A bit of history on the prick ear and the Australian Shepherd by Ernie Hartnagle


The severe fault on prick ears has been a blight on our breed. Prick ears are naturally occurring among the bloodlines. A few of the foundation Aussies that had prick ears include Wood’s Dandy, Mansker’s Freckles, and Smedra’s Blue Mistingo.

 

In 1975, our registry was operating in its third year. The Breed was not yet established. We had set up viewing committees to accept dogs for approval. We had no official guidelines, and most of the existing Standards were little more than dumpster quality.

 

The first official Standard, the one that we are using today, was approved by the membership in 1977. Dr. Robert Kline chaired the committee, with a number of qualified veterinarians as consultants. There appeared to be an existing concern that some of the viewed dogs accepted by the viewing committee were possibly not entirely of pure Australian Shepherd breeding, most of which were endowed with prick ears.

 

The Breed Standard Committee, in needless desperation, agreed to list the prick ear set as a serious fault. They felt that this stop gap remedy would focus attention on the prick ears to discourage acceptance of these questionable individuals into the breed. This move proved to end in dismal failure.

 

In retrospect, this was unwarranted, unproven, thoughtless overkill by the committee. We, at that moment, unknowingly put a millstone around our wonderful working Aussies and have blighted his very existence and prestige among the five most popular working breeds used today. Ironically, most of these breeds support prick ears! And yet, we are the only one that needlessly faults the prick ear.

 

When prick ears were severely faulted breeders started taping their dog’s ears to their heads. Some even had them surgically cut which took away any lift. Therefore, we started seeing a majority of dogs in the show ring that had ears that couldn’t lift. If prick ears are only a fault rather than a severe fault people might be less inclined to tape them, especially if ears with no lift are severely faulted.

 

The Australian Shepherd: Also known as Aussie

Origin: Western United States

Height at shoulder: 18–23 inches (46–58 cm)

Weight: 35–70 pounds (16–32 kg)

Coat: Moderate length, medium texture

Color: Black or red, solid or merle, with or without white and/or copper (tan) trim

Ears: Semi-erect

Tail: Natural bob or docked

Australian Shepherds were developed in a time when ranches were measured in sections (square miles), not acres. Sheep outfits like the Warren Livestock Company ran 25,000 head of sheep over 284,000 acres between Casper, Wyoming, and Greeley, Colorado. Ranches today can be compared to the size of a postage stamp on a football field. They were the preferred breed during the largest part of the twentieth century. They were favored by stockmen for their stamina, and intuitiveness to handle stock in the tough, demanding conditions of working large flocks in the American west. For all practical purposes the Australian Shepherd can be considered a post World War II breed. According to foundation breeders the breed was based strongly on Basque and Spanish dogs that were brought to the United States from Spain in the 1940s and 1950s.

This occurred in the time period when 40 to 50 million head of sheep were grazed in the open ranges throughout the western half of the United States. Many of the herders that came here were shepherds in their homeland. They arrived (on a three-year visa) under contract through the Western Range Association. When they got here, they wrote home and told their brothers to join them, which they did and brought their dogs. During that time in history hundreds of Basques and their dogs were recruited in to the western sheep ranches due to the severe labor shortage created during the 1940s and 1950s.

The “little blue dogs” started gaining recognition because they started showing up throughout the west as the herders brought them in. In response, the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) was founded. By 1974, there were only 16.5 million sheep in the United States. The sheep industry continued to decline and Basque herders were no longer recruited from Spain, but the breed’s underpinning was laid. See also: Australian Shepherd History Revisited.

And although all Australian Shepherds have the same basic appearance that sets them apart from other breeds, there is a distinct difference that occurred in the development of the show bloodlines. The original foundation working dogs were built with the structure to sprint and outrun sheep and cattle. In 1977, when ASCA, the Australian Shepherd Club of America adopted the current breed standard, a different kind of Aussie began to emerge. The standard aided by the show program saw the advancement of Australian Shepherds with greater front angulations and flatter pelvic angles ideal for trotting effortlessly for long distances. The trade-off for the development of the trotting Aussie was paid for with the sacrifice of speed and agility so crucial for herding to make abrupt stops and turns at full speeds necessary to outmaneuver livestock. For more on Australian Shepherd history please visit:

To learn more about Australian Shepherds please visit:

http://www.lasrocosa.com/education.html

Or check out the book All About Aussies: Australian Shepherds from A to Z, by Jeanne-Joy Hartnagle-Taylor.

WTCH Las Rocosa Charlie Glass CD, RDX

WTCH Las Rocosa Charlie Glass CD, RDX was highly influential in founding the breed’s modern working bloodlines.

Black tri with brown eyes and docked tail.
Sire: Hartnagle’s Hud
Dam: Las Rocosa Jacqueline (a half sister to Shiloh).
DOB: 10-28-1978
Height 20 ¾ inches
Weight: 55 pounds
OFA AS-1543 Good

Charlie was the pick of the litter. I named him Charlie Glass after a black cowboy who rode on the Colorado-Utah range in the early 1900s and was later featured in The Legend of Charlie Glass by Walker D. Wyman and John D. Hart.

Las Rocosa Charlie Glass went to work for Don Donham who was handling the sheep for the Fort Ellis Research Station in Bozeman Montana. Charlie was an authoritative header with a natural outrun. He exhibited natural wear and used grip on “rough or deserving stock.”

