How an Australian Shepherd Saved the Day

Autumn is the time of the year when livestock is rounded up and gathered to be shipped to market.  Calves are collected and weaned and any that weren’t marked during the spring are now branded and tagged. Before snow falls, clean up rides are made to gather any strays left behind during the main gather.   Finally, the bulls are gathered and moved to winter range or corralled in pastures where they are fed for the winter.

It is no different on the Taylor Ranch in Moab, Utah. One year, during the late fall with the threat of heavy snowfall, Joe Taylor and his father, Lester needed to move several hundred cows with calves and about 70 head of bulls from the high country down to a lower elevation. Normally, they wouldn’t have moved that many cows in such rough country with only two riders, but Joe’s brother, D. L. was in the hospital from a horseback riding accident.

They considered going to town to see if they could hire an extra hand, but they decided inexperienced help would be more trouble than it would be worth. Joe and his father decided to go ahead and move the herd from the Bar A down to the Fisher Valley by themselves.

They were headed north across a big open draw. Joe was working Taylor’s Whiskey. “Whiskey’s natural instinct was to go ahead of me,” said Joe.  “He worked the sides.  He would go up the right side of the herd and then come back around behind me and then head up the left side.”  Joe noticed Whiskey went back up the left side a second time.  He was half a mile away.  “He would disappear for ten to fifteen minutes at a time.  Then I could see him leave the herd and go straight west and run with his nose to the ground.  I really needed some help in the rear.  The calves were trying to cut back on me, but he was so far away from me – he couldn’t hear me yell at him.  I was pretty mad.  A little while later, I saw Whiskey bringing a 2,000 pound horned Hereford bull back to the herd at a dead run.  Not long after that, he brought back a huge polled Hereford bull.”

Only when Joe came upon a rise was he able to see what was happening, “It’s a bull’s instinct to go off by himself,” he explained, “and how Whiskey knew to keep those bulls from escaping is not something you can train a dog to do.  It is instinct pure and mysterious.”  It is a perfect example of how farm and ranch dogs bred for the real world need to be able to think for themselves and take action accordingly.  It is also one of the reasons they are so highly valued.

Another time, Joe and his brother were tracking a couple of wild young bulls through about eight inches of snow on the ground and followed them into the junipers and thickets.  “We had been chasing them long enough they were pretty tired.  Normally, I would have never gotten off my horse, but I had just won the Working Cow Horse class that spring and I didn’t want my mare to get hurt.  Wild cattle are usually afraid of you when you are on foot, so I got off and tied her up, but the next thing I knew, I was being charged by one of the bulls.  He was about 1500 to 1600 pounds.  I had no warning.  I grabbed the horns.  As he hit me, my hand slipped off the near horn.  He knocked me down and started mauling me.  All of a sudden I felt the pressure released, so I started crawling back towards my horse.

“When I looked back, I saw Whiskey had grabbed him by the nose and Oscar (sired by Whiskey) had grabbed him by the ham and put him on the ground.”  When Joe was safely on horse, his brother told the dogs to let the bull go. “I was all covered in snow.  I don’t remember it, but D.L. told me he knew something was wrong because he heard me scream like a Comanche and came a riding.” While Joe had been butted, hooked and knocked down by cows running by, that was the only time he had ever been pinned down and mauled.  Taylor’s Whiskey saved the day – he could be counted on to ward off an angry bull or mad mother cow.

Even though a dog’s life is far too short, four words can be said of these exceptional creatures, “Good job, old boy!”

 

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Jeanne Joy,
    Thanks for the link, all this info is so interesting!

    We have a 10 year old Aussie that we got as a puppy for our son when he was ten. She’s the best, we really love her! She is a family dog but Kyle is hers. We are now planning to get a dog for our other son who is now six and we can’t imagine getting anything else besides another Aussie. I’ve been doing a lot of research on the breed and it’s come to my attention that just getting an Aussie isn’t enough to ensure that we get a great dog. There is a lot more that goes into this breeding business. I didn’t do any research when we got our first dog. My sons only requests were a medium sized, brown dog that could play frizbee, and the Aussie is what came up on the breed search with these qualifications. We found her by an ad in the paper from some people in Pueblo who had a litter. I wondered how we happened to get so lucky with Kyle’s Copper “Penny”. So I pulled out her pedigree to take a look and see if maybe one of the kennels listed there may still be breeding. That is when I learned about Las Rocosa. Penny came with papers going back six generations on both sides, and I can count fifty of those names as Los Rocosa dogs, including the dog from your story Taylor’s Whisky on her sire’s side! I looked at the photos of your foundation dogs and she lookes exactly like her grandma on her dam’s side, 5 generations back, Bengali Tigress! It’s amazing!!! She is truely such a great dog that we want another one just like her. I know that isn’t possible because every dog has it’s own character but we could probably get close if we choose the right breeder. Any suggestions you have would be helpful. Thank you and your family for your dedication to the breed and your part in the fortunate curcumstance that enable us to have our Penny.

  2. We occasionally have litters from our family’s foundation bloodlines. We strive for the same goals my parents started with in the 1950’s: a sound, attractive dog who would willingly and successfuly perform any task you would ask. More than 53 years later, my siblings and I focus on those great qualities possessed by the dogs we grew up with – and in fact, practically raised us!

  3. Hey Jeanne ! Love the history stuff. The more that is investiged the more links are found to old world herding dogs that are obviously contributors to our great breed.
    Having been raised in So. Calif , and heavy into the horse show, rodeo world, during the 50’s and 60′ I saw alot of ‘aussies’. One old man that had the Sweetwater Roping arena had great working dogs that were very typy. He told about Charro’s he knew that called the dogs Mexican heelers. The connection was obvious to the Spanish dogs, and the Pyrean Shepherd. (excuse the spelling !)
    Keep up the good work.

  4. It has taken a while to put together. One of the challenges has been tracking down and documenting the nearly extinct strains of dogs. Many of the Basque and Spanish dogs started disappearing around the early 1970s. The diminishing population was often in remote locations and out of the public’s eye and camera lens. The herders were off tending their stock. In addition, there were language barriers and snail mail. Finally, contemporary authors — who weren’t around during the breed’s formation — put their own twist on the origin and history from a biased perspective.

    For example, authors cite references to modern representatives of the breed (bearing little if no resemblance to the early dogs). Look at the changes our breed has experienced in only 30 years. The Pyrenean Shepherd standard has been in effect for over 70 years.

    Even though the “little blue dogs” we became acquainted with were probably not directly related to the show bloodlines — the lesser known varieties did exist. Pyrenean Shepherds such as Mab du Hic. He was blue merle with white and copper trim and considered an excellent type. Ely’s Colorado Queen looked remarkably similar. As a matter of fact, a sketch of him appears on the breed standard for the smooth faced (Face Races) Berger des Pyrenees on the RACP website. Mab du Hic was whelped in 1976. He was bred by M. Perrot, a well-known breeder between 1964 and 1976. He was the product of an inbreeding on Messire de Fleurac (twice his grandfather). His blood lives on in dogs such as the clever, Vanesse du Hic (Valmasque), a beautiful and sound example of the breed.

    Interestingly, the more Pyr Shepherd breeders are concentrating on the smooth-faced variety — the more they are coming up with the ancestral type, a variety highly similar to the “little blue dogs” that helped found the Australian Shepherd. The evidence is available, but you have to be willing to look beyond the theoretical information.


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