THE EARLY AUSSIE BREEDERS
articles by Jan Haddle Davis and by Phillip Wildhagen
Editor’s note: these ten short articles were first published in the ASCA 1977 Yearbook, which included a retrospective of the past 30 years, ASCA having been incorporated in 1957. They were presented without an overall title (the above title has been given by me).
Photos are also taken from the ASCA 1977 Yearbook, which contains over one hundred photographs of the earliest Aussies to be registered in ASCA, including many of the dogs mentioned below. (This yearbook could still be obtained from the ASCA business office as of 2007)
The two following articles by Jan Haddle Davis were preceded by a disclaimer by Phillip C.Wildhagen, at that time ASCA’s official historian: “The opinions expressed by the author including specific quotations in these articles to follow are considered to be their own and do not necessarily reflect those of ASCA. The historical content, though, is factual.”
THE IDAHO AUSSIE AND JAY SISLER (Jan Haddle Davis)
Long before any Aussie registry existed, a talented dog trainer from Idaho was actively promoting the intelligence of the breed he called simply “blue dogs.” This man, Jay Sisler, from Emmett, Idaho, spent over 20 years of his life traveling with his brilliant group of trained Australian Shepherds.
Jay had Aussies long before the breed actually had a proper name, and many of the Sisler dogs lived and died without registration of any kind. Those breeders who did recognize the value of the Sisler line registered a few of these dogs in later years; however, the true pedigree of many dogs registered now with unknown pedigree are actually Sisler-bred. Jay’s only concern with his early dogs in the 1940’s was to train them to amaze people with their tricks, and through these performances the good word about the Aussies’ intelligence began to spread.
As Jay states, “I had my first ‘blue dog’ in about 1939, but Keno was the first good dog I ever owned and was the beginning of my good line of dogs.”*
In 1944 or 45, Jay relates that he acquired the dog Keno. Keno remained with Jay until the dog’s death in about 1954, and during this time, Jay bred this dog to Blue Starr producing the legendary “Sister’s Shorty.” Where did Keno come from? Jay states, “He (Keno) was given to me by Myron Whitely, now deceased. I was told that Keno’s sire was a blue dog. Keno was sort of hard to describe colorwise. He was too dark to be sable and also had a redder coat. He had no merling.” *
The earliest foundation female at Sister’s was actually owned by Jay’s brother, Gene. This female, purchased from a litter of pups at a local livestock auction, was brought to the Sisler Ranch in early 1947. She had no known pedigree. On various pedigrees she is known as Old Blue, Blue Starr, or simply “Blue.” Her name leaves little doubt as to her coat color!
From the mating of Keno and Blue came the two dark blue merle dogs, Shorty and Stub. It was this pair that impressed many rodeo fans with their delightful tricks.
A second bitch, also belonging to brother Gene, was Trixie. Trixie had no known pedigree either, and she was originally given to Gene by Parr Norton, who lived in Oregon at the time. Jay described Trixie as “. . . blue and black, with little, if any, white on,” * and goes on to tell, “Gene and I had several bitches that we raised pups from, but we never registered them. There was no registry for them at that time and we had most of our bitches.” *
The Sisler-trained dog act was quite incredible. His Aussies, being so eager to please, would jump rope, stand on their heads, balance on bars, climb ladders and more. This constant exposure of these dogs to rodeo fans throughout the country led to great interest in the breed. So began the spread of the Sisler line of dogs to nearly everywhere a good cow dog was required. A greater concentration of this line, of course, was seen in the Northwestern United States and into Canada.
A Sisler dog, although not bred by Jay, also began the female line of a popular line of show dogs. A blue and white dog, later named John, wandered up and adopted one of Sister’s neighbors, David Robinson. This male, given to Jay, was used at stud by Dr. Weldon T. Heard of Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Bred to Heard’s Chili of Flintridge, John sired the grand foundation bitch, Wildhagen’s Thistle of Flintridge.
Another great female line began with the cross of Sister’s Shorty on one of Fletcher Wood’s dark blue bitches (Wood’s Little Blue), This produced Sister’s Joker, who was Jay’s pick of litter for the stud fee. Joker in turn sired a blue male named Dandy Danny whose daughter, Taylor’s Buena, produced an incredible working line of dogs for Joe Taylor of Moab, Utah.
