Australia's 150 years of Dog Registration

Old type BulldogOld type Bulldog

Imagine it's 1870. You decide to emigrate from Britain to Australia, bringing your pure breed dogs with you. You know the only communication with home is a 4-months sea voyage away! You hear there are dog shows. But when you arrive you find there is no Stud Book in which to record the registration of your dogs. This was the situation for 59 years after dog showing commenced in Australia, leaving our pure breed dogs open for rogues and vagabonds to falsify pedigrees!

Today, we take communications for granted. We also take for granted our computerised dog registration system that facilitates the international breeding of pure breed dogs and their exhibition both Australia-wide and on the world stage. This story charts the struggle to connect the registration of our pedigree dogs throughout Australia and beyond, leaving behind the tyranny of distance that plagued us in the past.

The English Stud Books

The First English Stud BookThe First English Stud Book

When the British first colonised Australia, they brought their ways of life with them. As pedigree dogs and dog showing became popular in Britain, it spread to their colonies. By 1859 The Kennel Club of England with the assistance of 'The Field' Magazine, began compiling pedigrees for its first Stud Book, recording the names and also parents, if known, of dogs that were entered in dog shows as specific breeds. The historic First English Stud Book was eventually compiled and published in 1874 containing dogs shown at dog shows between 1859 and 1874. These Stud Books have been published annually ever since.

Australia's First Dog Shows

Yorkshire Terrier born 1905Yorkshire Terrier born 1905

The first Australian Dog Show took place in Hobart, Tasmania. According to a report in the 1862 local newspaper 'The Hobart Mercury', this was conducted by the newly formed 'Society for the Improvement in the Breed of Dogs', which in 1863 changed it's name to 'Canine Society'. The aims of the Society were:

'to encourage Improvement in the Breed of Dogs, especially in the useful varieties and by inducing people to keep a good dog to lessen, as far as possible, the number of useless curs with which the city is at present infested. The Society proposes holding an Annual Show as the best means of effecting their object'

Newfoundland c 1872Newfoundland c 1872

After the Dog Show, the 'Hobart Mercury' reported further:

'An exhibition of somewhat novel character (at least in these parts) in the shape of a bona fide Dog Show, took place yesterday. This we may note, is the first dog show held in the Australian colonies. 91 dogs entered and entries closed one week before the event. Exhibitors were required to record the breed, sex, age and colour of their dogs, also whether bred in the colonies or imported. All dogs had to be at the exhibition by 9 a.m. together with suitable chains and collars for their security. The general public, including ladies, were admitted between the hours of noon and 6 p.m. It was advertised that a full and efficient band will be in attendance. The judges were Messrs Elwin, Eddington and Ridge. Messrs Elwin and Ridge also exhibited several dogs and went home with a collection of first prizes.

Retriever c 1900Retriever c 1900

Prizes were awarded to the owners of the best bred dogs of both sexes (also to whelps under 6 months old) of any distinct variety or breed provided they were of sufficient merit. Breeds exhibited were Setters, Pointers, Spaniels, and other field dogs, Greyhounds, Harriers, Beagles and Retrievers, Bulldogs, Bull Terriers, Rough Terriers, Smooth Terriers, Fox Terriers, Newfoundlands and Sheepdogs (Black and Tan Sheepdog, Esquimaux, Poodle, and a Smithfield Colley[1].

It is interesting to note that the 'Smithfield Colley had to turn sheep down Hosier Lane, as far as circumstances permitted'.

Melbourne's First Dog Show 1864Melbourne's First Dog Show 1864

The first Dog Show held in Victoria was in 1864. But at that time Australia had no dog societies or agricultural magazines interested in recording the pedigrees of the dogs shown. So unless the dog was imported from England complete with its English Pedigree, it was entered in the dog show in the call name of 'Jack' or 'Bess' P.U. (parentage unknown), with the breed assigned to them also guesswork. For example, in the catalogue of this first dog show, of the 381 dogs entered, 30 of them were designated as crossed breeds!

In 1877 the Victorian Poultry and Dog Society (VP&DS) was formed and held its first show. By 1880 they decided to have a dog show without including the poultry, but it was a financial failure[2].

