Australian Cattle Dogs

Can An American Kennel Club Registration
Save A Herding Breed?

by Esther Ekman


Did the eyebrows just shoot up to level 9? Do you have acid flux starting up the tube?

Answer to the lead question is YES, YES, and YES!

How could this be so? Because of a series of events known to be some of strangest in the history of Dogdom. All of which follows, unfolding a cast of thousands is documented fact. I would guess, judging from some of the wildest wives tales I've heard over the last 30 years, that most people involved with what they call "Queensland Heelers", "Blue or Red Heelers", "Dingo Dogs" OR "Australian Cattle Dogs", don't seem to know their own breeds history in the USA.

What brought this writer to the computer was partly a discussion I had with Joyce Shephard (Santa Rosa, CA) awhile back about what the Working Kelpie Council was up to in Australia and reading seemingly hundreds of letters, pro and con, in various dog publications concerning AKC recognition of Australian Shepherds, Border Collies and the like.

Seems that the Working Kelpie Council in Australia decided to declare the bench show Kelpies a separate strain and will not be allowing them to be registered in their registry any longer. (They had been put into an appendix of a sorts before.) Because not all the dogs registered with WKC are active working dogs, basically the only difference between working Kelpies and bench Kelpies is the color. Or some would say conformation also as some show dogs are heavier built than some working style Kelpies, but that isn't always true. (Most WKC registered dogs are from active working parents, but it isn't a requirement. The WKC does guarantee that any of their breeders will replace a pup that doesn't work, whether from the appendix or regular registry.)

A number of years ago the bench show people seemed to latch onto the red mahogany color phase of the breed, calling it theirs and breeding only from this color, as a whole. Working dog breeders have taken up with the idea that if the dog is that color it will not work, because bench breeders have not been working their breeding stock for years. Ergo, red mahogany dog, no workie, no registration. I don't have the foggiest notion what they would do if a red mahogany Kelpie suddenly started winning all the sheep trials over there. It's a thought though.

So back to ACD's history with AKC registration. Here is what happened, no yelling, no recriminations, just the FACTS, only the FACTS and a few snide remarks that my fingers will not let pass.

I bought my first ACD in 1965. At the urging of Chico's sire's (Glen Iris Boomerang, CDX. AKA Frosty), owner Carol Mork, I started obedience training with him, eventually getting a CD on him. At the same time as an added attraction, I entered him in Miscellaneous class at AKC shows.

In 1967 at one of the AKC shows I ran into a gal from Southern California who had just moved north to the Bay Area, Chris Smith-Risk. So fascinated were we with the idea that someone else had an ACD, we missed our class because we talked and talked, not noticing time or place.

Chris explained that she had the breed since the late 1950's and had tried several times to start a national parent club for the breed, but that no one in the southland seemed to be interested enough to commit time to the project. I had asked the usual dumb questions like, "What does the breed want with a parent club?" "Why do you want to do this?" "What has the AKC got to do with it?" "How many members does a club have to have?" and "What do you do in a parent club?"

I really did mean dumb. This is coming from a person who had heard about the Miscellaneous conformation class, entered, showed up at ringside with my dog in a leather collar (Well he wasn't doing obedience, so I figured he'd look nice in that stock collar.) and a six foot leather leash, telling the judge "OK I'm here, what do we do?" HEY, we had fun! Vincent Perry (The Judge) thought someone had sent him to "Dog Show Hell", but was more than pleasant with this fledgling show exhibitor.

Chris explained that the breed had been in the Miscellaneous classification at AKC since the 1930's, but no one seemed to have any peculiars on who or why that decision had been made. Kelpies were included at the same time. (Someone at the AKC must have had an Australian friend or there is the possibility that Robert Kaleski (who wrote the first Australian Standard for the breed in the early 1900's) was corresponding with someone at the AKC) He wrote a lot for Australian publications about the breed.

In order to get the breed full AKC Championship recognition, the AKC required that a National Breed Parent Club be organized for promotion and protection of the breed. Since the AKC just was a registering body the Parent Club was in charge of Standards and all else concerning the breed in general. It also had to show that there was enough interest and distribution nationwide to warrant having their own classes. (This was in the era when parent clubs had to work very hard to get their breed included in the AKC.)

