History of Dogs Victoria

Dog Show Melbourne 1864Dog Show Melbourne 1864

The Victorian Canine Association Inc which now trades as Dogs Victoria began in 1990. Its unique responsibility is to preserve Victoria's pure breed dogs and their registry. This registry contains all the dogs' ancestors that form their genealogical tree whose boughs make their pedigree. Studying generations of parentage gives breeders direction for selecting traits - physical, behavioural and inherited. That is why the registry of Victoria's pure breed dogs is so fundamental to the History of Dogs Victoria.

The History of Pure Breed Dogs

The world's first recorded dog show was held in England in 1859. The parentage and show results of all competing dogs was recorded in the first English Stud Book, dated 1859 - 1874. To oversee the keeping of these records, the Kennel Club (UK) was founded in 1873. A world craze for conducting dog shows followed with the keeping Stud Books a natural progression. The American Kennel Club was formed in 1874, and pure breed dogs sailed both ways across the Atlantic, accompanied by 5 generations of verified pedigrees and their performances at shows. These dogs attracted big prices. Soon many other countries began conducting dog shows and producing Stud Books - even New Zealand has a Stud Book dating back to 1886. These books, that are respected 'dictionaries of facts to correct the evil of false and inaccurate pedigrees' have continued to this day.

Australia's Unique Position

1872 National Show Melbourne1872 National Show Melbourne

But Australia was different. Because we were founded with independently governed States, we did not even have a Federal Parliament until 1901, let alone an Australian Kennel Club or Stud Book! The first dog show held in Victoria was held by the Council of the Acclimatisation Society in 1864. Additionally, dogs were included in the National Agricultural Society of Victoria's Show in 1872. This pre-dated the Royal Melbourne Show.

Australia did not keep nationwide records until the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) set up Australia-wide computer programme to register dogs in 1980. Before then, various organisations conducted dog shows for pure breed dogs. That left pedigrees of dogs in dog show catalogues and the various paper transactions which registered them, the only Australian records for the 100+ intervening years! One can only speculate about the unscrupulous dog traders who had years to invent pedigrees which attracted big prices!

Pedigree QuestionPedigree Question

But we did have Kennel Clubs which held Dog Shows. In 1877 we had a Victorian Dog and Poultry Society, and in 1883 various breed Clubs like the Australian Fox Terrier and Saint Bernard Clubs were also formed. By 1888 there was agitation for an (Australian) Kennel Club Stud Book with around 1,500 dogs already registered by 'trustworthy' individuals. In 1889 the Victorian Poultry and Dog Society (VP&DS) obtained an overdraft for £200 to publish a Stud Book at once with dog' parentage to be provided by breeders. But this did not happen. In 1894 there was yet another decision that the VP&DS should record pedigrees in an official Stud Book. Even then, it was not done.

Around 1886 the Showgrounds in Flemington was given by Crown Grant to Trustees to the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria (RASV). When pure breed dogs were included, from 1918 these Royal Agricultural Show catalogues contained dog entries, together with their immediate parentage.

Pedigree showing show recordPedigree showing show record

In 1912, Tyzack's Annual was produced. This created the first landmark attempt to formalise registering dog (and poultry) pedigrees so accurate records could begin in Australia. A panel of 9 members 6 from various affiliated Clubs and 3 from the Victorian Poultry & Kennel Cub oversaw this publication. This panel had to attempt to sort out the legitimate pedigrees from those that were mere guesswork like that of the West Highland Terrier illustrated.

Then 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 was accepted and is still in place today. By the late 1920's the Victorian Kennel Association (VKA), the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club (VP&KC) and the Canine Control Council (CCC)  were all holding shows and registering dogs on different forms, recording their show results like that of the Deerhound attached.

The Kennel Control Council (KCC)

Royal Melbourne Showgrounds Dog Judging area 1960Royal Melbourne Showgrounds Dog Judging area 1960

By 1930, Australia was feeling the effects of the world-wide Great Depression with unemployment here reaching 33%. So on March 30th 1930, a Meeting was held between the VKA, VP&KC, CCC and the RASV for the purposes of establishing unified control of the dog fancy in an effort to survive this economic crisis. This Meeting finalised the amalgamation of these 3 bodies into the Kennel Control Council with secretarial services provided by the staff of the RASV with its President ex-officio.

Advertisement to Join the KCCAdvertisement to Join the KCC

In line with the policy of the RASV at that time, only male persons were eligible to stand for election to the Committee of the Kennel Control Council. In other words, no women were eligible (see advertisement on LHS).

The KCC produced a monthly Gazette in which the parentage of litters was recorded along with details of transfer of ownership. So, although the KCC Gazette was not a separate Stud book per se, at least pure breed dogs' parentage was reliably published. The KCC, appointed by the RASV, carried Victoria through the Great Depression, World War Two and beyond.

The ANKC National Stud Register

In 1980, the ANKC created a computerised National Stud Register with 8 member bodies, one from each of our 6 States and 2 Territories. Each member body accepts the registrations from their own financial members' pedigree dogs and enters this information onto the ANKC computer. At last, Australia had a national system to co-ordinate pedigree information, Breed Standards, and all other material relating to our countries' pure breed dogs!

The KCC Becomes Dogs Victoria

But the all-male KCC Committee appointed by the RASV was still in place. It had ruled for over 60 years. With women comprising over 70% of the membership, this situation was clearly unacceptable.

With no other means to appeal, I took them to the Equal Opportunity Board which generated lots of publicity. This included National TV appearances, 18 articles in the print media and even the cartoon by Leunig below!

Leunig CartoonLeunig Cartoon

The result was that a motion to Incorporate was moved at the KCC's 1991 Annual General Meeting. An estimated 600+ members attended, coming in bus loads from all corners of the State to support the motion. With the Motion overwhelmingly passed, on July 24, 1991 a new Constitution was approved. So the KCC officially became the Victorian Canine Association Inc. It now trades as Dogs Victoria.

Victoria's Pure Breed Dogs

But what of the pedigrees of Victorian pure breed dogs from our first dog show in 1864 to 1980? These now rely on the surviving hand-written paper pedigrees with their show performances, together with Show catalogues dating back to 1890. The collection of Royal Melbourne Show catalogues also date back to 1918. This information has filled many of the gaps that make up the history of Victoria's pure breed dogs and their registry. Some individual breed enthusiasts have collated their own breed's pedigree information on private computer programmes. Only when all this breed information is added to the pedigree programme already on the ANKC computer, will the history of all pedigree dogs in Australia be complete.