The Concept of Stud Books evolves in Australia

Japanese Chin 1897Japanese Chin 1897

It would be 48 years after the first dog show was held in Australia before pedigrees in some form of dog registrations would be formalised. Being isolated and without experienced Kennel Club administrators to show us the way, unscrupulous dog traders had 48 years to invent pedigrees that attracted big prices!

In 1883 the question of obtaining funds by registering dogs for the purpose of compiling a Kennel Club Stud Book was discussed before the Victorian Poultry & Dog Society (VP&DS). By 1888 there was also agitation for an (Australian) Kennel Club Stud Book with around 1,500 dogs already registered by 'trustworthy' people. In 1889 the VP&DS obtained an overdraft for two hundred pounds to publish this Stud Book with full particulars to be solicited from breeders. Due to internal conflict within the Society, some members were unaware of this overdraft. So it was not until 1894 that there was a unanimous decision that the VP&DS should record pedigrees in an official Stud Book.

Poodle (Miniature) born 1910Poodle (Miniature) born 1910

In 1895, at a Kennel Conference in Sydney the issue of the Stud Book was discussed but no decision was made. In September of this same year the VP&DS became the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club (VP&KC), which still exists to this day. But because of a financial depression it was not until 1899 that this Club got out of debt and had a credit balance. In 1904 NSW attempted to produce a Stud Book but this was never published.

Tyzack's Annual

Australian Terrier 1912Australian Terrier 1912

Finally in 1912 Tyzack's Annual was produced, but there was never another one. Tyzack's Annual therefore created the first landmark attempt to formalise registering dog (and poultry) pedigrees so accurate records could begin in Australasia. A panel of 9 members 6 from various affiliated Clubs and 3 from the VP&KC, oversaw this publication. This panel had to attempt to sort out the legitimate breeders from the rogues and vagabonds who faked pedigrees so their mongrel puppies could command bigger prices!

Mr Tyzack and his shopMr Tyzack and his shop

Dedicated breeders in those days often had strong interests in both dogs and poultry. But the publisher, Mr Tyzack was basically a poultry man who from 1890 also published fortnightly the newspaper, the Australian Dog and Poultry Gazette. Mr Tyzack was also a businessman who also owned a shop in central Melbourne distributing both dog and poultry supplies.

But it was the dog judge, Mr Clement Turner who wrote the introduction and collated the enormous amount of dog material contained within the Annual. Of special note there is an amazing section called the 'Book of Chronicles' which charts the domestication of both poultry and dogs dating from 88 BC through more than the two millennia to 1911.

Within the Annual's introduction, Mr Turner stated:

'The first Stud Book in Australasia for dogs will mark a new era and will supply... under rigid registration the genealogical tree the boughs of which make what is called a pedigree"

In 1927, a Registry of pedigrees was set up under the banner of the Victorian Working Sheepdog Association which was ground-breaking in itself as the concept of prefixes was introduced whereby every puppy must carry the prefix of the breeder who whelped it. This concept is now generally accepted.

Queensland's Annual Stud Books

Collie (Rough Coated) born 1894Collie (Rough Coated) born 1894

But it was not until 1921, 59 years after the first dog show was held, Mr Turner initiated the production of a series of Annual Stud Books published by the Kennel Association of Queensland. These ran through until 1948. By this time, all the other States were also registering the dogs' parentage, often controlled by two or three different bodies, each under different Rules. However to this day, no other 'Stud Books' as such have ever been published in Australia.

Australia's Royal Agricultural Societies

English Setter imported 1891English Setter imported 1891

In 1840 the Pastoral and Agricultural Society Felix was formed in Victoria along the same lines as the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, with the first Exhibition in 1842[3]. As this was basically a farming event with competitions like ploughing in a straight line, dogs and poultry were not initially involved. But by 1870, this became the National Agricultural Society and included the exhibition of some dogs and poultry.

Fox Terrier (Smooth) 1896Fox Terrier (Smooth) 1896

As agriculture in Australia grew, so did the status of Agricultural Societies with Victoria's becoming the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria. As many rich landowners were involved in these Societies, they did not suffer the financial difficulties that plagued the Kennel Clubs along with general economic depressions. Also reflecting our British ties, several of the major Agricultural Societies also enjoyed 'Royal' assent and are affectionately known as 'Royals' to this day. Because these State capital cities' Agricultural Societies registered stud horses, sheep and cattle, procedures were in place to register dogs.This played an ever-increasing role in Australia's dog world as one by one, the various States required secretarial and financial assistance during hard times.