In answer to my dumb question, "How many people does a club have to have?", Chris sarcastically said "At least two!" Me being young and ready for anything new, (Hey, it was the 60's! Nothing was impossible after Civil Rights Sit ins, The Haight, Be ins, Do ins and Love ins. Not to mention the many nights our local horse/rodeo group, being drunk as skunks, stole steers from the killer yard in Butcher Town, to ride in our own version of a rodeo. Or to be politically correct, "We liberated them, used them and let them loose to graze the park." (YES, we were a bunch of obnoxious kids.) Anyway, I answered Chris very seriously "Well there is you and me, that's two! And I guess The Australian Cattle Dog Club of America is born." (Actually we wanted it to be The Australian Heeler Club of America, but that's a whole other story about "What's in a name.")

The first two years of the ACDCA was taken up in finding like minded people that had the interest to work within the club for the breed. In 1969 there were 12 paper members (We had family memberships, so there were actually a few more than 12.) and we formally applied to the AKC for instructions. One of the requirements was that the Club had to start keeping it's own registry for the breed. (At the time, as is now, National Stock Dog Registry was handling a lot of the registrations of the breed.) The AKC explained that since the breed had been registered and shown in it's country of origin starting in the late 1800's, all of the dogs that would be eventually added to the AKC registry would have to be an extension of the Australian registry, tracing back to registered dogs in Australia.

Well what a surprise we had in store! During the research of our own dog's pedigrees we discovered that most of the dogs we owned traced back to dogs exported from Australia, BUT NOT REGISTERED in Australia. We also uncovered the history involved, with months of correspondence flying back and forth across the Pacific.

During and after WW II, many of the bench show breeders of ACD's in Australia thought the breed may be losing some of the natural working instinct for which the breed is known. (Who said war is a single minded obsession? Not for dog people, obliviously.) In the middle and late 1940's most all breeders either leased, bought or used for stud, actively working registered ACD's and including them into their breeding programs.

A veterinarian, Allen McNiven, in Sydney who was a breeder of blue show dogs decided that he could do better than the other breeders. He contracted a government hunter to trap a Dingo in the outback. He then bred this male Dingo to his blue bitches. He also admitted later that he added Kelpie, German Shepherd, Kangaroo Hound and lord knows what else. When these crosses bred true to color, markings and to his thinking, temperament, he went to the RASKC (The Australian equivalent to the AKC.) saying he had improved the breed and wanted the dogs registered. They told him "No Way Jose", you have mongrels. The other ACD breeders told him, you have mongrels and they were not pleased.

I'm sure he meant well and was totally convinced he did the breed a favor, but fortunately no one in Australia seemed to see it that way. He got a bit on the bitter side and did something that was really wrong. He put "dead papers" on the pups he wanted to register and registered them in spite of the RASKC's instructions. He was caught, he was indefinitely suspended from the RASKC and the dogs stricken from the registry forever.

Meanwhile, Greg Lougher, a Napa Valley, California cattle rancher had been stationed in Australia during the War and had gotten acquainted with Allen McNiven. Lougher imported several adults and several litters from McNiven. He used the dogs on the ranch, bred litters and gave most of the dogs to friends etc. Maybe he knew the difference between a pure-bred ACD and his dogs, maybe he didn't care, could be that they did the job he wanted and that was all he knew or wanted to know.

As a sideline, in the early 1960's before I had bought Chico, I bought a couple of books by Luis Ortega, California Hackamore and California Stock Horse (Or Reined Stock Horse? I'm not home at this moment. Our power is out and has been for three plus days and 30 years is a long time ago. I still have the books, but you know how it is sometimes.) After the Club registry problem came up, I realized that the pictures in the books were at Greg Lougher's place and were of Greg Lougher and his horses. In a couple of fuzzy photos you can see ACD's. The world is a strange place indeed.

