Save the Dingo


1800 - 1849

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Information on this page portrays a historical representation of life in Australia at the dates and places mentioned. This page may contain derogatory terms, nudity and images of deceased people that may cause sadness or distress to people including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

Some accounts also depict scenes of unimaginable and intense cruelty towards the Dingo. These have been included as they represent accurate portrayals of early European persecution towards the Dingo, persecution which continues to this day.

Viewpoints do not necessarily reflect those of




Summary of Period:

Several newspapers had started by 1800, so accounts of dingoes start to become more frequent. The accuracy of these accounts is another issue.

In 1801, David Collins, Judge Advocate and Secretary of the Colony states domestic dogs are already out of control, "becoming an object of public order", suggesting restrictions on the number of dogs people can own. This implies domestic dogs are already running around unkept, making it highly plausible they are contributing towards livestock loss.

Also in 1801, John Macarthur is reported to have 1000 sheep, growing this to over 4000 by 1803 and sending his first bale of wool to England 1807. There are other pastoralists, but Macarthur is the biggest. Whilst sheep continued to be imported, such growth is hardly indicative of the massive dingo predation portrayed by some.

By 1804, there are already calls for the dingo to be made extinct, with one writer to the Sydney Gazette stating that "no method of ridding the country of these noxious vermin has been...proposed" and calling for the "total extermination of the ruinous brood". Emotional language is applied to dingo accounts and human morals also - "remorseless depredators". Dingoes are natural animals, they kill to eat - remorseless is not an applicable term to nature. One newspaper report in 1804 describe most losses "are more or less to be attributed to the negligence of the indolent herdsman".

Persecution continues in 1805, with an example of dingoes killed because poultry flew away - no poultry was lost.

1805 William Bligh (15 years after the mutiny on the Bounty) was appointed Governor of NSW. 1808 saw the Rum Rebellion. NSW was a place lacking in law and order, liquor ruling the day.

1815 saw exploration of inland NSW, (Blaxland/Lawson 1813, Oxley 1817, Sturt 1829), resulting in sheep crossing the Blue Mountains. In 1717, John Oxley explored inland from Bathurst, even eating dingo to survive. He arrived at Dubbo, mid-June 1818, stating "native dogs are in considerable numbers, and keep up during the night a continual howling". Dubbo was described as "very beautiful country, thinly wooded and apparently safe from the highest floods".

In his account of the state of agriculture in NSW, 1826, James Atkinson states that dingoes will eat sheep and fowl, but "where common care is taken", it doesn't account for much. By this stage, the Agricultural Society has introduced a bounty on dingo tails of half a dollar, the "effect of this measure has greatly reduced their numbers" and accounts of 1834 tell of farmers continuing their English customs, hanging dingo tails and other "vermin belonging to the colony" on barn doors. The Dingo's journey towards extinction begins.

As early as 1829, hunts "romantic, in the extreme" were being advertised for kangaroos and native dogs. Persecution of the Tasmanian Tiger also begins, referred to as a "native hyena as appearing in considerable numbers in the interior of the island, ready to prowl from the mountains amongst at night". The dingo was noted as being the only animal approaching the Tiger's ferocity.

Drawing - Shooting the Dingo

Shooting the Dingo
Samuel Thomas Gill, undated. c.1845-1889

Courtesy - Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW - PXA 1983


Despite the negative publicity, there are reports it was actually fashionable to have dingoes as pets in the 1830s - this coincided with a vanishing act by acts, such that some thought a new disease had inflicted the cat population, wiping them out.

In 1834, the physician and naturalist Dr George Bennett depicts stories of intense cruelty inflicted upon dingoes and their remarkable ability to hide pain - being beaten so all bones are broken, being skinned alive and the heartbreaking tale of compassion where a female was so distraught by John Oxley having killed her mate, she lay next to his body in mourning. With the female refused to leave her mate, even to eat, they thought it most humane to end her life. However, even Bennett's writings is laced with negative portrayal, referring to dingoes with the words "cowards" and "beast".

