Australia's Dog Show Scene Begins

Bloodhounds c 1800Bloodhounds c 1800

This describes how our pure breed dog world grew without an Australian Stud Book or co-ordinating body. This followed the practice of our Governments at that time. As a result, our dog world developed as separate entities in each State. This explains the consequences of the lack of autonomy between the States which affected our registration systems or Stud Books and, in the case of our Australian breeds, our Australian Breeds' Standards as well.

Australia's First Dog Show

Retriever c 1900Retriever c 1900

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'.

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

'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.

Newfoundland 1872Newfoundland 1872

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), Esquimaux, Poodle, and a Smithfield[1].

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

Dog Shows Spread across Australia

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

In 1864, the first Dog Show on the mainland of Australia was held in Melbourne, Victoria. Conducted by the Council of the Acclimatisation Society, it was attended by approximately 1,500 people, each paying two shillings and six pence each to witness what was reported as 'the singular sight of the Show itself.'[3] 

In 1868 Victoria held another Dog Show as held in the Duke of Edinburgh Theatre with 232 dogs. By 1872, in Victoria dogs were included in the National Agricultural Society of Victoria's Show which pre-dated the Royal Melbourne Show. By this time what we now know as Agricultural Societies were being formed throughout in the State capital cities throughout Australia. Over the next Century, these were to play an important part in the development of Australia's dog scene. As well as the all-breeds Clubs, by 1883 the Australian Fox terrier Club and also the Saint Bernard Club were formed.

In addition to Tasmania and Victoria, the other States began forming Kennel Clubs to hold dog shows. New South Wales held is First Annual Show in 1895. The Queensland Kennel Club held its first Annual Show in 1897 and Western Australia had the Western Australian Kennel Club and was regularly holding dog shows by 1898. Additionally, the South Australia Poultry and Kennel Club changed its name to include dogs on 1902.

The Effect of Federation

Early Australian Settlement c 1800Early Australian Settlement c 1800

Before 1900, before Australia became Federated, we had 5 States and the Northern Territory[4]. We operated under the British Constitution. After federation we had our own National government independent of Britain. The inefficiencies resulting from each State having its own laws without being co-ordinated across Australia, flowed on to the pure breed dog laws that governed each individual State.

Lack of Autonomy between States

The variation between different State's dog controlling bodies, created a lack of autonomy throughout Australia which became an unimaginable nightmare! Australia had only six States. Had this situation occurred in USA which had 48 States at that time, there would have been 48 separate dog controlling bodies! As it was, our six controlling bodies meant it was not only difficult to transfer pure breed dog pedigrees and registrations from State to State, some of the Breed Standards also varied between States.

For example, the breed we know today as the Australian Silky Terrier began as two separate breeds with one Breed Standard in NSW and a different one in Victoria:

Victorian Silky Terrier 1910 Victorian Silky Terrier 1910

Consequently, it was written in 1912:

"Its sire was Australian; component parts were many -
Yorkshire, black and tan, and Scotch - it proved much worse than any.
Another dash of Yorkshire; the result was far more pretty;
They called it 'Sydney' Silky but quarrelled o'er the city"[2] 

This was not finalised until 1959, after our Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) was formed.


Advancements in technology changed the whole world, including our dog world. In 1997 our Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) finally digitised our system and we had an Australian Registration system or Stud Book. Consequently, it took Australia 145 years from the conduct of our first documented dog show, until our 6 States and 2 Territories effectively also co-ordinated their Breed Standards.

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. Silky Terriers Page 75

[3] 'The Argus' Melbourne Friday 8th April, 1864 Page 5

[4] Department of Lands 1904