THE AUSTRALIAN STUMPY TAIL CATTLE DOG

INTRODUCTION


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 Australian 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:-

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.

ORIGIN, HISTORY, AND PURPOSE.

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.

Another theory is that Thomas Hall, studmaster of the Hall family's estates in the colonies at that time, had dogs known as the "Drovers Dog", evolved from a stumpy tailed dog known as a "Cur". These dogs were brought out to the colony from the Hall pastoral holdings in Scotland. Selected Dingo crosses resulted in both red and blue as well as both long and stumpy tail progeny. Hall, in his lifetime, never introduced another breed into these Dingo / Drovers Dog crosses.

A drover by the name of Timmins,( Robert Kaleski, "Barkers and Biters") 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.

DNA testing in these modern times shows that the ACD and the ASTCD do not carry the merling gene that the Smooth Haired Collie does. They carry a ticking gene. This tends to place some doubt as to the use of any Collie, as such, being used.

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!!

BREED STANDARD AND INTERPRETATION OF THE AUSTRALIAN STUMPY TAIL CATTLE DOG

General Appearance.

Shall be that of a well-proportioned working dog, rather square in profile, with a hard -bitten, rugged appearance and sufficient substance to convey the impression of the ability to endure long periods of arduous work under whatsoever conditions may prevail. The Stumpy Tail must have good bone without coarseness.

Interpretation.

Substance should be sufficient to convey the impression of working ability, but not as much substance as the Australian Cattle Dog. The Stumpy Tail is a racier type of dog. The emphasis is on good bone without coarseness.

Characteristics.

The Stumpy possesses a natural aptitude in the working and control of cattle and a loyal, courageous and devout disposition. It is ever alert, watchful and obedient though suspicious of strangers. At all times it must be amenable to handling in the show ring.

Head and Skull

The skull is broad between the ears and flat, narrowing slightly to the eye with a slight but definite stop. Cheeks are muscular without coarseness. The foreface is of moderate length, well filled up under the eye, the deep, powerful jaws tapering to a blunt, strong muzzle. Nose black, irrespective of the colour of the dog.

Interpretation.

The Stumpy Tail’s head is slightly more refined than the Australian Cattle Dog’s. The more refined head and moderate length of muzzle gives the appearance of a longer head than the Australian Cattle Dog.

Eyes.

The eyes should be oval in shape, of moderate size, neither full nor prominent, with an alert and intelligent, yet suspicious expression, and of dark brown colour.

Interpretation.Four variables affect expression: shape, set or placement in the skull, colour and size. Eyes should be oval in shape, of medium size and dark brown in colour with a warning or suspicious glint. The eyes are set well apart giving the dog wide vision, but not as far apart as in the Australian Cattle Dog. Prominent eyes are vulnerable to injury from kicks and vegetation. Sunken eyes are prone to collecting dust.

Ears

The ears are moderately small, pricked and almost pointed. Set on high, yet well apart. Leather moderately thick. Inside, the ear should be well furnished with hair.

Interpretation

The Stumpy’s ears are set higher on the head than the A.C.D.;s and are nearly pointed. The ears should not be so close set as to make the head appear to be narrow. They are not angled out as are the A.C.D’s, but are more perpendicular when fully pricked.

 

Mouth.

The teeth are strong, sound and evenly spaced, the lower incisors close behind and just touching the upper. Not to undershot or overshot.

Interpretation

The teeth should be sound, strong and evenly spaced, gripping with a scissor bite, the lower incisors close behind and just touching the upper. As the dog is required to move difficult cattle by heeling, or biting, teeth which are sound and strong are very important.

Neck

The neck is of exceptional strength, sinuous, muscular and of medium length, broadening to blend into the body; free from throatiness.

Interpretation.

The word "sinuous" in the standard is misused and should be ignored. The neck should be of exceptional strength but in proportion and broadening to blend into the body. Strength of neck is a feature of the breed. The neck should be free from throatiness. There is very little loose skin around the neck. The word "sinuous" was intended to convey that the neck is particularly tight-skinned and clean in outline. A neck of this description is needed to balance the rest of the dog, provided that its frame is powerful and muscular. The over-all appearance must be that of a compact, sturdy, hard worker. Short necks restrict a dog’s length of reach when going in to bite the heels of cattle; these should be penalised.