With the number of unkept domestic dogs now overrunning Sydney, Newcastle and Bathurst, a law was passed in 1935 requiring all dogs over the age of six months to be registered, collared and labeled with an engraved tag. "Dogs without be killed". Thus any dingo entering one of these town areas was sentenced to death.

1839 sees one of the earliest accounts over the debate on whether dingoes are native. William Jardine puts forth the point that had dingoes been introduced from Indoneasia, it seems logical that jackals from that area would have been introduced also, which they hadn't. He also, perhaps erroneously, states if Dingoes had been introduced they should also be found in New Guinea. Whilst dingoes, per se, are not found in New Guinea, a distant cousin - the Singing Dog is. Jardine does make a number of possible mistakes - stating dingoes can't swim, are totally mute in captivity and omit strong body odour. He also interesting states that specimens in the zoo are "spotted with white". These inaccuracies are no doubt due to the dingoes being kept in filthy conditions and in captivity, as dingoes are devoid of body odour.

The Blue Heeler was "invented" c. 1840 in the Muswellbrook area, said to be the result of cross-breeding smooth-haired blue merle collies from Scotland with dingoes. This was done in the hope of integrating collie cattle dog instincts with the dingo's infrequent barking. Similiar cross-breeds were made by Timmins in the Bathurst area.

In 1845, strychnine started to be used and soon became quite scarse. The initial impact was dramatic, with dingoes almost vanishing for months.


Native dogs, South Australia, Adelaide, Jan 1849
Samuel Thomas Gill - National Library of Australia.





Series of Articles - Sydney Gazette (1804 - 1805)

2 September 1804

"Several sheep and lambs were destroyed during the week by native dogs, upon the grounds near the road leading to Parramatta. Some of the voracious animals have been seen ; and no doubt every precaution and activity will be used to bring these remoreseless depredators to condign punishment."


Sunday 21 October 1804

On Tuesday, night last a dreadful ravage was made at Long Cove by native dogs upon the joint flock of Messrs. Mann and Kable.
Six ewes were found dead, 11 others were torn and mangled so shockingly as that few were expected to recover from their wounds, and 35 were at first missing, all but four of which have since fortunately been found.—The stock-keeper was in the course of Wednesday apprehended, on strong suspicion that the loss was occasioned by his total negligence of the charge committed to him. —Unwilling palpably to ascribe so serious a mischance to such a cause before it be regularly ascertained upon mature investigation, yet generally considered, there is but little doubt that most of the accidents of the above kind are more or less to be attributed to the negligence of the indolent herdsman, in whom a want of vigilance is a crime, not to be measured by the extent of actual damage sustained, but by its possible consequences to a species of property, a strict attention to the care of which must in this Colony be long considered an object, of the first importance.



Sunday 18 November 1804

To the Printer of the Sydney Gazette.


" As every object of public import lays claim to the attention of a publisher, I beg leave to contribute to the general stock one little mite, and trust you will give it an early place in the Sydney Gazette.

" Frequent, indeed almost innumerable losses have been sustained by individuals in all parts of the Colony, from the destructive ravage of the Native Dog ; and although it be universally admitted that most of the depredations on lambs and small stock are to be charged principally to their account, yet no method of ridding the country of these noxious vermin has hitherto been proposed though the general interest might well have submitted it to general consideration.

" This being in our part of the world the only animal whose imperious spirit renders his existence unsafe to the creatures necessity requires us to protect, it is the duty of every one to reduce their number and to aim as much as possible at the total extermination of the ruinous brood. So desirable an object would possibly be a work of time ; but this would in a great measure depend on the encouragement for their destruction held out in the plan I am thus anxious to propose the establishment of a subscription fund, to be raised and supported by the flock owners in each particular district, for the purpose of granting a trifling pecuniary reward, as head money for every licentious prowler that should be cut off in the prime of his iniquity.

" Trifling although the contribution on the individual would fall, yet to the flock of the Colony in general would the happiest effects be immediately derived, from a general denunciation. The fowler, the huntsman, the herdsman, and every frequenter of the forest would alike contribute his exertion to the work of massacre, and the unfair poacher be thus ultimately haunted in his most secret concealment.  

