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

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 1872Newfoundland 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.

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'.

Dog Shows Spread across Australia

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

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

In 1868 another Dog Show as held in the Duke of Edinburgh Theatre with 232 dogs. By 1872, dogs were included in the National Agricultural Society of Victoria's Show which pre-dated the Royal Melbourne Show.

Then in 1877 the Victorian Poultry and Dog Society (VP&DS) held its first Show with entries covering the prize money. At VP&DS Shows until 1880, poultry only were then exhibited until 1880 when their Dog Show ran at a loss of £100. In 1883 the Australian Fox Terrier Club was formed and also the Saint Bernard Club.

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, in 1902 the South Australia Poultry and Kennel Club changed its name to include dogs.

The Affect of Federation

Early Australian Settlement c 1800Early Australian Settlement c 1800

Before 1900, we had 5 States and the Northern Territory which operated under the British Constitution[4]. 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! At that time,  Australia had only five States. Had this situation occurred in USA which had 48 States at that time, there would have been 48 separate dog controlling bodies! As a result, having five separate 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 with two separate Breed Standards, - one in NSW and a different one in Victoria:

Victorian Silky Terrier 1910Victorian 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 e effectively 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