When you speak of one great dog, you start a train of thought that recalls many grand matrons and sires of this line. Through Buena’s daughter, Wilcox’s Cindy, belonging to Larry Wilcox of Alamosa, Colorado, you can trace Hank Weiscamp’s dogs, two grand-daughters (called) Martin’s Adobe Susie and Martin’s Adobe Gypsy, and a great dog, Ch. lacovetta’s Buck. Gypsy founded the champion Northwest line of Harold May, and Susie contributed to the Oklahoma Mansker’s (Lamar’s) Turk line.
Fletcher Wood of Morrison, Colorado, used Sister’s Shorty to found a highly success, beginning with Wood’s Jay. From this line descend a multitude of greats including Ch. (Sorensen’s) Little Bonnie, Wood’s Stubby, and a red cropout, Piz’s Joseph, from which descend Ch. Calico Chief Red Cloud, CD, and Ch. Jones Reddy Teddy, CDX, OTD, Sch HA.
The influence of the Sister dogs can be seen in nearly every major bloodline now. Cow sense is still present with many successful trial dogs descending from this line, like Ch. Sorensen’ Brandy, OTD. These Sisler dogs are the mainstay of many modern breeding programs.
Thank you, Jay Sisler, for beginning a tradition of great dogs!
*Personal letters from Jay Sisler to the author, dated February 23, 1975, April 10, 1 April 26, 1976.
STEVE MANSKER AND TURK (Jan Haddle Davis)
Steve Mansker, hunting guide, race horse trainer, and horse shoer, was one of the many folks who became enthused about the “blue dogs” that Jay Sisler showed in his rodeo act.
In Steve’s own words:* “My interest in the Aussies probably stemmed from getting acquainted with Jay Sisler back in the late forties when I was rodeoing. I told him then that I would like to buy one but didn’t get around to it until about 1956 that I recall. He then sold me Freckles, who had been trained for his act but had got bred by accident while he was gone to a rodeo.
“She only had one pup and it turned out deaf, so I started looking for a good male that was a cow dog and found one from a lady by the name of Green at Boulder (later registered as Green’s Kim). She said he was too rough and that was just what I was after. I bred Freckles to him and raised one litter which is where my Anna Lee female came from (1957). A fellow was later using Kim on a cow outfit and he disappeared. Kim was a large dog, blue merle and outstanding as a cow dog and sire.
“The next sire I used was a dog from the Hartnagles, Homer, blue merle, from the old dogs they had which I don’t remember now. He worked good and sired good pups but I sold him as I could use him but didn’t need him around the place with the two females. A fellow gave me a good little female that I didn’t need so sold her to a man named Alexander that had a male (Curt) from the Kim-Freckles cross and that is where I got Duchess (Curt x Sue).
“She (Duchess) was so ambitious that I was having trouble keeping her from working, so I sold her to a friend of mine named Bud Hildreth that had a male named Smokey. Duchess was a real top colored blue merle and an extra good heeler.
“Duchess was born in ’59 or ’60 the best I can remember. Smokey was a black dog, and a top working cowdog and sire. He was probably born along in 1950 the best I can figure. Turk, (now owned by Walt Lamar) comes from this cross of Duchess and Smokey and there were a lot of top dogs in the Gunnison country (Colorado) that Bud Hildreth gave to his friends on ranches. I bought five pups from one litter and saved Turk for a stud. Thanks to Walt Lamar lot of the pups were registered. Taylor’s Rusty (Turk x Freckles) was a good dog, but Joe thinks there will never be another like Whiskey (Turk x Ana Lee).
“Buena was (Joe Taylor’s) … she was a good one. I can think of so many good cow dogs from all of these but my only aim was for that and I was lucky. Walt wanted Turk real bad and I was hunting with hounds a lot and decided to sell him finally. I have one daughter of Turk that is so much like him.
“The one thing that I really became aware of was that in holding my bloodline together (inbreeding) I could sell with a guarantee and not worry about them working. I think the classiest dog I know for looks is the Hartnagle dog at Boulder (Shiloh). They have won a lot of stuff with him but Joe’s dogs get the best working dogs.”