The stockman, whose immediate duty it is to provide by unwearied vigilance for the security of his inoffensive charge, would arouse from a state of blissful inactivity which he seems to have inherited from the first founders of his very ancient Order, and by conscientious considerations be induced to lay aside the pastoral amusement of the pipe, and with his musket join the celestial discord of harmonious tally-ho !

" However I may have taken the liberty to propose a measure of imagined utility, yet sir, I am not sufficiently gifted with confidence to confider myself adequate to the task of entering further into its spirit : I therefore conclude with a hope, that among your more capable Correspondents some one may be inclined to notice my suggestion, and if they esteem it worthy, further its adoption.

" I have the pleasure to remain,

" Yours and the Public's  

sincere friend and humble  


" Philanthus. Parramatta, Nov. 16.


Sunday 7 April 1805

A native dog, whose depredations on a farm near the above settlement we before took notice of, returned again on Sunday evening to clear away the remaining flock on hand ; but being discovered and pursued, was obliged to content himself for the present with a couple of fine geese.  


Sunday 18th August 1805

Several articles of poultry landed from the Ferret in Ceres Cove being missed without any other mode of accounting for their absence than the visitation of the native dog, a watch was ordered, and as conjectured one of these animals made its debût by moonlight, and was instantly killed. A yelping was some time after heard in the neighbouring wood, and curiosity inducing several to approach it, ten sightless whelps were found, and all committed to the deep.



Journals of Two Expeditions into the Interior of New South Wales (1817-18)

by order of the British Government in the years 1817-18.

John Oxley Surveyor General of the Territory and Lieutenant of the Royal Navy.


June 17 1817

Some of our party began even now to anticipate the resources of famine, for a large native dog being killed, it was pronounced, like lord Peter’s loaf, in the Tale of a Tub, to be true, good, natural mutton as any in Leadenhall-market, and eaten accordingly: for myself, I was not yet brought to the conversion of Martin and Jack.

July 11 1817

A singular instance of affection in one of the brute creation was this day witnessed. About a week ago we killed a native dog, and threw his body on a small bush: in returning past the same spot to-day, we found the body removed three or four yards from the bush, and the female in a dying state lying close beside it; she had apparently been there from the day the dog was killed, being so weakened and emaciated as to be unable to move on our approach. It was deemed mercy to despatch her.

June 11 1818

We had as yet seen no inhabitants, and very few signs that the country is inhabited at all. Fish, flesh, and fowl are abundant, but there are no human beings to enjoy them but ourselves: native dogs are in considerable numbers, and keep up during the night a continual howling.

June 12 1818 — We this day passed over a very beautiful country, thinly wooded, and apparently safe from the highest floods; the river had considerable windings, but was of noble width and appearance; the rapids were few, and offered no obstruction; its medium width from one hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty feet, and in many reaches much more. On one of the higher back ridges there are some good iron bark trees, with abundance of cypress; the apple, blue gum, and box, were the principal trees growing on the flats. Kangaroos were in very great numbers: our dogs took four; they were of that species called by Dr. Smith macropus elegans, and are very rare on the east coast.



Robertson Royal Menagerie - 9 Strand, ca. 1820

Traveling Menagerie

Robertson Royal Menagerie - 9 Strand, ca. 1820 [pre restoration]
Picture - Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW - ML 1354


This oil on canvas painting depicts a variety of people visiting a 19th century travelling menagerie in London. The cages contain a display of exotic animals, including kangaroos and possibly other Australian animals....

The animals are exhibited in two rows of cages, the larger at the bottom with smaller cages above. They display a lion, tiger, baboon, brown bear, an ape, a pair of kangaroos and an elephant, with a zebra tethered to a stake in the foreground. The smaller cages on the top row include a dog-like animal (possibly a dingo)....

The painting demonstrates the end result for ‘exotic’ specimens transported from their native homes. They are reduced to entertainment for human consumption. The painting also illustrates the power and triumph of the British Empire over distant colonies that it can bring home exotic animals for public display.




