Friday 26 February 2021

The Difference Between Cattle Dogs and Dingoes by Berenice Walters (c late 1990s)

In early 1970 I was speaking to Professor MacIntosh of Sydney University, who had carried out two decades of research on the Dingo.  He considered the Cattle Dog to be halfway to a Dingo.  However, after nearly fifty years’ experience, my opinion is that they are totally diffe

On the one hand you have a bold and protective rural working dog specifically bred to work for man, with man;  on the other end of the scale we have the Dingo, a highly intelligent, sensitive, skilful and independent hunting breed, an opportunistic predator whose concentration is on hunt/kill.  Hardly the recipe for a herding dog.  I do of course speak generally.  One does occasionally hear of individuals and hybrids that have worked with stock just as there are individual Cattle Dogs that are not workers.


Friday 19 February 2021

Snowdrift: Plug Thief (Extract from Merigal Dingoes by Pamela King)

Snowdrift (from the Berenice Walters' Collection)
Snowdrift was born in 1988 at Healesville Sanctuary, Victoria, the son of Boof and Merigal Snowbird (a daughter of Snowgoose). Snowbird was leased to Healesville Sanctuary as part of a joint breeding program. Snowgoose was a very famous Dingo as she and puppy Napilia featured on the Dogs of Australia series 20c stamp in 1980 and starred in the ABC documentary Trust a Dingo in 1977 along with other Merigal Dingoes Dora and Napoleon. 

He was 12 weeks old when he arrived at Merigal. He was always very friendly and outgoing, no doubt partly due to his breeding, and the excellent and varied handling he received at Healesville in the all-important first three months.

He was a tall dingo, brilliant chestnut in colour, and had a huge sense of humour but continually getting into strife. He was always terribly sorry afterwards but couldn’t help himself.

When Snowdrift was a pup, the kitchen plug disappeared. Berenice went to borrow the one from the bathroom, but it also had gone missing as had the plugs from her mother's granny flat. Further searching revealed all the plugs from the headquarters building no longer existed.

Berenice bought a new kitchen plug and wondered if the others would turn up. She heard Snowy's feet quickly, but quietly pattering out of the kitchen and flew after him. She was just in time to see him furtively slithering out the back door. In his mouth, protruding like a deformed tongue, was the new plug. Caught in the act, he coyly circled her, and then collapsed in a submissive heap. What could she say - what could she do but join him on the grass, laughing with him and telling him what a naughty boy he had been.

Once he was caught in the act, he never attempted to repeat the 'crime'.

His manners in the house were impeccable but, knowing dingoes have an unquenchable curiosity, Berenice frequently checked on him. She always found him laying quietly beside a bed unit she had just purchased. As she peeped in, he was resting innocently on a mat beside it. It was not until she noticed the sudden appearance of threads hanging from under the bed she discovered he had neatly chewed through the base!

One day, she couldn't find Snowy and noticed the door of her mother’s granny flat open. She was stunned when she looked inside. Cushions, dolls, doilies, mats had been flung all over the room. Snowy came to a sudden halt in the middle of the pandemonium when he saw her, unsure what to do at being caught out. Fortunately, no damage was done except for one doll's leg being dislocated.

On another occasion Snowy attacked a feather quilt. When he jumped on it, feathers squirted out. It was a great game. The walls, ceiling and furniture were covered with black pin feathers. Despite regular vacuuming, feathers were still appearing months later.

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Friday 12 February 2021

Cattle Dogs and Dingoes Around the House

In the 1970s when keeping a dingo was illegal, the yellow dogs running around Berenice’s yard were simply referred to as “just dogs” or “Kelpie crosses”.

Berenice was always amused watching visitors approaching. Visitors always checked, heads swivelling, for the Cattle Dogs. After making sure there were no Cattle Dogs loose, they would confidently enter the yard where the Dingoes would happily escort them to the house.

One very hot day summer day, she was vigorously vacuuming wearing only a minimum of underwear, when there was a knock on the nearby screen door.  She nearly fainted.  Embarrassed, the postie was standing there.  “I have a registered parcel for you and as there were no blue dogs about I came in.  These yellow dogs are so friendly”.  It would have been her turn to faint if Berenice had informed her those yellow dogs were Dingoes.


Berenice loved having two or three dogs around the house.  However, she was were never able to keep Cattle Dogs as house dogs once they reached maturity - someone always got bitten (heeled) - not badly admittedly, but a frightening experience for any visitor.  

By contrast, she ran Dingoes as house dogs for over twenty five years without a single incident.  They were, of course, selective.  

Although Snowdrift was reared at Healesville Sanctuary and constantly handled by the public, he became very protective of Berenice and her home.  

Showing signs he could take matters into his own paws in the future if she was not present to officiate, he reluctantly became a resident of an enclosure adjoining the house where he did a fine job of letting her know when a stranger arrived.  

He was the one male who could be aggressive to people, particularly in the breeding season, and one who would tolerate only a limited number of people.  Once trust is broken he was unforgiving. He remained very much Berenice’s ‘baby’ and recognised her as his ‘alpha’. His eyes were always full of love for her and always wants to curl up on her lap as he did as a pup.

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