Australia State by State, beginning with Victoria

Saint Bernard imported 1892Saint Bernard imported 1892

Victoria was the first. In year 1930 a Meeting of 3 then 'ruling bodies' - the CCC of Vic, the Victorian Kennel Association and the VP&KC was held. Their selected representatives signed an agreement to form one controlling body, and the KCC came into being.

But when the Great Depression began in 1930. By 1932 with a membership of was 894 people registering 8,402 individual dogs, the Kennel Control Council (KCC) realised they could no longer afford to run. So, the Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) provided Secretarial services to the KCC to take over the registration of dogs and other matters relating to canine activities[6]. It also published the pedigrees of all dogs registered each month, along with details of transfer of ownership and litters born in their monthly KCC Gazettes.

This carried the KCC not only through the Great Depression, but also through World War Two and beyond. But they created a monopoly whereby they disqualified any of its members who attempted to form an opposition registration which the KCC declared 'unrecognised', a rule which is still valid today. In other words, the rules still demand an effective monopoly by way of compulsory membership whereby no alternative body is allowed. Divorced from the VP&KC, the KCC also relinquished its financial rights to a valuable centrally placed Melbourne property.

VP&KC Committee 1891VP&KC Committee 1891

Today, dog wise, the VP&KC remains merely a remnant of its old self, just operating Dog Shows just like any affiliated all-breeds Kennel Club. However partly due to the proceeds of the sale of the property, the poultry section operates separately from the dogs and is in a financially viable position. Meanwhile the KCC maintained control of Victoria's dog affairs until 1990 when my Equal Opportunity case challenged their rights to remain an all-male appointed Council. After much media coverage, this socially unacceptable situation was rectified in 1991 when a motion to incorporate was successfully passed at the Annual General Meeting. So the KCC became the democratically elected Victorian Canine Association Inc. But compulsory membership remains.

Western Australia

Airedale 1898Airedale 1898

Western Australia (WA) historically did not have several Dog Clubs like Victoria and the other States. Instead, the WA Kennel club was affiliated with the Kennel Club England and was the only Club dealing with registrations. But also for financial reasons at the end of World War Two in 1945, they too formed a liaison with the RAS of WA to take over Secretarial duties. This liaison was easier to terminate as there was an escape clause whereby either the RAS or the Kennel Club could initiate separation after giving 6 months' notice, by one or the other. So 1978, the Canine Association of WA Inc. was born with NSW taking over dog registrations which WA did not start publishing until 1985.[4] 

Mastiff born 1889Mastiff born 1889

New South Wales

New South Wales (NSW) also historically had at least 2 governing bodies. But in 1948 the RAS Kennel Control was appointed publishing litter registrations from 1964.[4] In 1989 the NSW Canine Council broke away from the RAS and became the independent body known since 1994 as the Royal NSW Canine Council Ltd.


In 1948 Queensland's dog affairs also commenced their alliance with Royal National Association (RNA) under the banner of the Canine Control Council of Queensland, publishing litter registrations from 1959.[4] Queensland was the most recent State to break away from an alliance with RNA and in 2012 it became the Canine Control Council (Queensland) Ltd.

South Australia

Field Spaniel born 1905Field Spaniel born 1905

Before 1914 South Australia had several dog clubs, the oldest being the SA Poultry and Kennel Club which, like Victoria's VP & KC was founded in the late 1800's and is still in existence today. In 1914 the South Australian Kennel Association was formed. In 1951 the South Australian Royal A & H Society agreed to assume control of the SA Kennel Association and in 1952 the South Australian Canine Association (SACA) commenced with the Royal providing a Director, Secretary and an office at Wayville Showgrounds[5]. In 1981 a motion to become incorporated body was put before the members and carried.[4] SACA published their litter registrations from 1961.