From Steve’s line comes a great foundation of cowdogs; Hartnagles, inbreeding on the red gene from this line came Ch. Las Rocosa Shiloh; the great producing bitch, Hartnagle’s Fritzie Taylor who is dam of many champions such as Ch. Las Rocosa Blue Brocade, Ch. Las Rocosa Leslie, Ch. Las Rocosa Rojo Hombre, and others. A Shiloh x Fritzie granddaughter, Ch. Ruby Red Dress of Vegas, CD, is also carrying on the tradition of producing champions.
Walt Lamar’s highly successful Turk line has not been given the show ring exposure of the Hartnagle line, but one of the great ranch certified working bitches is sired by Turk and out of an inbred Smokey bitch named Queen. This dark blue bitch goes by the name of Okeene and with her ability and training she is something to brag on.
This successful bloodline, born of the need for a tough cow dog, carries on that fine tradition even today. Whether descending from Walt Lamar’s dogs, Hartnagle’s Las Rocosa kennel, or Joe Taylor’s dogs, the Turk line is the basis of many fine dogs, both top conformation dogs and keen, eager working dogs.
*personal letters to the author from Steve Mansker, telephone conversations, and interviews, 1976 to present.
THE WOOD’S LINE (Phillip C. Wildhagen)
Perhaps the most prolific line produced from the early Sisler dogs was developed by Fletcher Wood, ringmaster at the National Western Livestock Show at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds near Denver. Wood’s Jay (Shorty x Trixie) was acquired from the Sislers in 1949. He was a large merle dog with little white who was quite a utility worker both in the stock arena and on the cattle range.
Jay was bred to Ely’s Blue producing a bitch named Dingo owned by Ken Green, a Central City, Colorado, veterinarian. He was later bred back to this bitch producing Chilli who started a red line which included the well known sire Piz’ Joseph. Fletcher Wood intensified this male line by inbreeding and linebreeding Jay to a number of bitches including Trump’s Stubby, who produced (Wood’s) Speck.
Speck bred back to Jay produced Wood’s Slate who was for the third generation bred back to Jay producing Wood’s Stubbie, a sire that appears in foundation stock of several Colorado bloodlines of the early sixties. Other bitches bred to Jay include an Ely’s Blue daughter, Wood’s Little Blue, who produced Lighters Asta who then produced Smedra’s Blue Mistingo, a bitch that became the matron of one of the more popular bloodlines of today, the Flintridge line.
Fletcher Wood tells how he developed his line. “As ringmaster at the National Western Livestock Show, I met a lot of rodeo men and stock folk. This included Jay Sisler and his trick dogs. I bought one of his pups named Jay and later got Blue from Mrs. Ely of Littleton. In the mid 50’s, I was producing dogs that were mostly merle in color with little tan or white. I liked the larger dogs as they seemed to have that extra stamina for running range cattle.
“I learned of a family named Moreno from California who brought some larger heavy coated dogs from Spain that were supposed to be good working stock. I crossed into these dogs to reintroduce some of the Basque character, but found that they were poor at wearing and gathering. One of these dogs was known as Finley’s Texas Bob who produced a curly coated tricolor male named (Wood’s) Dandy. This dog was a real tough worker with a lot of stubbornness; he had good structure, though. I finally sold him to a dairyman in Wray, Colorado. With a lot of culling, I finally selected this blood out of my line. Most of my dogs were centered around old Jay as he was what I really wanted.
“I guess I have produced over 600 pups since I started. Only a small number of these dogs ever got registered because they went to ranches and cowboys that crossed my path here at the stock shows.”
Fletcher Wood’s stock along with Joe Taylor’s of Idaho were all basically Sisler-bred. The development of these lines progressed into many other key bloodlines in the Midwest which include Dick and Sharon Rowe’s J-Bar-D stock, the Sorensen’s Colorado line, the Hartnagles’ Las Rocosa lines, and the Flintridge line developed by Weldon T. Heard, DVM.