Then in the late 1950's a veterinarian in Santa Rosa, California, Jack Woolsey was introduced to Loughers dogs. With his partners Dr. Richardson and Ray DeForest, they bought several dogs and started breeding them for fun and profit. They did at some point know the dogs had reinfused Dingo and did some correspondence with McNiven because articles by McNiven were in some of the pamphlets they had for advertisement and there was some mention of trying to keep a 1/8th to 1/16th Dingo blood in the dogs. They advertised in Western Horsemen stating they were guaranteed to work etc. and calling them Queensland Heelers. It is my understanding that many of the dogs were too severe biters. Woolsey decided to import several pure-bred ACD's to correct this problem. Oaklea Blue Ace, Glen Iris Boomerang and several Glen Iris bitches were imported from Australia. Both Oaklea and Glen Iris are show kennels that go back to old working stock. As a fact Iris Heale is still showing her ACD's today. She also has Stumpy Tail ACD's (An entirely separate breed of dog.), but none of those were imported. The imports were all blues.

Since none of the above parties wanted to deal with pedigrees etc. Woolsey talked National Stock Dog Registry of Butler, Indiana, into registering the breed. Mr. Emanuel (his daughter runs the registry now.) just took the pedigrees and assigned American numbers to the dogs still in Australia without requiring Australian Registry numbers.

So here comes this bunch of crazy people (You know what they say about California! "The earth tipped and all the nuts fell into California.") with this AKC Parent Club idea and all Hell broke loose. Jack Woolsey and Ray DeForest were two of the first 12 members, DeForest still has his membership to this date.

We realized We Didn't Have Pure-Bred Dogs! We formed a club for and we worked for a pure-bred breed and We Didn't Have Pure-Bred Dogs! Some members did have pure-breds, either imported directly from Australia or from matings of Woolsey's imports, without McNiven's strain included. I didn't, both Chico and my bitch Cindy Drew were mixed.

So what to do? First thing we did after getting the story straight from McNiven was to inform National Stock Dog Registry that there had been a mistake made and most of the dogs were not pure-breds. Mr. Emanuel informed us that he really didn't care, that he felt most of the people that registered their dogs with them didn't care because all they wanted was "PAPERS" on the dogs. He also said he felt that most people were ignorant of the difference between a pedigree and what a registered dog should imply. That being a pure-bred line of ancestors instead of a list of ancestors, as in a pedigree, no matter what their source. He felt that as long as the customers were satisfied with the idea that his registry implied they were working dogs, which was never a requirement nor was there ever any requirement of proving any of the dogs worked, they were doing the service wanted by their customers. The only concession that he would make was that any dog presented for registry that was of unknown parentage, would be registered as an "American Cattle Dog" and all others would still be registered as "Australian Cattle Dogs."

At first, I believe they were being registered under the name Queensland Heeler, but I think Chris had informed them that the official name for the breed in Australia was Australian Cattle Dog and they changed to that name for the same dogs as they had previously called Queensland Heelers.

This was in 1969 and throughout that shocking year, we as a Club, tried to get the AKC to recognize the breed under the name of Australian Heeler. We wanted this name because the AKC said that Queensland was a state and the country of origin had to be reflected in the name. Because so many people, then and now, use the name Australian Cattle Dog as a generic name for any dog that may be related to an ACD and works cattle and there was and is so much confusion with Australian Shepherds, we really, really worked for the name change. But no such luck, officials are officials no matter in which country they live and their say so is law and the official name for the breed is Australian Cattle Dog worldwide.

After Mr. Emanuel turned us down in doing a separation in their registry, we tried to let as many people know nationwide that there was a difference, but none of us had big bucks and we only reached a small percentage of the owners. This was after six months of in-fighting that would curl your hair.

The AKC had given the club a loop hole, the club registrar with board approval could enter a dog without an Australian registry number in the club registry with an affidavit stating why we believed the dog was a pure-bred. This was for dogs that were imported who's papers were never signed over or left on the crate, as happened several times in the early years. With that loop hole we could have registered all of our cross bred McNivens, but ethical thinking finally prevailed and we excluded our McNivens.

