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Field Trialing in Australia
by Rachel Greaves

Photos Provided by the Author

Australian Field Trials started in Victoria after the First World War. They grew out of the desire of dog owners to settle the argument of whose dog was best.

Initially, groups of people with hunting dogs, mainly Pointers and Setters, would meet. They traveled by furniture van to paddocks on the fringe of Melbourne and compete against each other. Taking their rules largely from greyhound coursing, the dogs were drawn in pairs and slipped by the steward. Red and white collars were, and still are, used to identify the dogs. This also determined which dog took which position. The dog with the higher number on the card taking the red collar and being on the left and the second drawn dog, wearing a white collar, being on the right. The pairs were given a set time and the handler with the most birds on the belt at the end of the time was declared the winner of that heat. This continued until all dogs present had had a run. Then another draw took place for the second round and so on - until there was only one dog left standing. That is, it was a knock out competition.

"At this stage, there were no written rules and large amounts of money were bet on particular dogs or handlers."

Interestingly, most of the dogs did not retrieve as this was considered to be a waste of time. The dog was sent to locate the downed bird and the handler followed him and picked the bird by hand while the dog was release to resume hunting.

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