Whenever the Media, including the social media, begin a campaign directed against a specific breed of dog such as the American Pit Bull Terrier, the largest Breed Club in Australia, the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia with its six State Affiliates and a membership totalling over 3000, is conspicuous by its silence and inaction when it comes to advocating measures that will assist in the successful banning and / or compulsory sterilisation of certain breeds; on the other hand, this same Breed Club will campaign most vigorously that it is “the Deed not the Breed” that must be given top priority when considering how to effectively deal with publicised dog attacks which, more often than not, are accompanied by graphic photographs of the alleged victims. Currently, it seems to be a couple of the Terrier Breeds that are coming in for unwelcome attention from the Media. The reason for this apparent silence on the part of the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia when it comes to advocating that a popular breed of dog be banned, is that for 44 years (1929-1973) the importation of unsterilized German Shepherd Dogs into Australia was banned- an unjust ban dictated by fear and hysteria fanned by the media barons of the late 1920’s and those persons of influence in the Federal Parliament who were protecting their own interests, namely the members of the Graziers Federal Council of Australia, because this was the era when Australia’s economy and status within the British Empire rode on the sheep’s back.
The infamous ban was enacted in the Federal Parliament on 7 June 1929 and temporarily lifted for a period of 12 months in November 1972. Briefly, the reasons for imposing the ban on the importation of unsterilized German Shepherd Dogs into Australia were:
1: the dog is vicious
2: it has wolf blood in its veins
3: it is a sheep killer
4: if crossed with the dingo it would be dangerous.
Forty-five years after the lifting of the Importation Ban, its ramifications are still being felt in certain segments of the German Shepherd Dog scene in Australia, particularly in Victoria, when it comes to Dog Sport.
Australia’s love affair with the German Shepherd Dog goes back to 1904 with the arrival in Fremantle, Western Australia, of four German Wolf Sheep Hounds imported by Mr A G Sewell. Only the names of two of these sheep dogs, are listed, Freia von Park and Stephen von Park, possibly descendants of the 1903 German Sieger, Roland von Park; the names of the other two dogs are unknown. Twenty years later Mr AR Vermuelen of Sydney bought a young sick dog from a swaggie who had purchased the sheep dog in Western Australia. He told Mr Vermuelen that it was an Alsatian Wolf Hound. Mr Vermuelen called the dog “Jack’ and entered him in shows in classes for “Any other dog not previously mentioned over 45lbs.” The printed show results describe Jack as being a splendid looking dog, as high as a table, and as big as a super dingo.”. In January 1925, Mr Vermuelen wrote to England and ordered two more dogs which arrived in Melbourne in late 1925 in the care of HJ Larcombe who was listed as the joint owner with A R Vermuelen. Both dogs were sables: Pinkerton Rhoda (Challenge Bitch at Crufts, 1925) and Ito of Fallowdale (Challenge Dog at Crufts 1925). According to Ito’s Pedigree, his lines go back to the 1916 German Sieger, Dolf von Dusternbrook. Ito was Challenge Dog at the 1926 Sydney Royal show.
Considering that Von Stephanitz registered his dog, the German Wolf Sheep Dog, in April 1899, it is interesting that within four years this remarkable sheep dog was being exported around Europe and to a distant outpost of the British Empire, such was its reputation as an outstanding sheep dog and as a dog which was proving to be extensively useful to its owner. The German Shepherd Dog has undergone several name changes in the English-speaking world, the most notable being from German Wolf Sheep Dog to Alsatian Wolf Dog in 1917.
The name change was due to the rise of anti-German sentiment as a result of World War 1 and in particular the German bombing of Upper North Street School in Poplar, London’s East End on June 13 1917 which killed 18 children, accelerated the change.. This was the deadliest air raid of the war and no German planes were lost. The outrage at the death of these Primary School children was so intense that German names were being anglicised at a great rate including that of the British Royal Family which changed from the House of Gothe Saxe Coburg to the Royal House of Windsor and the Family Name of the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Louis Battenberg changed to Lord Louis Mountbatten. There was a similar reaction in Australia as German sounding place names were seen as an affront to those who were involved in the battles of the Western Front, Ypres, Passachendaele and Pozieres: Forty two German settlements were renamed: Marburg in Queensland was renamed immediately after the bombing of Poplar to Townshend, Bethanien in the Barossa Valley was changed to Bethany, Gnadenfrei where my maternal German Great Grandfather had planted his first vineyards, was changed to Marananga, Hahndorf became Ambleside, Blumberg became Birdwood. This intense hostility against anything German resulted in German schools and churches closed, the playing of German (folk) music banned, German food renamed and the German Wolf Sheep Dog found itself being called the Alsatian Wolf Dog.
For the first 25 years of its arrival in Australia, the German Wolf Sheep Dog did what it was bred to do, it worked sheep in Western Australia and was considered a legitimate rival of the recently officially registered Australian- bred Sheep Dog, the Kelpie which is listed as being registered as a recognised breed in 1902. One wonders what would have developed if that Swaggie in 1924 had not made his way across the Nullabor accompanied by a sheep dog he had purchased possibly from one of the German graziers in Western Australia.
In the latter half of 1926 rumours and adverse publicity began to circulate both in England and Australia that the Alsatian Wolf Sheep Dog due to its supposed origin from wolf-crosses was unreliable as a breed and if crossed with the dingo would become a super sheep killer. Thus began the most concerted campaign undertaken in Australia against a specified breed.
T O B E C O N T I N U E D.........