Dogs have long been referred to as “Man’s Best Friend”; this year more than ever dog owners have appreciated the companionship of their pets.
The Victorian “Dog Act” requiring the registration of dogs began in 1864. Licensing required the description of the dog, the premises where the dog is kept, the sex, age, and colour; the fee was five shillings payable every year. Each dog was required to wear a collar with registration number and place of its registration, failure to register or comply incurred a penalty.
In 1865 resident Janet Bowman, Licensee of the “Gippsland Hotel”, a widow with children, chose to own a Mastiff dog, as recorded in the Dog Register, Road District of Berwick.
The Mastiff dog given his size would have been an excellent guard dog in such a remote location. He would confidently fend off intruders and the possibility of robbery at the Gippsland Hotel. Given there would have been frequent travellers passing through the district, Janet would have relied on her mastiff for protection for herself, family and business.
In 1867 Janet owned a terrier and two kangaroo dogs. The terrier was known for their tenacity, a smart little dog, willing to work and protect his territory. During the day he would guard livestock and give early warning of danger. In the evening he would be an affectionate and quiet companion.
Kanagroo dogs were very popular in early days, they were primarily a greyhound/ scottish deerhound cross which evolved into a very large, strong and extremely tough running dog, essential for hunting. They were the perfect multi functional dog, their slender frame allowed them the ability to run swiftly through fields or cover rough territory at high speed in pursuit of prey. Kangaroo dogs had loyal attachment to their owners, very obedient and were always willing to please.
In 1871 resident Patrick O’Neil owned a dog we are more familiar with, the Cattle dog. This dog is a combination of other breeds such as the Smithfield and Collies, which finally resulted in the Australian cattle dog breed. In the settlement of properties, farmers needed to control stock over vast tracts of land. Cattle dogs were chosen by farmers for their tremendous powers of endurance and courage. The local climate and landscape required a versatile well-balanced dog which the Cattle dog’s ability and character typifies. Though the choice of dog breed to own may have changed in Beaconsfield, residents today continue to enjoy the loyalty and companionship of dogs.
Researched and written by Penny Harris Jennings 2020