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The working Huntaway

Hi Ray

I was just looking through the net and came across your Huntaway website. Curious as to why any one would devote a web site to our lovely humble Huntaway I decided to have a wee look. I thought I would email you as you may find some of this information of interest.

We live on a large sheep property in the south island of New Zealand, so yes Huntaways are part of our working team. They are great working dogs and are used specifically for heading/hunting and yard work and form a team with an eye dog (similar to a border collie with a smooth coat and huge stamina). They have a huge bark on them, with a deeper woof being more desirable as its easier on the ears in the sheep yards.

Heading = driving sheep toward owner with loud barks 
Hunting = driving sheep away from owner 
Backing = working in the sheep yards running over the backs of sheep to get them moving through races

On all large sheep properties heading dogs and Huntaways are kept. A handy dog is not a strain of Huntaway but is a cross between an eye dog and a Huntaway. This can result in a dog that is good on eye work and in the yards. However this is not often done as to be honest both Huntaways and eye dogs are breed for different jobs, and a cross typically ends up average at both jobs. A Beardie is also not a strain of Huntaway, these wiry coat dogs are not seen very often on farms as they are a jack of all trades, but can be a master of none. So the specialist eye dog and Huntaway teams are commonly seen. Eye dog or heading dogs as they are called are precision dogs. They are used for heading which is bring stock towards the owner. They actively work the sheep in any direction and work silently very closely with them. They are never used in sheep yards.

Huntaways are typically black and tan or plain black or tri colour. Coats can be wiry but are usually smooth. Some of the South Island strains are very large and a strong black and tan colour with a huge bark ( very similar to the dog that you have). There was apparently a little Bloodhound put in here early on, and it does show !. Huntaways are bred specifically for farm work and any not showing very strong working ability are culled very early in their career. They are, due to this, a working dog in its purist form. They are nearly never kept as pets in NZ as they are rather homely ( sorry to say the pet breeds are popular here e.g. labs ) and their great working traits do not work so well in the suburbs.

We love our dogs for their working ability, and yes they are all good natured as they have been bred to work in with a team of other dogs ( no fighting ever allowed !), and to work all day under command for their owners. They work on a whistle command usually at long distances away from their owner finding sheep and driving them with their loud bark. They are never allowed to bite stock, and usually bark the comings and goings on a farm and make reasonable watch dogs because of this. They form a strong bond with their owner and families and I would imagine be great at obedience due to their grasp of commands. They have a strong tendency to only work for one person, and although they love every one else they are bred to work strongly with one individual only. However they do tend to change ownership several times during their working life as they may be brought as pups, trained up then on sold, and then on sold again as working requirements change. A dog from a change in ownership usually takes a couple of months before it will work for its new owners due to their bond. A pup is worth $350 if from good sheep trial parents, a bit less if not. A well trained Huntaway with a full head/hunt and back and under very good command approx 3 years old would sell for NZ $2500, this is nearer the top of the market. Their working life is approx 8 years. Hip dysplasia has unfortunately reared its ugly head in recent years and affects up to 20% of dogs. Stud dogs are now screened for this. I am surprised to see that there are requests to make this a 'breed'. I do have to ask why?, If a breed standard were to be set then you would end up with a handsome looking dog, but one that eventually would not be able to do the work it was bred for. A shell of a dog. Looks like a Huntaway but cant work as it should. I imagine it would make a great companion, however it would be a long way from the NZ Huntaway. Huntaways are never bred for looks/confirmation in NZ, only ever on working ability. Because of this there will never be a type fixed on them.

Hope you have found this of interest

cheers Fiona

P.S. The 'bugger' dog in the commercial is actually a Huntaway /Rottweiler cross that has been on a number of commercials in NZ. However 'Hercules' does very much look like the type of dog used here.

If you have any other information on the history of the Huntaway, please contact me so I can update this section.

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