTralian Shepherd aSSociaTion The Australian Shepherd is a natural bob- tail/docked tail breed. At this time the USASA has no immediate plans to amend its breed standard on this issue because no ‘official’ description of the undocked Australian Shep- herd tail exists. The standard currently states under General Appearance, “He has a docked or natural bob tail.” The standard continues under the Neck, Head, Body section to state, “Tail is straight, docked or naturally bobbed, not to exceed four inches in length.” One of the unique characteristics of the Australian Shepherd is that they are not solely a docked tail breed, but also a natural bob tail breed. Dogs can be born with all varying lengths of tail…from natural bob to full tail… AND all lengths in between; hence the reason for the standard reference above regarding a tail to be less than four inches in length. We prefer the natural bob tail and we dock for uniformity and breed type. While it is understood that you as a judge have a choice, the USASA prefers that you con- sider an Australian Shepherd with a full tail to be a serious deviation from the standard and breed type and prioritize and penalize it accordingly. Any deviation from the ideal described in the standard should be penalized to the extent of the deviation. For instance, a tail that is six inches in length would be faulted over a dog with a tail that is less than four-inch inches. A full tail would be more severely faulted. The natural bob tail/docked tail is an iden- tifying breed characteristic and essential to preserving our breed type. As a judge you should place great importance in how the structure functions in movement (gaiting), but, in the final analysis, you should go back to type (the sum of them all) in determining your placements. We wish to preserve the history and heri- tage of this breed. The essence of a breed should not be forgotten. Sincerely, Terri Morgan, USASA President Flo McDaniel, USASA Judge’s Education Coordinator

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