Occasionally I am reminded that I've lived in rural NZ for so long I've forgotten all the differences between Kiwi rural folk and the rest of the world. When I first arrived on a NZ farm talk of eye dogs and huntaways was about as lost on me as was talk of hoggets and two tooths. A sentance such as this would have have had my eyes rolling in my head and probably my tongue lolling as well.
"The policy on most New Zealand sheep farms is to pre-tup shear two tooths in late February/early March two to four weeks prior to mating."
So when I talk about going to choose a pup, I forget that most people think I'm talking about choosing a pet, whereas choosing a working farm dog is what I think about.
A good farm dog is worth its weight in gold, even on a dairy farm where they aren't required to do a lot of work or to be highly skilled. The cows quickly get used to walking to and from the dairy to be milked and don't need a lot of encouragement to find their way to and from the dairy shed. But occasionally the dairy farmer wants a dog to go "Woof" as it follows behind the cows to hurry them along a bit. Or, when it's time to bring the cows into the shed for milking he might want to send the dog into the paddock to tell them it's time to move and to have a run around the paddock to make sure some cunning old biddy isn't hiding in a back corner. So a dog with a good "woof" is a bonus.
Farm dogs in NZ are often bred specifically for working purposes. The New Zealand Huntaway (also known as the New Zealand sheep dog) has been bred solely for the purpose of sheep herding, and makes a good dog for dairy farms. It doesn’t have strict rules about its parentage (unlike many other dog breeds) and they can vary widely in looks. Most are black and tan, and are well built. Farmers prefer mixed colours or tan to solid black because they are easier to see in the distance.
We chose little Chase from her sisters because of her solid build and her lovely black and tan colouring. We also checked that she had dark soles on her feet, a sign that she's not likely to get footsore.
Some would consider the Huntaway to be a mongrel, as it is bred from a number of dogs, possibly including Bloodhounds, Labradors, Beardies, German Shepherds, Fox Hounds, and Border Collies. There is definitely a fair bit of Border Collie in Chase as that's what her mother is. So we would expect her to be smart and have a good bark.
After a couple of days at home she was just chilled; a lazy, chubby bundle. But before anyone else assumes she has been mistreated, our neighbour, a vet, tells us that is a sure sign of a huntaway pup. They are usually friendly dogs but despite their friendliness, they usually only work for one person, and it's my theory that females are more loyal.
My son's current farm dog, Jack is getting old, very old. He has to be lifted onto the farm bike and it seems he has dementia, he often forgets what he is doing and wanders off. He has one last duty to perform - let little Chase follow him and learn the ropes.
And if Chase isn't cut out to be a ridgy didge huntaway, she will make a lovely farmily pet. My old mate, Lewey's breeding meant he should have been a fearless cattle dog but he has hopeless, absolutely and totally hopeless with cattle. But he was a first rate pet.