Northern Territory

In 1958 Northern Territory formed the North Australian Canine Association under the umbrella of the North Australian Show Society. They had a very the slow transition of increasing the number of Councillors to become elected until they became the fully independent North Australian Canine Association Inc. in 1984. In 1976 after Cyclone Tracy gutted its capital Darwin, NSW began registering its dogs.[4] But NACA Inc. did not separately publish its litter registrations until 1985.


Bull Terrier (Australia) c 1903Bull Terrier (Australia) c 1903

As an island State, Tasmania had a special problem because their Agricultural Societies had two locations North and South. But it still published its litter registrations from 1959. Tasmania had an early alliance with the Victorian VP&KC. Then they tried to do things on their own with a volunteer acting as Secretary. As this proved far too much work for one person in their spare time, in 1965 the Kennel Control Council of Tasmania was formed with Councillors appointed from both the North and South Agricultural Societies.[4] In 1995 the Tasmanian Canine Association Inc. became a completely independent body.

Australian Capital Territory

Dachshund born 1894Dachshund born 1894

The Australian Capital Territory was the odd man out as the Canberra Kennel Association has always been an independent body since it was first formed in 1951, electing its Council yearly from the membership. But it did not publish its litter registrations until 1985.[4] 

Pug born c 1894Pug born c 1894

So along with the Australia's development and economic expansion, pure breed dog activity enjoyed a huge upsurge during the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's after the various Royal Agricultural Societies almost right across Australia rescued our dog world from financial and administrative difficulties. This is why Australia's Royal Shows hold such a special place in our canine traditions today.

The Role of the ANKC

Pointer c 1896Pointer c 1896

On 7th April 1958, the ANKC was formed to co-ordinate Australia's Stud Registers and Breed Standards. But without formal Stud Books like Britain, it is still up to each State to publish litter registrations and Championship titles in their regular monthly or bi-monthly magazines.

Cocker Spaniel born 1894Cocker Spaniel born 1894

In 1975 the RAS of NSW became one of the first organisations of its kind to install an in-house computer to cope with all the dog registrations. It worked so well that by 1988 all other States and Territories except Victoria and South Australia were linked to the NSW system. During 1997 the ANKC got its own computer system up and running so all Australia's litter registrations and titles could be conducted on line. But it has taken two more decades for members to be able to access this system.

Finally what Mr Turner dreamed of over 100 years ago is possible. At last we can follow

"the genealogical tree the boughs of which make what is called a pedigree"

The Future of Australia's Pedigreed Dogs

Greyhound c 1894Greyhound c 1894

Now, together with breeding towards the legendary dogs of the past within our breeds, heredity diseases can be traced by any interested party along the family lines of the pedigree. Compulsory micro-chipping puppies together with DNA testing, frozen semen and so on, now computer generated pedigrees of any Australian pure breed dog are available online.

Kelpies 1912Kelpies 1912

For Australia, the digital age and air travel have really opened up endless possibilities for our pedigree dog world without the tyranny of distance. We can exhibit competitively overseas as well as combine international with local stock. What a long way we have come! Finally Australia's pedigree dog world is on the world stage.

References and Further Reading:

[1] "Hobart Mercury" 13th November 1862 reporting the Canine Exhibition of 1862 held at Mr Moore's Horse Bazaar in Liverpool Street Hobart Town, Tasmania

[2] 'Tyzack's Annual' Compiled by T. W.Tyzack and C.S.Turner; Published 1912 by Bellamine Bros. Printers, 66-70 Flinders Lane Melbourne

[3] Royal Agricultural Society of Vic, '100 Years of Shows, the Story of the Melbourne Show 1872 - 1972' published by Royal Agricultural Society of Vic Ascot Vale Page 2

[4] 'An Historical Record of Australian Kennel Controls' published ANKC, Ascot Vale Vic 1988

[5] Dogs SA official website

[6] F A Longmore 'Dogs on the Bench and in the Field' Published by The Kennel Control Council of Vic (Annual 1933) Page 3

Published in 2013 as 'Beyond the Distance of Tyranny' in "Dogs Victoria Magazine" Victorian Canine Association Inc. Cranbourne Vic Vol. 79 Issue 7 July 2013 Pages 16, 17, 18, 19 also 2014 Dog News Australasia Annual Top Dog Media Pty Ltd Tahmoor NSW 2573 Pages 26, 27 and 229