HARTNAGLE’S LAS ROCOSA LINE (Phillip C. Wildhagen)
Elaine and Ernest Hartnagle of Las Rocosa Kennels in Boulder started their Aussie interest by acquiring a sable puppy bitch named Snipper in the Fall of 1953. They had Snipper for only a short time, then in 1954 saw Jay Sisler’s rodeo act. Ernie ordered a pup from Jay, but there were none to be had at that time.
In December 1955, the Hartnagle’s purchased a puppy named Goody from Mrs. Ely. They were so enthused with this little ball of fire that a week later they purchased a one year old male from Kurt Banes named Badger. Goody later went to the San Luis Valley with Joe Fernandez and was bred to her sire Ely’s Feo, producing Goody II. Goody II was bred to Badger producing Hartnagle’s Lady, who was then bred back to her sire producing Hartnagle’s Doggie, the first red in this line. Doggie was bred back to Badger producing Hartnagle’s Daisy.
In 1968, they acquired one of their most important stud dogs, Hartnagle’s Hud, through Joe Taylor. They liked him so well that they purchased Fritzie Taylor in 1969 at 7 weeks of age. In 1970, Las Rocosa Shiloh came on the scene, who continued their line in grand style by becoming one of the breed’s top red sires. The Hartnagle’s have also served the breed for many years on a national level in promoting stock trials and show exhibitions. Ernie served as an ASCA director, then as President from 1973 until the days just prior to publication of this Yearbook.
J-BAR-D AND COLORADO KENNELS (Phillip C. Wildhagen)
It was in 1964 when Jerry and Sharon Rowe first acquired a black tri-colored bitch (Rowe’s) Dingo from Ron McGuire of Arvada, Colorado. They began obedience training Dingo, where they met Dick Sorensen who had recently purchased Gunsmoke from a Williams’ Laddie x Jeffrey’s Sheila litter. Dingo’s background was out of Ron McGuire’s Palojami Gold (a Dead Eye daughter) sired by Welz’s Handsome King, a littermate to Heard’s Blue Spice of Flintridge. Dingo later was bred to Gunsmoke and Dick Sorensen received Sorensen’s Blue Mist as pick of litter. Blue Mist was bred to Wood’s Stubbie producing J-Bar-D Blue Boy who considered to be the Sorensen’s foundation stud dog.
Dick Sorensen and Sharon and Jerry Rowe initially used the J-Bar-D prefix around 1966; however, as the breed progressed and Dick married his wife Leslie, they began their Colorado prefix. Over the years, they produced a number of fine conformation and stock dogs including Sorensen’s Queenie who was sired by Gunsmoke out of Jerry and Joyce Nightingale’s Tammy. Tammy eventually owned by Dick and Leslie Sorensen and her name was changed to Sorensen’s (Nightingale’s)Tammy as it appears in many pedigrees.
Queenie was bred to Rowe’s Warrior Bow (a Nevada dog out of the old Ritter/Ronsley lines) producing a bitch named J-Bar-D Choctaw Chili who, bred back to her sire, produced J-Bar-D Brandy, the first red bitch of the Sorensen’s line. Some of the important dogs out of these two fine kennels include Ch. J-Bar-D Red Chief, (Sorensen’s) J Bar-D Fancy, (Sorensen’s) J-Bar-D Flirt, and Rowe’s Commanche Warrior who was one of the most prosperous stock trial winners of the breed in his day.
These lines of Aussies practiced selective culling, such as Fletcher Wood had done, to retain heavily pigmented dogs of a medium size with little white in the coat color.
THE FLINTRIDGE LINE (Phillip C. Wildhagen)
The Flintridge line of dog has existed since about 1964,however,it was not well known to the fancy until 1969, when one of these dogs showed up at conformation exhibition in California. A Wheat Ridge, Colorado, veterinarian, Weldon T. Heard, had known the Aussie since his boyhood days in the late twenties. One of his clients, Mrs. Lighter, had suffered the loss of her old dog and wanted to replace her. Dr. Heard recommended that she contact Fletcher Wood who had some pups. She purchased a black and white bitch named Asta. Asta was later bred to Wood’s Dandy producing a bitch called Blue Mistingo.
