In 1967 the Animal Research Foundation revised their standard and in conjunction with ASCA they conjoint- ly approved a 1970s version of the breed standard. It is important to note that they retained the previous long and detailed description in the tail section of earlier stan- dards, clearly stating how to breed the animals to maintain the trait. In the 1960s and 1970s the docked-tail option surfaced as there was some evidence that breeding natural bob tails to natural bob tails (NBT to NBT) might produce birth defor- mities such as spina bifida (a shortening of the spine). To this day no clear scientific evidence proves this. There are theories that NBT to NBT fetuses might be absorbed in ute- ro, but no clear evidence of birth defects other than theory. The misunderstood and unfortunate use of the term “lethal,” used by geneticists in describing the NBT gene, has caused mass hysteria overseas where the practice of NBT to NBT breeding has been banned, thus removing a key charac- teristic of the Australian Shepherd. Keep in mind that the “merle” gene, also a hallmark of this breed, is also a target for elimination overseas. Talk with modern founding breeders (all of whom have had 50 years’ experience breeding quality and consistency over time) and they all state that they have been breeding NBT to NBT for this entire time with little or no defects. Three noted that the one or two times (in 50 years!) that they had issues were with naturally very short-tailed dogs being bred to like dogs. They made note of the issue and easily bred away from it in the future. It is not until the 1975 revision that the ASCA breed stan- dard leaves out the detailed explanation of the natural bob tail in the breed. This is in keeping with ASCA’s reliance on and use of the AKC guidelines for writing breed standards and they came up with the following. “Tail is straight, not to exceed four (4) inches, natural bob- tail or docked.” The current AKC breed standard states, “Tail is straight, docked or naturally bobbed, not to exceed four inches in length.” This simplified statement on tails is what you will use when you judge the breed, but as you can see, it does not tell the entire story of the breed. Another unique aspect of the tail in the Australian Shep- herd is that this breed was developed solely in the United States. The foundation stock, the breed history and develop- ment resides here. Unlike other “docked tail” breeds (hope- fully the evidence is clear that this is not solely a docked-tail breed) in the US, our breeders do not face pressure to import bloodstock from outside of the US, thus putting pressure on the breed club to accept full-tailed exhibits in the breed ring. The popularity of the Australian Shepherd has exploded worldwide, but I see no genetic need to import full-tailed dogs from overseas. This sets this breed apart from others you may judge with full tails; breeds that need to import addi- tional foundation stock. The tale about the Australian Shepherd tail is entwined in our short breed history. The natural bob tail aspect of the breed is one of the unique and identifying breed character- istics. The parent club has made it clear that they wish to preserve and protect this aspect of the breed. We ask that you as judges and breeders assist in the preservation of the Australian Shepherd breed and breed type.
From The aUSTralian Shepherd clUb oF america The Australian Shepherd is a natural bob-tail/docked tail breed. At this time the ASCA has no immediate plans to amend its breed standard on this issue. We are aware of a trend among breeders in the United States to assume that leaving a tail on an Australian Shepherd and registering that dog with ASCA is an “option” or a “right.” You have not been granted that option from ASCA. The standard currently states under General Appearance, “An identifying characteristic is his natural or docked/bob- tail.“ An identifying characteristic in ANY breed standard is a major and unique identifying characteristic and is not to be discarded or thought of lightly. It is what makes our breed unique and different from other breeds. While our breed is an American-developed breed and while we enjoy numerous freedoms as Americans, including the choice to leave tails on Australian Shepherds, this does not inherently entitle one to register that animal with ASCA. The standard continues under the Neck and Body section to state, “Tail is straight, docked or naturally bobbed, not to exceed four inches in length.” The natural bob tail/docked tail is an identifying breed characteristic and essential to preserving our breed type. As breeders you should place great importance in the current approved breed standard and all that it contains. It is the blue- print to preserve our breed, not change it unilaterally upon a whim or personal feelings. One of the unique characteristics of the Australian Shep- herd is that they are not solely a docked tail breed, but also a natural bob-tail breed. Aussies 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 choose to preserve the natural bob tail and we dock for unifor- mity and breed type (unique identifying breed characteristic). We wish to preserve the history and heritage of this breed. The essence of a breed should not be forgotten and the breed standard should command the respect that it deserves. From The aSca webSiTe The Australian Shepherd Club of America will not condone the policy of any individual, group or proposed legislation which advocates restricting the breeding, showing, training and/or exhibiting of the Australian Shepherd or any other domesti- cated animal. The Australian Shepherd Club of American also does not condone the proposed restrictions to the practice of tail docking or removal of dewclaws for cosmetic or health rea- sons. We find this policy to be a detriment to the welfare of the Australian Shepherd breed as a whole and an infringement on the rights of the owners, breeders, trainers and exhibitors of all domesticated animals. The Australian Shepherd Club of America will educate its members of any proposed legislation which may ill affect the welfare of the breed and its guardians, the breeders, owners, trainers and exhibitors. ASCA: Stance on the tail
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