An account of the state of agriculture & grazing in New South Wales - James Atkinson, (1826)

   The native dog is an animal somewhat resembling a jackal; it is of a black or red colour though sometimes dirty white.   It forms no burrows in the earth, but inhabits rocks, hollow trees, or thick brushes.   The female produces about six or seven at a litter.   This animal, unless the flocks are carefully attended, will commit serious depredations among sheep : it sometimes also will steal a fowl from the roost ; but the extent of its ravages, where common care is taken, is seldom very important.   It is not very swift of foot, and easily taken with good dogs.   The kangaroo dog, a large variety of greyhound, is usually employed for this purpose.   The Agricultural Society has very patriotically offered a reward of half a dollar for every brush brought to any of its members ; and an annual reward besides for those who kill the greatest number.   The effect of this measure has greatly reduced their numbers in many of the grazing districts in the interior, where they were before very abundant.

[Content from 2nd Edition, 1844]



Early Accounts - Edmund Lockyer and Richard Gould

Photo of woman breastfeeding dingo pups

"There are mixed accounts on how captive dingoes are treated by native Aboriginal tribes. In 1828, Edmund Lockyer noted that the aboriginals he encountered treated dingo pups with greater affection than their own children, with some women even breastfeeding them. The dogs were allowed to have the best meat and fruit, and could sleep in their master's huts. When misbehaving, the dingoes were merely chastised rather than beaten.

This treatment, however, seems to be an exception rather than a general rule. In his observations of [modern] Aboriginals living in the Gibson Desert, Richard Gould wrote that although dingoes were treated with great fondness, they were nonetheless kept in poor health, were rarely fed, and were left to fend for themselves. Gould wrote that tame dingoes could be distinguished from free ranging specimens by their more emaciated appearance. He concluded that the main function of dingoes in Aboriginal culture, rather than hunting, was to provide warmth as sleeping companions during the cold nights."



Sketches of Van Diemen's Land (1829)

The Australian - Tuesday 31st March 1829

In quotations from an itinerary of Van Diemen's Land now preparing for publication, the Hobart Town Courier describes the native hyena as appearing in considerable numbers in the interior of the island, ready to prowl from the mountains amongst the flocks at night.  We have no such animal here, nor any approaching them in ferocity, the native dog excepted. One of these hyenas (the Courier says) measured six feet from the shout to the tail, and adds, the skin is beautifully striped with black and white on the back, while the belly and sides are of a grey colour. -- Its mouth resembles that of a wolf, with huge jaws almost opening to the ears. Its legs are short in proportion to the body, and it has a sluggish appearance, but in running it bounds in the manner of a kangaroo, though not with such speed.  The female carries its young in a pouch like most other quadrupeds of the country.  The skins are certainly beautiful, being well adapted for saddle cloths, and until the horse guards at Whitehall are more decently caparisoned by their help, our military in Van Dieman's land will doubtless adopt them and add to their warlike appearance on field days.

Read Online: The Australian - Tuesday 31 March 1829




India and New South Wales (1829)

The Australian - Friday 28 August 1829

In the River Macquarie, running through O'Connell and Bathurst Plains,  fish of 30 pounds weight afford excellent subjects for more than one kind of amusement, and the wild turkey, emu and kangaroo will furnish abundant employment for the dogs and gun. There is also a small species of kangaroo, which are red and frequent the rocks, that abound in the neighbourhood ; but he who pursues this game must be determined not to give into fatigue. The gun alone can reach them; the sport is romantic, in the extreme. There is a " hunt" established at Bathurst for the chance of the native dog, a most destructive animal among sheep. Upon one occasion, on a casual visit to a gentleman on the banks of Fish River, 60 sheep were bitten in one night by this animal, and so morbid is the wound thus inflicted, that the sheep infallibly die of it.

Read Online: The Australian - Friday 28 August 1829



The gardens and menagerie of the Zoological Society delineated (1831)


Drawing of Dingoes

Note: This account states dingoes are in zoos in both England and France. It is long and portions have been ommitted.