Once when working rams inside a barn a testy Suffolk ram charged and butted him against a wall. It broke his hind leg, but he never quit working until he was called off. They ended up putting a pin in his leg. After he healed up he went back to work.

Charlie was a really fun dog. He was good natured and quite a clown. He was also very gentle with kittens, bunnies and puppies.

Charlie is pictured on the timeline (1974) with a small flock below Mount Ellis:

http://www.lasrocosa.com/aussietimeline.html

http://www.lasrocosa.com/images/timeline/timeline1970-1979/1974-16millionsheep.jpg

Era of Positive Training

People who equate positive training techniques with the era of modern thinking never met Jay Sisler or saw his magnificent Australian Shepherds in action. Sisler, a rancher and rodeo competitor from Idaho entertained rodeo audiences during the 1950s and 1960s with his dogs and their amazing tricks. His extraordinary training ability was showcased on The Wonderful World of Disney in Stub, The Best Cow Dog in the West and Run Appaloosa Run.

Jay was a self-taught trainer. He was a kind, soft spoken man who encouraged his dogs — to balance on bars, stand on their heads, play leap frog, walk on their front legs and so much more—with kind words, bits of pancakes and petting. All of his training was done without the use of a leash. As the dogs grew he phased out the pancakes. In that way the dogs worked for him and not for the food reward. If seeing is believing—you can check it out for yourself on YouTube:

Jay Sisler Home Movie 1

Jay Sisler Home Movie 2

The Colorado Connection – Some Aussie Trivia

Colorado was significant in birthing the development of the foundation bloodlines of the modern Australian Shepherd. Why? The Centennial State was an important hub for major horse and livestock events. Rodeos, horses, the National Western Stock Show, the Colorado State University, and the Western Horseman Magazine were common factors bringing together the early breeders.

– Fletcher Wood, a horseman, and cattleman and one of the first breeders, served as the Ring Master for the National Western Stock Show in Denver Colorado, one of the major livestock shows in the country. He was also the director of activities for the Jefferson Country Fairgrounds where some of the first Australian Shepherd dog shows and K-9 Khanas fashioned after the popular Gymkhana horse events were hosted.

Fletcher acquired Wood’s Jay, one of the breed’s foundation sires from Jay Sisler in 1949. He was a large, distinct blue (self merle with very little white trim) sired by Sisler’s Shorty and out of Sisler’s Trixie. Jay was a handy cow dog. Fletcher said, “Jay would heel cattle and worked the back end of cows, but didn’t like to go to the head of a cow until Fletcher started encouraging him to bark a little bit when a cow turned on him. Jay would bark in her face and turn her around and then he was fine, “he never did bark at the back ends, but he’d bark at the heads when they came to him.”

– Juanita Ely, who was the earliest documented breeder, had blue Australian Shepherds since the twenties. She and her husband ranched at Deer Trail, Colorado, which incidentally is where the first rodeo is believed to have been held. In 1950, they acquired Ely’s Blue, the famed Ghost Dog on the original IESR Registration Certificates. Ely’s dogs contributed to bloodlines from Colorado to California and the Pacific Northwest, including our bloodlines, Hartnagle’s Las Rocosa Aussies. Juanita was also my mother’s godmother.

-My family developed our bloodlines at the base of the Rocky Mountains where we raised sheep and cattle – hence the name, Las Rocosa. As fate would have it, our beautiful little Goody, a daughter of Ely’s Blue who was later registered as Wood’s Blue Shadow contributed not only to our bloodlines, but to Fletcher’s dogs and Dr. Heard’s Flintridge bloodlines.

– Green’s Kim AKA Mansker’s Kim was owned by Kenneth Green, a cattle rancher and veterinarian who’s rugged mountain ranch is now part of the Golden Gate Park.

 

– Steve Mansker, a race horse trainer, farrier and hunting guide became acquainted with Jay Sisler in the 40’s through rodeos, but it wasn’t until 1956 that he acquired Freckles from Jay. Later, in the early sixties while Steve was attending the Colorado State University he became associated with Joe Taylor who bought Taylor’s Rusty from him. CSU is also where Joe met the Petramalas who owned Tate, the dam of his beautiful Taylor’s Buena.

– In 1963, after Walt Lamar graduated from OSU with a degree in Agronomy (soils) he transferred to the Bureau of Reclamation at Grand Junction, Colorado. He met Steve Mansker at a rodeo in Meeker, Colorado, where he bought Lamar’s Scratch who was out of Freckles. Later on, after some stiff negotiations Walt was able to buy Lamar’s [Mansker’s] Turk from Steve.

– Another Colorado bred dog, Dale Martin’s Adobe Gypsy (out of two of Hank Weiscamp’s dogs) figures considerably in the pedigrees of hundreds of Aussies in the Pacific Northwest. Weiscamp’s dogs were mainly Joe Taylor’s breeding.

– The world-famous Flintridge bloodlines found in the largest percentage of modern Aussies were produced in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, by Dr. Weldon T. Heard. Heard, a veterinarian and sheep breeder used dogs from Wood and Ely bloodlines.

From these highly influential people and their Colorado bloodlines, breeders in other states began their own lines and Australian Shepherds were launched from relative anonymity to mainstream popularity.

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