Dr. Heard acquired Mistingo from a lady who could no longer keep her in an apartment. He then gave her to Nick Smedra with the agreement that she would be bred to Harper’s Old Smokey and he would select pups from the litter. This breeding produced two lovely pups, Heard’s Blue Spice of Flintridge and a dog sold to Charlie Well’s named Well’s Handsome King. Dr. Heard relates that King was the only dog that he ever had in his kennels that could open the vet cages. “This litter was the only one Mistingo ever had,” Dr. Heard tells, “because I spayed her shortly after she weaned her pups, which I have often regretted.”
Spice proved to be the ideal bitch of what Dr. Heard desired in his line as she possessed the beauty, quality and brains of a fine working dog, thus he bred her back to Old Smokey, producing Heard’s Salt of Flintridge and Heard’s Chili of Flintridge. Both of these dogs became producers of many champions in the 70’s.
The dog that initially spread the influence of this line is a blue merle male named Wildhagen’s Dutchman of Flintridge, also known as Dusty. Dusty, followed by his brother Sage (Fieldmaster of Flintridge), arrived in California in 1970 and began several years of outstanding show success and ultimately, the popularity of this line blossomed. The Flintridge line has produced to date at least 10 champions of record and their offspring boast close to 30 more.
An important result of introduction of the Flintridge line was cross-pollination of this type into other lines followed by line and in-breeding back to Flintridge sires. This was practiced by Dr. Heard with his Spice dog which created at least 5 generations in his own kennels of closely typed dogs. Many bloodlines practice this breeding system today and overall breed quality and type are becoming stable because of it. Dr. Heard’s Flintridge influence is perhaps more responsible for this type stabilization than any other breeder.
CASA DE CARRILLO (Phillip C. Wildhagen)
On the West Coast, one of the older working lines was developed by Bob and Jean Carrillo who have operated a dairy for over 25 years. Their Casa de Carrillo kennel name appears in many of the breed’s successful stockdog trial winners. The Carrillo’s required two shifts of dogs to help move stock from their pasture into the milking barns on their 500 acre ranch.
Their first Aussie was actually owned by a business partner. She had a litter in 1950 producing “Cookie” who began her working role at 5 weeks of age by riding to and from the barn twice daily on the floor of the pickup. As she grew, her duties expanded to a routine in and out of corrals and bringing cows from the fields, usually unassisted, for milking. The Carrillo’s had purebred herds of Jerseys, Guernseys and Holsteins, and Cookie was able to separate the cows by breed from all of the herd. “it remains a mystery how she was able to do this,” Jean Carrillo says, “as she was never trained to do it.”
Cookie had a litter at one year of age and a male pup, Kelpie, was kept on the farm and became quite a protector of the children. Tammy, a granddaughter of Cookie, demonstrated the fine tradition of her line by separating all of the different breeds of cows for a group of trademark milk inspectors and surprised them all. As they were leaving, Bob Carrillo told them, “I am sorry, gentlemen, but I have never been able to teach these ‘dumb’ dogs to close the gate.”
The Carrillo’s have been a blessing to the Aussie stockdog community through their extensive training clinics and trial judging activities during the past several years. Cookie lived to the ripe old age of 18, Kelpie died at 17 and Tammy succumbed to cancer at 14. The Carrillo’s explain the real value of Aussie to their lives with this comment: “We still credit the Aussie for whatever little financial gains we have made through the years. It couldn’t have been done without them.”
MARYLAND LITTLE’S MR. ROBERT LINE (Phillip C. Wildhagen)
History of the early California Aussie would not be complete without mentioning Maryland Little’s contribution to the working stockdog which goes as far back as 1945. One of her first bitches, Honey Bun, came from the Graatz sheep flocks out of Colton, California. Honey Bun, like the ancestry of at least least 4 generations before her, was of the large mountain shepherd type, considerable in size and substance.
These Basque dogs had been in the area for generations and their exact origin has not been traced. Honey Bun was bred in 1950 to a dog named Quince Paso from the Quintana sheep flock. (This mating) produced Little’s Mr. Robert. Mr. Robert was a large blue merle dog that became one of the top stock dogs in the area, (and) also served as an important breed sire in the Southland during the 50’s and early 60’s.
