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There are field and/or retrieving trial clubs in all States and territories of Australia. All have the same Australian National Kennel Council rules - with a few minor adaptations to accommodate State Game laws. Pointers & Setters and Utility Gundogs still have quail as their main quarry, although some trials have been held on rabbits and released partridges. In Tasmania, quail, rabbits and the Native Hen are the usual quarry.

In 1998, a break away group, the Working Gundog Association of Australia (WGAA), was formed. They drew up their own rules. These rules are similar but not identical to the official ANKC rules.

Until 2002, all trials were held on natural game but in that year released, exotic game was added to the list of quarry for spaniels and retrievers. This brings other disadvantages as birds can only be released on licenced Game Farms. The birds have to be released on that day and they have to be accounted for at the end of the day. Field Trials using released birds are still very much in their infancy in Australia.

Today, in Australia, working gundogs are grouped as follows for trials:

  • Field Trails for Pointers & Setters - only held in the 3 months of the quail open season.
  • Field Trials for Utility Gundogs - held in the quail season and occasionally on rabbits.
  • Field Trials for Spaniels & Retrievers - can be held any time but restricted to the winter months because of the weather.
  • Retrieving Trials for all breeds of Gundog - can be held anytime.

In 2003, because of the poor quail season, the Utility Gundog clubs experimented with running trials on a mixture of native and released birds with reasonable success. Hopefully, the current drought will break and this will not be necessary next year.

Field Trialling as a sport in Australia is at a crossroads not only with the demise of the rabbit and the drought affected game seasons but, as in many other countries, from the pressure on hunting in general by the anti-firearm lobby and the animal liberationists. It will be interesting to see what the next five years brings.

Rachel Greaves

Rachel Greaves was born and educated in Yorkshire and worked in many parts of England and Scotland before taking up a post in Victoria in 1976. Among the assets she took with her to Australia was an 18 month old, professionally trained English Springer Spaniel who was a grand daughter of Hales Smut and a real fireball. Rachel’s intention was to work her in field trials and breed her but at that time there were no other field bred ESS in Victoria so there was no alternative but to import a stud dog from the UK. So began the Wrangham line of working spaniels. Today (27 years, 5 UK imports and many NZ “swops” later), Wrangham is probably the most recognised spaniel line in Australasia and almost all spaniels working in the field or competing in field or retrieving trials in Australia carry some Wrangham blood.

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