It’s been said that a dog is a man’s best friend. When it comes to a New Zealand farmer, this is certainly true. Some New Zealand farmers don’t just have a few acres, they have a few thousand, and trying to get your flock of sheep into the stockyards can bring a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘working for your money’ if the farmer had to do all the leg work. There are around 43 MILLION sheep in New Zealand, which is an average of 12 sheep per person. Wouldn’t want to get them mad now would we? (A popular statement from comedians from overseas). The average flock size on the average farm is around 1400 sheep. The first sheep arrived in New Zealand around 1773, and their population exploded to a whopping 83 million before it began to decline due to other farming options such as dairy and raising beef cattle.
The vast size of New Zealand allows for some big farms, or stations as they are called. This is especially true in the South Island where some rocky mountainous terrain can only be inhabited and used for grazing sheep. The average farm in the South Island of New Zealand is around 536 acres, the bigger stations can range from over 300 hectares to 25,758 Hectares (the famous Walter Peak Station, founded in 1860). The largest station in New Zealand is now owned by the Government and measures 1,800 km². So as you can imagine, you need a ‘best friend’ to help.
New Zealand has formulated its own type of breed to help muster the large number of sheep in from the hills and all nooks and crannies. Instead of the precision and silent approach from the trusty ‘eye’ sheep dog (those black and white sheepdogs often seen in English movies), the shepherds of the stations needed a more robust dog with a loud voice and one that is not afraid to stand its ground. So what’s a farmer to do if that ‘breed’ isn’t readily available? Well, do the Kiwithing off course and invent (breed) one. Enter the New Zealand Huntaway, officially not a breed as no one in history knows exactly what their pedigree is, what other breeds were used, how much of which breed or can even agree on a ‘standard’ by which to measure the breed. All colors, sizes, breed mixes are available and used, as long as they are loyal, like to bark and can listen it’s a New Zealand Huntaway. Selective breeding from good working dogs have narrowed the ‘breed’ into a instantly recognized dog in New Zealand, but there is no strict ‘breed standard’. New Zealand Huntaways are generally black and tan, sturdy dogs that are very athletic.
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