[Page 52]

It is by no means our intention to enter upon the discussion of so extensive a question. But while we purposely abstain from inquiring what was the original Dog, before he was reclaimed (if such a period ever existed) to the service of man, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that in the specimens now before us we have him in that condition in which he may be supposed to approach most nearly to a state of nature, as the companion of a race of savages, the lowest in the scale of intellect that have been met with in the world.




Wanderings in New South Wales, Batavia, Pedir Coast, Singapore, and China

By George Bennett, esq. (1834).

Note: This account depicts accounts of intense cruelty to dingoes, which may distress some people.


[Page 141]

About Bolam Creek, flocks of wild ducks were abundant. These birds were not so wild about creeks as on large rivers. The barn-doors about the farms (in imitation of a similar custom in the '' old country,"') were decorated by the brushes and tails of that shepherds' pest, the Dingo, or native Australian dog, and other vermin belonging to the colony.

[Pages 231-234]

Three dingos, or native dogs, (the " Warragul" of the aborigines, Canis Australasise, Dem.*) were seen about the hills at " Gudarigby," and the howling of the kangaroo dogs during the night, was the first indication of their prowling about ; they are the wolves of the colony, and are perhaps unequalled for cunning. These animals breed in the holes of rocks ; a litter was found near Yas Plains, which the discoverer failed to destroy, thinking to return and catch the mother also, and thus destroy the whole family; but the "old lady" must have been watching him, for on his returning a short time after, he found all the little dingos had been carried away, and he was never able, although diligent search was made in the vicinity, to discover their place of removal. The cunning displayed by these animals, and the agony they can endure, without evincing the usual effects of pain, would seem almost incredible, had it not been related by those on whose testimony every dependence can be placed. The following are a few among a number of extraordinary instances.

Picture of Dr George Bennett

Dr George Bennett

Physician and naturalist

One had been beaten so severely that it was supposed all the bones were broken, and it was left for dead. After the person had walked some distance, upon accidentally looking back, his surprise was much excited by seeing " master dingo" rise, shake himself, and march into the bush, evading all pursuit.—One, supposed dead, was brought into a hut, for the purpose of undergoing "decortication;" at the commencement of the skinning process upon the face, the only perceptible movement was a slight quivering of the lips, which was regarded at the time as merely muscular irritability : the man, after skinning a very small portion, left the hut to sharpen his knife, and returning found the animal sitting up, with the flayed integument hanging over one side of the face.

Another instance was that of a settler, who, returning from a sporting expedition, with six kangaroo dogs, they met a dingo, which was attacked by the dogs, and worried to such a degree, that finding matters becoming serious, and that the worst of the sport came to his share, the cunning dingo pretended to be dead ;—thinking he had departed the way of all dogs, they gave him a parting shake, and left him. Unfortunately for the poor dingo, he was of an impatient disposition, and was consequently premature in his resurrection, for before the settler and his dogs had gone any distance, he was seen to rise and skulk away, but on account of the rough treatment he had received, at a slow pace ; the dogs soon re-attacked him, when he was handled in a manner that must have eventually prevented any resuscitation taking place a second time.

These instances may account for the fact why skeletons of the animals are not found in places where they have been left supposed dead. I have more than once been taken where one had been killed, as I desired to have a skeleton ; but no remains of the beast were visible in the majority of instances ; and crows and hawks do not devour animals, bones and all, in this country.*

The following anecdote proves that the "dingos," although cowards when chances are against them, will, like the Chinese, stand battle when numbers and chance of victory are on their side. A native dog attacked a calf, which was driven by a man having a kangaroo dog with him. The hound immediately set upon the dingo, but four more coming to the assistance of their comrade, they tore the kangaroo dog very severely ; but the man, by aid of shouting and sticks, drove them away, after much difficulty.


* [1st] * But little doubt exists in the minds of naturalists that this animal is not indigenous to Australia ; its not being met with in Van Dieman's Land (when all the other genera peculiar to Australia are found there) will rather tend to confirm the hypothesis.