Of course for some of us that meant it was years before we had the space to buy a pure-bred, but we none the less worked for our breed. Ignorance was one thing, but knowing what was right made the decision very difficult because we loved our own dogs, but easy since all of us had walked into the club for the same reason, to preserve a pure-bred herding breed, the ACD. We just needed the six months to bite at each others heels because most of us have the same temperaments as our dogs.

The AKC took over the club registry in 1979 and the breed was fully recognized in Sept. 1980. During the change over we realized how many people still didn't know there was a difference, because of the amount of people that send in their Nat'l Stock Dog Reg. papers demanding that their dogs be AKC registered. We finally had to have a form letter printed for this problem because we were swamped and unable to answer all these letters personally. I've always been sad that we as a group hadn't been able to rectify this problem. There is so much confusion in people's minds about what is or isn't an ACD now, that I would guess there always will be hot tempers and harsh words said on both sides.

Fact is that there are good dogs both in and out of the AKC, there are dogs that work well in and out of the AKC and there are some really bad dogs in both camps. The papers do not make the dog, but fact is that only the AKC registered ACD's are pure-breds, the rest are mostly not with a few exceptions, of course. (Always those exceptions to the rule.) One thing with a Breed Club and the AKC is that even newcomers have access to the written Standard and some printed information about the breed, so there is less of a chance that some of the really outrageous comments will be believed. (But you never know for sure, right?)

One of the funny things that came out of this was that Woolsey liked the looks of lots of tan on the heads and bred to put more there. Unfortunately it also is genetically linked to the tan markings on the legs and a great many of his dogs had creeping tan up over the hips and shoulders, a color fault in the standard. Just so you don't think this never shows up in the pure-breds, it does, but is bred away from because it is a fault. Another funny wives tale I've heard is that the reds are the only true working ACD's, but nasty tempered. Or some pick up on a remark that Kaleski made at one time that the only true ACD is a blue dog. Neither remark is correct and Kaleski knew that since he showed his home bred reds as well as his blues.

Blue dog was just a catch all phrase and Bernice Walters showed us a copy of a photo in the 1920's that pictured Kaleski showing his quote "Top home bred champion bitch" described as "a white dog with red spots on the ribs." (The spots were the size of a large dinner plate!) Having both colors in that first litter way back when the breed was started, remarks are usually made on the merits or demerits of one dog or a line-bred strain of certain dogs, the color itself does not make or break the dog. Common sense should tell anyone that, but repeat the tales they do.

Same is true of names and tails. Over the years I've heard some really outrageous statements concerning the name of the breed. I can understand those who got stuck in that 60's time warp and call their dogs Queenslands. I can understand the use of Heelers, but just what is the problem with those people who state emphatically "I have, raise or breed, Dingo Dogs or Queensland/Dingo crosses."????? Get out the dictionary folks, a Dingo is a wild dog in Australia. Some US zoos have Dingoes. I even know of one old gal who did have a real Dingo from the Patterson Zoo, but that was a special case and by special permit. Run of the mill people do NOT have Dingoes.

So much time has passed since McNiven added a tad of Dingo blood to his line, I'd be shocked if the current percentages weren't in the six or seven digit field or more. But Here Are These Folks Out There Using It As A Selling Point! Anyone looking for a dog should be as wary as our Coyote, I sure wouldn't buy a dog from someone who didn't have the common sense to research the background of their own dogs and didn't know the difference between a Dingo and another canine.

At a recent obedience trial, a woman walked up to talk, telling me that a friend of hers had a Dingo. I asked what it looked like and was told it looked just like that blue dog over there. (I was showing my red male.) Trying not to be insulting, I corrected her statement and promised to send breed information to her and her friend. (That's what Breed Clubs are about.) As far as all the above nicknames for the breed, I would presume people will use whatever they are used to using, but everyone should be aware that any such dog under any such name is ONLY one of two things, either it is an AKC registered pure-bred Australian Cattle Dog or it is a non pure-bred dog that goes back to McNiven's line or mixed with many different breeds. It may look like an ACD, but it isn't a pure-bred breed. Nor is it a different breed like the Australian Stumpy Tailed Cattle Dog. (That is a pure-bred breed registered in Australia and not crossed with anything else.) Nor is it a Dingo. If you want Dingo information write to Bernice Walters of the Native Dog Training Society, Bargo, NSW Australia. Or ask your local zoologist.