Forequarters

The shoulders are clean, muscular and sloping with elbows parallel to the body. The forelegs are well boned and muscular. Viewed from any angle they are perfectly straight.

Interpretation.

The shoulders should be clean and muscular but without bulging muscles (loaded shoulders). The shoulder blades should be well laid back and of good length. The upper arm is of equal and opposite angle, and of similar length to the shoulder blade. The Stumpy must have good bone without coarseness. Elbows are parallel to the body. Forelegs viewed from any direction are straight with a slight turn of pastern, similar to the A.C.D.

Body

The length of the body from the point of the breast-bone to the buttocks should be equal to the height at the withers. The back is level, broad and strong with deep and muscular loins. The well sprung ribs taper to a deep, moderately broad chest.

Interpretation.

Like the A.C.D., this is a dog which needs to be able to turn quickly - in, to bite, or away, out of danger. A dog too long in loin loses the ability to turn quickly. The Stumpy’s square profile gives him even more speed and agility in the turn. An incorrect, sloping topline is usually associated with incorrect front or rear angulation. Toplines which are other than straight indicate some anatomical weakness in the back which diminishes strength and endurance, and gives weak support to the musculature of the dog.

Deep, broad, muscular loins, and deep flanks should couple together strong forequarters and powerful hindquarters. The forequarters, body and hindquarters should blend as one; their continuity should not be broken by weak spinal structure and/or coupling. The Stumpy is, however, somewhat less solid and more athletic in general aspect than the A.C.D.

The chest should reach to the dogs elbows. This, and the well-sprung ribs, allows room for healthy heart development and lung expansion. Too deep a chest is a fault. The Stumpy will bite the hoof that is carrying the beast’s weight, then flatten himself on the ground to avoid being kicked. A dog with an excessively deep chest offers a target to retaliating hooves.

Hindquarters.

The hindquarters are broad, powerful and muscular, with well-developed thighs; stifles moderately turned. Hocks are strong, moderately well let down with sufficient bend. When viewed from behind, the hind legs, from hocks to feet are straight and placed neither close noe too wide apart.

Interpretation.

The Stumpy differs from the A.C.D. in having a moderate, rather than a well turned stifle. The hindquarters should, nevertheless, be broad, powerful and muscular with well-developed thighs. Rear pasterns are strong. When viewed from behind, pasterns are straight and parallel, neither cow hocked or bow hocked. Hocks are moderately well let down and sufficiently bent to form a definite angle. The croup is sloping

Feet.>

The feet should be round, deep in pads with well-arched toes ,closely knit. Nails short, strong and of a dark colour.

Interpretation

Note that dark nails are not required by the A.C.D. standard. A neat, round foot is strong and functionally correct. Pads should be thick to absorb shock and protect the foot. A dog with correct feet which is exercised adequately on a hard surface will wear its nails down naturally.

Splayed, or otherwise weak feet will break down under hard use and allow burrs and gravel to lodge between the toes; thin pads will wear on hard ground. Even if he meets all other requirements of the breed standard, a working dog that lacks good feet, cannot work for long hours, because his feet will not support him.

Tail.

The tail is undocked, of a natural length not exceeding 10cm (4ins). Set on high but not carried much above the level of the back.

Interpretation.

Tail set is slightly higher than that of the A.C.D. or Kelpie. The Stumpy has a sloping croup, hence the tail should not be set on high like a Terrier’s.

Gait/Movement.

Soundness is of paramount importance. The action is true, free supple and tireless, the movement of the shoulders and forelegs in unison with the powerful thrust of the hindquarters. Capability for quick and sudden movement is essential. Stiltiness, cow or bow hocks, slack or loaded shoulders or straight shoulder placement, weakness at elbows, pasterns or feet must be regarded as serious faults.

Interpretation

It should be noted that , because the Stumpy is square in profile, he will not stride out as much as the A.C.D., or he will over-reach or crab. It is not unusual for the Stumpy to, pace or amble as is common with most square-bodied dogs.

Only a well made Stumpy will move in the manner described. Gait is not, in itself, soundness, but it is a measure of soundness. Correct gait is not possible without correct structure. If the structure is not correct, gait may reveal faults that are not apparent when the dog is posed. The working Stumpy may be required to work very long hours and must, therefore, be able to gait freely with a minimum of up -and-down movement, covering the maximum amount of ground with a minimum of effort.