Another bitch of Mrs. Little’s line, Little’s Pimenta Chica, was bred to Mr. Robert producing an important breed sire of the 60’s, McConkey’s Tiger Britches owned by Betty McConkey of Norco, California. Actually, Betty McConkey’s first stud dog was out of old Basque lines too; he was known as McConkey’s Sir Blue Silver from the Ortega stock. Many of the early California do trace back to the Little and McConkey lines; their color pattern, head type and substance can be identified readily today in some of the dogs being exhibited throughout the country.
THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST (Phillip C. Wildhagen)
During the early sixties, one of our fancy’s most admired supporters and an ASCA president for 9 years, Gwen Stevenson from Oak Run, California, owned Aussies that appear to have come from Sisler-type stock. These dogs had ancestors from Hathaway’s, Burnett’s and Yrigoyen’s breedings, all Northern California ranch dogs.
Later, she sold a pup to Dr. and Mrs. Harold Spencer named Spencer’s Blue Royal who was a lovely male that produced quite a number of offspring that were distributed to farms throughout the country. The Spencers also obtained Tammy (Lampe’s Chester ex Lampe’s Agatha) that also came from early Burnett’s stock. Unfortunately few of these dogs ever became shown when such activities began in the breed and their influence has not been felt to the extent that it could have been.
In the late 50’s, the Diamond A line from Northern Oregon started Aussie interest in the area. Dogs such as Baggerly’s Blue Boy, a rather handsome, heavy coated dog, was bred to a number of bitches in his area. Diamond A Hondo was one of his produce that also was used consistently in a number of breeding programs in California and Oregon up until the late 70’s. The exact origin of this specific line of dogs has not been traced as of yet.
ARIZONA (Phillip C. Wildhagen)
Betty Baker’s Lolly, a black, white and tan bitch from the Tucson area was perhaps one of the first to influence development of the Aussie in Arizona during the mid fifties. She was from local range dogs that were not well typed. Lolly was bred to Baker’s Pat producing Al and Lucie De Green’s Victoria which started another line in the area that continued until Al’s death in 1971. De Green’s Victoria was bred to Lee Thornton’s King from the Old Tucson area which produce De Green’s Blue Blazes who served as a sire for several years during the early sixties.
Lee Thornton had quite a number of Aussies over the years including Thornton’s Chrissi and Thornton’s Lizzie who appear in a number of today’s Arizona bred dogs. Some of her stock was sent to the Midwest and a few pedigrees show Thornton dogs in the Colorado lines several generations back.
ASCA’s first president, Eloise S. Hart, was also active in the breed in the fifties, although she did not breed many litters. Her first Aussie, Blanco, had come from Spain with an emigrating family in 1930. Later, in 1957, she registered the first Australian Shepherd, a bitch named Panda with the National Stock Dog Registry in Indiana.
There are other areas in the United States where development of the breed has occurred; however, only very limited information has been collected that would serve the scope of this edition of ASCA’s Yearbook. Many names have been omitted, but not because of their relative importance to our breed. When detailed material telling the story of other pioneers in our fine breed becomes available, it will be presented for all to see. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, history is an ever- continuing subject.
There is a great deal more to be learned and perhaps someday we shall know the true origin of this breed. Also, few breeders of the late 60’s and throughout the 70’s have been highlighted simply due to the space required to print this material. We shall try to do this in years hence.
A brief wrap-up of the Aussie’s movement in this country appears somewhat like this: he seems to have arrived in a variety of forms into different regions of the country starting perhaps as far back as the California gold rush days. Active development of bloodlines seem to have started in the Northern California – Oregon – Idaho areas, then major development in the early fifties was fostered from Idaho stock out in Colorado.
From there, other areas began their own lines from a combination of local ranch stock and a few that were “passing through.” Serious breeding programs that exchanged stock and breedings from different developing regions appear to have started in the early sixties and today is a regular activity among fanciers. Distribution of bloodlines is now nationwide and type stability is becoming quite good. The future really looks prosperous for the Aussie and it is all because of you many fine folks out there that took a liking to a most fascinating stock dog.
this collection of articles was first published in the Australian Shepherd Club of America Yearbook 1957-77 “Twenty Years Of Progress” ©ASCA