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Dogs – Folklore and History in Australia


© Warren Fahey 2008

Dogs, small ones, big ones, snapping ones and barkers, have played an important role in Australiaís bush culture. The image of frisky cattledogs, leaping like gymnasts across the backs of confused sheep, yelping at the hooves of a mob of determinately angry cattle, or sitting, silent, scratching fleas, eyes ever alert, as they wait by campfire, on pub verandah, or, more likely than not, in the back of a ute, waiting for their workmate. The first dog in Australia was the native dog. It most probably came across with the Macassan traders who ventured here some 700 or 800 years ago.

The Aboriginal people of the Kimberleyís tell of this dog in their tradition and it has appeared in rock paintings, dreamtime stories and corroboree dances. The dogs of the Cadigal people were barking as the crew of the First Fleetís ëSiriusí came ashore. Down through the decades, dogs, especially dingoes, get a bad rap as thieves, sneaky sheep murderers and, more recently, as baby stealers.

This collection will look at dogs, domesticated and wild, in the Australian story and the folklore associated with them. We do know from the First Fleet inventory that ëpuppiesí were included, however there are no other details showing number, breed or age. More dogs came with each new ship arrival.