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Two Australian herding books


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AD Parsons. Trainingthe Working Kelpie. Penguin Books Australia, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia,1990.


Scott Lithgow. Trainingand Working Dogs for Quiet, Confident Control of Stock. University ofQueensland Press, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia, 1987.


It is fascinating to examine the differences andsimilarities between these two books about herding dogs, both written forAustralian farmers and graziers.


AB Parsons writes for sheep farmers, anddescribes the breeding, training and use of kelpies in sheepdog trials and insmall to very large pastoral properties – he quotes one pastoralist with a130,000 acre property, who ran up to 25,000 sheep, plus cattle. Not only are ADParsons’ comments informed by his own experience over several decades; the bookis also sprinkled with quotes from sheepdog trainers around the world.


ScottLithgow writes for cattle graziers, and breeds and works a very different typeof dog, which can herd cattle that rarely (sometimes never) have seen men,horses or dogs, driving them long distances in ferocious heat. For this work,he breeds a cross of 50% border collie, 25% Australian Cattle Dog and theremainder from other breeds, aiming for “heading, herding, heeling, heeding andhardiness” in his dogs. In this context, “heeling” means biting at the heel sof cattle, or more precisely, biting at the nose to turn the cow/steer/bull,then at the heel to drive it back to the mob.


Both authors obviously care about the wellbeing of both dogs and stock, and both stress the importanceof developing the bond between dog and trainer. Mr Parson’sbook is more discursive in style, while Mr Lithgow’s book is packed withtechnical detail, including a section on the neurophysiology of caninebehaviour – although I looked at a recent edition in a bookshop last week, andwas disappointed to see that this information had not been updated since the original edition. Both bookscontain a wealth of information.


In particular, I found AD Parsons’ advice on trial-groundhandling most informative, including his explanation why the dog should bring thesheep towards the mouth of the race at an angle, if possible.


Scott Lithgow provides a window on a style of stockwork used in the more remote regions of Australia. For example, he comments that, when working wild cattle in the scrub, he would collect a breakaway cow and calf himself (on horseback, of course), but send the dog after a solitary breakaway calf or weaner. He also includes interesting information on the differences between working Bos indicus and Bos taurus cattle.


I would definitely recommend both books to anybody with aninterest in working dogs.





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  • 5 months later...

Tony Parsons had the much respected Karrawarra kelpie stud and his interest was all but devoted to them.He bred some outstanding dogs,a number of which were exported to the U.S.

Scott Lithgow has been deceased for some years now which may explain why it hasn't been updated.The other essential blood in his dogs was bull terrier,about 1/8th, to make them harder on the nose/head

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