* [2nd] * The Australian dog never barks ; and it is remarked by Mr. Gardiner, in a work entitled the " Music of Nature," " that dogs in a state of nature never bark ; they simply whine, howl, and growl : this explosive noise is only found among those which are domesticated.



The Naturalists Library - William Jardine, (1839).

Chrysæus Australiæ


The Dingo of New Holland, or Canis Australasiæ of Authors.

This animal has been regarded by French naturalists as a feral dog, although it is unquestionably a wild species, only in a small degree reclaimed by the savage natives.   The fact of being partially domesticated is not sufficient ground for assuming the Dingo was introduced by human intervention ; for this argument would demand its existence in New Guinea, and include the necessity of the canines, the jackals of Sumatra and Java, being introduced by similar means.   The wild Dingos are, however, larger and more powerful in the interior than the domestic race.   In confinement they are entirely mute, neither howling, barking nor growling.  When offended, they raise the hair upright, and assume a truly menacing aspect, but howl in a melancholy tone when prowling in a state of freedom.   When they attack sheep, their delight is to kill as many as they can overtake ; and their bite is so severe, that few who are wounded recover.  They emit a strong odour, and in fighting domestic dogs snap very severely.   The number of their pups is equal to that of domestic dogs, littering in some hollow log, deserted ant hill, hole in the ground or dense brush cover.

If we may generalise a fact related by Mr Oxley, Surveyor General of New South Wales, and recorded in his Journal, the Dingos possess the quality of mutual attachment in a degree far exceeding all other brute animals.   His words are,  “ About a week ago we killed a native dog and threw his body on a small bush ; in returning past the same spot to-day, we found the body removed three or four yards from the bush and the female in a dying state lying close beside it ;  she had apparently been there from the day the dog was killed, being so weakened and emaciated as to be unable to move on our approach ; it was deemed mercy to dispatch her.”*

Domestic dogs falling in their power are immediately devoured.+ They hunt in pairs or in small families of five or six, and their fierceness and activity is equal to, if not more than a match for the most powerful dogs of Europe.   They possess the daring courage of the present group far superior to that of wolves, having been known to chase sporting dogs to the feet of their masters.   One brought to England attacked and would have destroyed an ass, if he had not been prevented : another in the menagerie of Paris would fly at the bars of cages where he saw a panther, a jaguar, or a bear.  Domestic dogs they seize without hesitation :  yet these facts, excepting the first, relate to individuals of the reclaimed race, not larger than our shepherd's dog, or less than two feet high at the shoulder.   They have the muzzle somewhat fuller, the head large ; under fur grey, covered by longer and abundant hair fulvous or white ; the forehead, neck, back, and superior side of the tail is dark fulvous ;  the sides, under part of the throat, and brush paler ; all beneath, the inside of the thighs, the legs, and nose whitish.   We have seen two with the tip of the tail white, but the wild race is said to be destitute of that colour, and many of them are dark with shaggy hair;* they carry the tail horizontally, not curled, bent down when watching, and it is only partially furnished with long hair.   They run, unlike dogs, with the head high, the ears erect and turned forward.   The specimen at Paris could not swim.   The parent race is wild all over Australia, but an inferior breed is partially tamed by the natives, who make some use of it in hunting kangaroos and emus.   The young obtained from a pair in the Zoological Gardens were all more or less spotted with white.

We understand that there is a strongly marked variety or race of these dogs in Van Diemen's Land


* Oxley’s Journal, &c. p. 110.
+ P. Cunningham.   Two Years in New South Wales.
* A skin from the Swan River, now before us, measures 41 inches to the tail, the tail 12 inches.   The fur in colour resembles the wolf of Asia Minor, but the eyes are very near the nose, only 3½  inches distant ; the head is small for the size of the animal.   One recently brought to Plymouth was as large as a tall lurcher and resembled that race in make.

William Jardine Drawing New Holland Dingo

PLATE 10. - New Holland Dingo