Coat

The outer coat is moderately short, straight, dense and of medium harsh texture. The undercoat is short, dense and soft. The coat around the neck is longer, forming a mild ruff. The hair on the head, legs and feet is short

Interpretation

The Stumpy is an all-weather worker. The double coat provides extraordinary resistance to rain and extremes of temperature. Being short and smooth, the coat is unlikely to catch on vegetation. Being close, hard and flat-lying, the coat also gives its wearer good protection from scratches and cuts when he is working in scrub. Curly or wavy coats are uncharacteristic of the breed and should be discouraged.

Colour.

Blue: The blue dog should be blue or blue mottled, whole-coloured. The head may have black markings. Black markings on the body are permissible.

Red Speckle: The colour should be good even red speckle all over, including the undercoat (not white or cream), with or without red markings on the head. Red patches on the body are permissible.

Interpretation.

Blue Coloured Stumpies should have no tan markings on any part of the dog, as they are a sure sign of cross breeding (with A.C.D’s). It should be noted that red speckle is the only colour for red Stumpies accepted by the standard. A blue overlay to the coat and or blue on the muzzle is also incorrect. It should also be noted that black body markings on blues and darker red body markings on reds is permissible.

Size.

Height: The height at the withers should be within the following measurements:-

  • Dogs: 46 - 51 cm (18 - 20 ins)
  • Bitches: 43 - 48 cm (17 - 19 ins) These heights are exactly the same as for A.C.D.

Dogs or bitches over or under these specified heights are undesirable.

Interpretation.

The Standard lays out clearly the desirable heights at the withers for dogs and bitches. As there is a good range of 5cm (approx 2ins) allowable for both dogs and bitches, specimens over or under the desirable heights should be seriously penalised.

Faults.

Any departure from the foregoing points, should be considered a fault, and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded, should be in exact proportion to its degree.

Note.

Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

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A bit of interesting history on the Stumpy.

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 the 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 practiced with many breeds to this day, especially the sporting dogs.

In early Britain, most short-tailed droving dogs were known as "Curs", dogs that some claim to have been a cross between a sheepdog and the Terrier. "Cur" did not always have a derogatory connotation. They were prized animals. To the Welsh herdsmen, their cur was ‘of equal value to an ox’.

The word ‘cur’ is thought to have come from the Swedish ‘Kurre’, meaning dog. When early droving dogs had their tails docked, it was known as ‘curtailing’, a word now used in general, meaning ‘cutting short’.

An unknown author, writing in 1851, described the Cur dog thus: ‘Closely allied to the shepherds dog is the Cur, or drovers 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 if it had been so. It appears 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 been 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 1800’s 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 the McNab and the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog share a common ancestry in the humble Cur.

Some problems in the breed which should be watched for are:

<1>Softness of ears. It is not uncommon to find specimens whose ears are not fully pricked or which are very soft in cartilage. The standard calls for pricked ears and anything else should be penalised.
<2>Length of body: One of the breed features is the square body, so specimens that are too long in body should be penalsied.
<3>Tail length: The standard calls for a maximum tail length of 10cm (4ins). As this is also a breed feature, tails over this length should also be penalised. Tails should not be docked. Therefore, any exhibit with an obviously docked tail should be disqualified.
<4>Tan markings should be a disqualification, as it is not allowed in the standard.

I trust that some of the above information will help you understand the breed a little better. The standard is the one we judges have to judge by, so it is more important you assess your dog by this standard. The interpretations may be of assistance when you do so. The other important thing to always bear in mind when trying to assess your own stock, is to try not to become what we call "kennel blind". Remember also that the Standard is in relation to the "perfect specimen" which in fact will never ever be bred. That is why breeders still try to breed the "perfect dog" and it is also why dog shows are still in existence, as it is one man’s opinion on one particular day, along with that one man’s interpretation of the standard! Try to assess what you have with an open mind and try to put yourself in a judges position. If, as you breed, you can see improvements in the progeny, you are well on the way to success.

Your chosen breed is one in which you will be handicapped by distance. Unlike A.C.D. owners and breeders who have access to reasonably good stud dogs and can acquire good stock from fairly close breeders in terms of distance, you may have to look as close as Mackay or as far as Melbourne for good stock. Don’t be put off by this as time can make a big difference.

 

Submitted by Wooramun Jack



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