Two Breeds or One?
By Ern Fuller
When I was a boy I remember that Palamino, Piebald and Skewbald were colors of horses but today we have a Palamino Breed and a Paint Breed of horse all with classes at both Horse and Agricultural Shows. These breeds even now adays have their own Breed Clubs. Being raised with Thoroughred horses none of these color fads was acceptable. My up bringing did however teach me that you don’t breed to get a foal or it is time “Jessie” had a foal but for that “Gold Cup Winner”. Yet we today breed because its time “Flossie” had a litter or to see what sort of pups “Killer” will sire or even worse I need some puppy money. I can remember a very prominent Victorian Fox Terrier Smooth Breeder getting extremely upset as a dog he sold as a “Show Dog” was being used as a Stud Dog. He told the purchasers when the dog was a tiny pup he would be a “great Show Dog” but should never be bred from. Funny thing the dog in question won many Best In Show All Breeds in four different States yet never left a pup that was worth anything in the show ring.
Australian Terriers are in danger I believe of turning into two Breeds. The Fox Terrier has of course become two Breeds after many years of interbreeding, the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Wire Fox Terrier. Both breeds have a similar standard except for height restriction in the Wire Standard and of course the Wire’s coat clause. It was because of this that the Jack Russell Breeders in England resisted the recognition and registration of their breed but Australian breeders felt they knew better and well meaningly pushed for its recognition. Now within ten years of the acceptance of The Jack Russell Terrier, as a Pure breed of dog has seen two breeds emerge. The Jack Russell Terrier and the Parson Jack Russell Terrier. Will the Australian Terrier become two breeds? The Blue Australian Terrier and The Red Australian Terrier. The Terrier World has already seen in this century the Skye Terrier become the Skye Terrier and the Short Haired Skye later The Short Haired Skye emerging as the Cairn Terrier. The Cairn Terrier then becoming two breeds. The Cairn and The West Highland White Terrier.
Many breeders of today seem to have lost sight of the origin of our breed and therefore the genes that control it as a unique breed. Our own breed was interbred extensively with the Australian Silky Terrier. Many current day breeders will remember this. We perhaps need to isolate just where the predominant blue came from. (Perhaps the Yorkshire Terrier) and why the red puppies appeared? (Perhaps the use of the Skye & Cairn) Our breed has a multi-breed heritage. The founders of our breed did not set out to breed Blue and Tan and Red Australian Terriers separately but breed a Terrier that was an active happy companion useful in ridding their homes and sheds of snakes and vermin. I get many letters and much verbal input from breeders telling me some dogs are unacceptable as a Stud force because their pedigrees contain within the first two generations both Blue and Red Stock. Red Breeders particularly seem adamant that the first three or five generation must be totally red. I fail to see the problem for are not both colors the same breed? Well meaning people tell me the problem some people are having with smutty coats is because of the cross color breeding but I am yet to be convinced. I am well aware that there are prominent Blue Lines free from red influence yet these lines still produce dogs that have smutty coats and of course the same goes for the reds with some totally red lines having a problem maintaining a clear red coat. To me that tells us the problem is not with cross color breeding but more with the selection of breeding stock, both male and female. I do honestly feel any dog red or blue that does not have the correct coat should not be bred from as it is compounding the problem. Our breed heritage is from multicolored breeds, namely the Skye, Cairn and Dandy Dinmont Terriers. Not one of these Terriers can be bred for a specific color. Perhaps the smutty gene comes from the Dandy as its coat color is either mustard (basically red) or pepper and salt (basically blue) or the Cairn where the Wheaten color is dominant yet brindles, both black & red are seen. Being well aware I will not change the breeding practice of many of you it is important that we all have a heart searching think about how we breed and why we breed. It is important to ensure we do not use substandard stock for breeding for in todays climate of smaller kennels and fewer breeders untold damage can be very quickly done to our breed and if that idea is extended to any breed. I am convinced that if we are to maintain type and vigour it is important that our breed be seen as one not as Blue Aussies or Red Aussies but as An Australian Terrier.
Pam McDougall a former prominent breeder of both colors strongly believes that you need to breed your best to the best no matter the coat color. You mate a top Aussie to a top Aussie and hopefully you will get a Top Aussie. She has in doing this produced some of Australia’s top Red and top Blues. Champion Tahee Red Adair, one of the all time great reds had a blue sire, Ch Tahee Step’n Time (B) Champion Tahee Ewok a notable Blue winner and a red sire Ch Tahee Red Rebel ® Yet both dogs when used at stud did not produce a smutty coat. She did not advocate always cross color breeding only when it could improve the breed.
As with all Breeds of Pure Bred Dogs we have our problems. Let us not create another one, one of two separate Breeds, but more work together to try to improve our lovely breed.