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History of the Huntaway


The true history of the origin of the Huntaway, also known as the New Zealand Sheepdog, is not known, but there are many theories.

The Huntaway is used throughout New Zealand to drive and manage the massive flocks of sheep. They are now regarded as part of the heritage of New Zealand. Huntaways are trained primarily to drive the sheep ahead of or away from the handler. The Huntaway uses it's bark to gather and drive the flock. Special events were developed for these dogs at sheep-herding trials. The events were referred to as "huntaways", which eventually gave the dog its name.

Sheep were introduced to New Zealand, due to the country's mild, moist climate. Rainfall is spread throughout the year, which means that rich pasture is always available to feed the sheep. The small flocks could be managed by introduced collies. As time went on, the flocks grew to massive proportions and the collies were not able to cope. The long hair, the warm climate and the dog's silent working went against the traditional collie. The dogs soon tired, lacked stamina and the shepherd never knew where his dogs were. The shepherd or stockman could be half a mile or so away from the other side of the flock. What was needed was a short haired dog with stamina that could be heard. This was the birth of the Huntaway.

Some breeds were introduced to the working collies and those with stamina and bark were "bred on". Eventually the desired dogs were found and those with the right qualities were bred extensively. Breeds such as Beauceron, Bloodhound (for the bark), German Shepherd, Labrador and Rottweiller are believed to have been introduced.  But this is only conjecture. The Huntaway breed is about 100 years old.

Huntaways are not recognised by kennel clubs as a "true" breed, but as only working dogs (the Border Collie has only recently been recognised as a "breed")  There are two recognised types of Huntaway: long haired and short haired.

Huntaways are highly intelligent and very much a "one man dog". When running, the Huntaway "lollops" and can run all day.  Huntaways are easily trained.  They are very vocal and can be taught to bark on command.  They are not usually kept as pets, being primarily "working dogs", but are becoming popular.  Most of the Huntaways on this website are pets.

Height to the shoulder 20 to 24 inches
Weight 40 and 65 lbs.
Coat Generally short and dense, but long haired are known (often referred to as "Beardies")
Colourings Black and tan, tricolour (black, tan and white) and brindle.
Eyes Orange-brown , blue, brown or one blue and one brown "wall-eyed"(the border collie ancestry)
Ears "tip" (half folded) or "lop", set wide apart
Tail Long and thick, held erect
Legs Long and heavy
Feet Large and webbed (but not always webbed)
Length - head to tail 4ft and over

An insight into the working Huntaway by Fiona of New Zealand, this is an excellent article, please read

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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