The other ACD point of irritation I'll comment on in this article is the tails. An ACD should have the tail that nature gave them. Even those fuzzy photos of Lougher's dogs showed dogs with tails. Docking tails didn't start in this country until the 1970's due to an arena cowboy who was sold an ACD instead of an Australian Shepherd, he docked the tail. This was in Southern California. (Which everyone knows has even more nuts than Northern California, but has great avocados.)

All of us here were appalled when Gwen Quinton of Bakersfield showed up at one of our meetings with a very nice red male with a Docked Tail. There is no really good reason to dock an ACD tail. If they have a correct coat, burrs don't stick, mud dries and comes right out, they don't get stepped on by stock and they use their tail as a rudder when working. Their tails don't freeze either, ask the guy in Alaska that uses his dogs on a Musk Oxen herd or the folks who use their ACD's on Reindeer in Finland. And They Are NeverEver Born Without A Tail Or A Short Stumpy Tail, unless there is a pituitary gland problem in the dog. (A pituitary problem can cause a corkscrew tail, but not to be confused with a kinked tail, which is also a no no.)

So there you have it! Can AKC Registration Save A Herding Breed? Yes, if it wasn't for our group wanting to go for full registration, there would probably not be a pure-bred Australian Cattle Dog breed in the USA.

At this point I don't want to delve into the working verses showing thing, except to say that from the start our Nat'l Club, the ACDCA, invented our own working trials that we called VQW's, (It was a three part class; conformation, judged per the physical ability to work, plus breed type; obedience, judged on practical handling commands and working cattle in an arena. In order to get titled the dog had to pass with at least 50% of the points in each part.) because most trials were closed to any breed except Border Collies and ASCA was just getting started also and usually didn't have cattle at their open trials.

I'm not saying that each member works their dogs, (Some would turn into a aardvark at the thought that "Precious" may get cow dung on his coat or might get kicked. Some have an inflated idea of worth, with the remark being "Oh this dog is too expensive to be a working dog.") but the Club as a whole works to preserve a place for the breed to be able to work stock. We now have point AKC Trials at our National Specialties each year, plus a jackpot or calcutta.

The remark that gets me seeing red/orange and magenta is that the non AKC ACD's are working dogs and the AKC ACD's aren't. Cow pies! 99% of the McNivens are truck dogs and haven't seen a cow in six generations. Just because it has a docked tail, is maybe registered with some registry, or just because it isn't AKC registered, does not make a working stock dog. Nor does a video of a dog chasing a cow around make a practical herding dog. Any dog will chase, they are predators, but does it have the ability needed to be useful? Quality can be found in either camp, but just because a dog is this registry or that registry doesn't make a working dog or a couch potato.

Be informed, research, don't just take someone's selling point as what the breed is or isn't.

A Note on Coat Color:
An ACD coat color is roan, speckled or mottled, red or blue. Blues have tan markings. It is Not merle, it is Not tri-colored, and there is no such thing as a "Rare White". A mottled dog can have alot of white in a reverse Dalmation pattern, but a correct dog is never all white. They can have body patches, but it is not desirable in the show ring. They can have head patches and tail root patches, they can have ring tails and most do have a white patch, called a Bentley Mark, on the head between the ears.

An overtanned blue will Not turn red with age, creeping tan just gets worse with age and the tan markings, no matter what shade of tan/red/or rust, are not considered red coat. A blue with a tan undercoat is Not a rare triple coated dog and if the tan shows thru the outer coat, it is incorrect. A red dog that has alot of black hair in their coat is NOT a rare patriotic red, white and blue dog, it is incorrectly colored and sometimes called a purple. That's just a sample of some of the weird statements that some have made. I'm sure all of you have heard some amazing tales, but remember the salt.



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