The Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog
A Breed Of Its Own

- Australian Cattle Dog Social Club of North Queensland -


Fine example of an Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog
At first glance the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog resembles its longer tailed cousin but closer scrutiny reveals a slightly different conformation. The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog has a squarer build, the Australian Cattle Dog being a little longer in the body in relation to its height at the shoulder. Neither does the blue Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog have tan markings like the Australian Cattle Dog. Of course the most obvious difference is the tail. They are not docked. The pups are born with tiny stumpy tails, which according to the standard may not exceed four inches when fully grown.

Where does the stumpy tail characteristic spring from? The absence of tails in working dogs goes back centuries in Britain when the custom of docking tails exempted a farmer or drover from paying taxes on his working dogs. The custom was ultimately doomed for this reason because many other types of dogs were "mutilated" in the same way to escape the tax. Though the system was eventually abandoned in 1796, the custom survived. Docking is still practised with many breeds to this day, particularly sporting dogs.

Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog pup
In early Britain, most short-tailed droving dogs were known as " Curs", dogs that some claim to have been a cross between the sheepdog and the terrier. "Cur" did not always have a derogatory connotation. They were prized animals. To the Welsh herdsman, their cur was "of equal value to an ox". The word "cur" is thought to come from the Swedish "Kurre", meaning dog. When early droving dogs had their tails docked it was known as "curtailing", a word now in general use meaning "cutting short". An unknown author, writing in 1851, described the Cur dog thus: "Closely allied to the shepherd's dog is the cur, or drover's dog. This useful animal is larger than the shepherd's dog, the hair is generally shorter, and the tail, even when not cut purposely, often appears as it if had been so. It seems to us that the drover's dog is in reality, a cross between the shepherd's dog and some other race. These dogs are singularly quick and prompt in their actions and, as all who have watched them in the crowded, noisy, tumultuous assemblage of men and beasts in Smithfield must have observed, they are both courageous and intelligent."

An earlier writer Bewick describes a cur dog of the times in The General History of the Quadrupid (1811): A trusty and useful servant to the farmer and grazier. In the North of England this (the cur), and the shepherd's dog are called 'coally dogs'. They are chiefly employed in driving cattle, in which they are extremely useful. They are larger, stronger and fiercer than the Shepherd Dog and their hair is smoother and shorter. They are mostly of a black and white colour, their ears are half pricked, and many of them are whelped with short tails, which seems as if they had cut off; these are called self tailed dogs.' Bewick also gives us a woodcut of a black and white cur dog, which fits this description well. This type of dog still crops up, though very rarely.

The McNab breed in the United States bears a remarkable resemblance to these early curs. Though the McNab history is obscure, it appears that they are descended from a 'Scotch Border Collie', which was taken to America in the mid 1800s by a Scot called Alexander McNab. This particularly handsome breed is still used to work cattle and sheep there. What is more relevant here, however, is the likelihood that both the McNab and Stumpy Tailed Cattle Dog share a common ancestry in the humble cur.

To keep the stumpy tail characteristic, only short tailed dogs were then mated. This eliminated any long tailed strain. Now Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs breed true to type, with all litters born either without tails or very short tails. Another name for the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is the Smithfield Heeler, a name claimed to be given to it by a family called Smithfield who helped develop this dog. They were said to have lived on the Queensland-New South Wales border. I cannot accept this theory, a singularly remarkable coincidence of names should it ever be substantiated. There can be little doubt that the 'Smithfield' in the records refers only to British working dogs of that name. A colloquialism given to dogs that worked stock of all types at the Smithfield Meat Markets in London at that time.

The Australian Stumpy-Tail Cattle Dog has proved every bit as effective with cattle as its longer tailed cousin. Though still relatively uncommon, this wiry, tireless worker is slowly gaining its ground, particularly in country areas, where it is held in high esteem. The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is a silent worker and many fanciers claim that its endurance is second to none. Like the Australian Cattle Dog, it makes a loyal and courageous friend. The breed is now attracting attention overseas, particularly in Canada, where its working qualities are appreciated on large cattle properties.

Fine example of an Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog

The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is believed to be the first pure bred to be developed in Australia. The dog is a valuable all-rounder and one of the best working dogs ever produced.

During the ten years up to 1998, only fifty pups were registered under the prefix of the one and only kennel owning registered animals of both sexes; it was clear the breed was in danger of extinction. The Australian National Kennel Council resolved to save the breed by implementing a developmental register breeding program. Other breeders of Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs have since had stock registered, a number of these in N.S.W.
The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is NOT a short-tailed Australian Cattle Dog, but a different breed. Some of the differences between the two include:-

  • The Stumpy Tail is a "square" dog, having a 1:1 height - length ratio, or a "square" dog, whereas the ACD ratio is 10:9 ratio oh length is to height.
  • The Stumpy Tail has a finer and more wedge-shaped head than The Australian Cattle Dog.
  • The Stumpy Tail has no tan markings at all.
  • The Stumpy Tail’s ears are high set( but smaller rather than large while the Australian Cattle Dog’s ears are lower set) and moderately pointed at the tip.
  • The Stumpy Tail is a more racy, active dog than the Australian Cattle Dog.
  • The Stumpy Tail’s tail is naturally bob-tailed and must not be docked.
Although the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog and the Australian Cattle Dog are two distinct breeds, the origins of the two are similar. What would have appeared to have occurred, is that half a century of kennel breeding has brought about changes in the Australian Cattle Dog but the Stumpy has been left to his own destiny. Whether the changes in the Australian Cattle Dog have been for the better is an open question.

According to Robert Kaleski, the breed originated from crossing a Smithfield with a Dingo. The Smithfield (referred to by Kaleski as the Black Bob-tail) was a "big, rough coated, square bodied dog, with a head like a wedge, a white frill around the neck and saddle-flap ears." (Kaleski, 1993 P.78) They derived their names from the Smithfield meat markets in England where the dogs were prized for their skill at herding anything: pigs, chickens, ponies, sheep, cattle. Rough terrain and the hotter Australian climate were, however, too much for this large, heavy coated and somewhat cumbersome breed.

A drover by the name of Timmins, crossed the Smithfield with a Dingo, producing red, bob-tailed dogs known as "Timmins Biters", because of their headstrong habits and hard bite. A later crossing with the Timmins Biters with the Smooth-Haired Collie made them more amenable. The progeny included both blue and red, square bodied bob-tailed dogs, and some mottled pups with black patches on the head and body. These were the ancestors of the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog.Another theory is that Thomas Hall used the "Drovers Dog", a naturally evolved stumpy tailed dog known as the "Cur", from family holdings in Scotland and put them to the Dingo.Resultant progeny would have resulted in both long and stumpy tail pups.Some hold the view that the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is a better worker than the Australian Cattle Dog. Temperamentally, the Stumpy has hyperactive, "workerholic" characteristics similar to the Kelpie’s. Even in the hottest weather, the Stumpy will be on the move. The Australian Cattle Dog will prefer to find shade and rest - if he can get away with it!!

STCD Health Issues

A Stump For A Tail

You can't buy loyalty, they say,
I bought it though, the other day;
You can't buy friendship, tried and true,
Well, just the same, I bought that too.

I made my bid, and on the spot
Bought love and faith and a whole job lot
Of happiness,so all in all
The purchase price was pretty small.

I bought a single, trusting heart,
That gave devotion from the start.
If you think these things are not for sale,
Buy a brown-eyed puppy with a stump for a tail.

Author unknown.

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