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Australian Maremma Sheepdog History

Maremma sheepdogs have been in Australia since 1982, when Charles and Sandra Curwen from Government House in Victoria, imported a bitch and a dog puppy from England - ABRUZZO ENRIKO DELPHINO and TAVOLIERE ZECCA.
I am told there were a total of 41 pups bred from these 2, however there were 8 pups bred under the prefix Hollinsdale and most of these went to family and friends, but some became the foundation stock of the early kennels in Australia.
In 1987, the trickle of stock importations from England began, with 15 more animals arriving by 1990. Pups have been introduced to all States of Australia from these and to New Zealand. See the STATISTICS page for more details on the history of Australian registrations.

Victoria has been the main centre for Maremma bloodlines. There are several reasons for this. There were a few breeders importing animals in close enough an area to support each other.
There are many large sheep stations in Victoria, and this provided both the breeders, the farmers, and interested Government bodies with the animals to carry out some studies of their own.

VICTORIA

Sonymer Karl - one of the early imports to Australia from a kennel in the UK - very typical maremma sheepdog with excellent temperament who guarded sheep in VIC for his whole life and contributed important traits to the Australian maremmas

There were 2 main Australian kennels in Victoria working to bring animals in - Lurgenglare and Sanrowan. Lurgenglare Kennels imported a total of 7 animals. Out of these were a mother and 2 of her pups - LOLA and Lurgenglare Bernita and Basilio. Another dog was brought in - Lurgenglare Danio, but unfortunately he was sterile, so his sister arrived - Lurgenglare Desma, and pups were successfully bred from her. 2 more maremmas, a dog and bitch from Maremmano kennels in Sweden came also - Maremmano Eloquent Guard, and Maremmano Knight Commander (known as KC).
Sanrowan Kennels imported 2 dogs and a bitch - Sonymer Karl, Sonymer Icestorm at Sunshoo and Sunshoo Devilinherheart - forming only a small proportion of the breeding stock, but a very important part. Peter was adamant that the maremma is a working dog only, and worked very hard to establish the breed as a predator control tool. He advocated neutering working animals, and so his lines are not so predominate, but are exceptional working animals nevertheless.
Killawarra Kennels imported a dog - Sunshoo Daytripper who unfortunately turned out to be sterile, and the owner then used imports from other kennels to establish his stud.
Maremalee Kennels registered an imported bitch, but can't really be credited with this import. The prefix assigned is a little strange as the bitch is another of the pups from LOLA brought in by Lurgenglare, and a full sister therefore to Lurgenglare Bernita and Basilio. Her registered name is Lurgens Barissa. This then makes 3 pups out of our total imports from the one litter.
Melodyn Kennels imported a bitch - Sonymer Joyful, they bred one litter from her and then sold her to the NSW kennel ThePines.
Rempejek Kennels imported a dog - Charlian Escapade and bred him to their Australian bitch.

NSW

ThePines Kennels imported Sonymer Kyber who is the full brother to Sonymer Karl imported to VIC by Sanrowan Kennels. Karl and Kyber are also full brothers to Sonymer Kynos, in the UK, a dog well known to all UK breeders. ThePines kennels had an Angora goat stud, but were also showing their maremmas, being the first to title a maremma bitch - Killawarra Jessica. Because they were willing to sell their pups to show homes and to service outside bitches, Kyber soon became a popular sire. (See STATISTICS) ThePines kennels purchased also Sonymer Joyful to add to their breeding program.


It was not possible however, to bring any animals directly from Italy to Australia, due to Quarantine restrictions. This is the reason for the bloodlines in Australia coming from the UK and Sweden.
It is possible to import dogs from Italy to the UK. Therefore, the dogs ARE Italian bloodlines, but some are the blend of UK breeders choices. The UK also have restricted bloodlines.
This means for breeders, that whatever genetic limitations they have in the UK, we have even more of them in Australia.

Due to changes in the Importation restrictions for Australia, it is NOW possible to bring animals direct from Italy to Australia. I hope this will see a much needed trickle again start with much needed new bloodlines. It will be vital for anyone importing new dogs in the future to study the bloodlines very carefully and be certain that they bring in animals that will in fact enlarge our gene pools. Our current animals come mainly from the well known show kennels in Italy, so selection of new animals should be directed beyond this base and to new lines.

There will always be breeders who have different ideas and opinions on breeding tools and which are correct. The tools are known as: Inbreeding, Linebreeding and Outcrossing. Since it is a fact that to date, there have been only 2 tools available in Australia - Inbreeding and Linebreeding, it is imperative that we add to our situation some outcrossing. Even if outcrossing carries a certain risk factor - you don't know what genes the outcross will contribute, nor how they will 'mix' with the current genes, continual generations of Inbreeding is bringing the Australian maremma to its knees, and may spell the ruin of the breed entirely. Inbreeding will certainly 'fix' homozygosity, but if this means the line becomes homozygous for a genetic fault or disease, then removing it from the gene pool is extremely difficult. Our lines are so few, that there is now no way to breed a litter without some degree of at least Linebreeding.

Even today in Italy, where the genetic base is so much larger, 'show kennels' still go back to the Abruzzese mountains to find new rustic blood. Many shepherds register their dogs with ENCI, but not all do, keeping their own records. However, they are able to register these dogs providing they meet the breed standard, and so bring them into the 'registered' gene pool. It is acknowledged that this outcrossing is vital to keeping the breed alive and healthy.

There is some degree of animosity between the shepherds and the show kennels in places, but for the sake of the gene pool this must be overcome so that genetic vitality can be maintained as it has for thousands of years.

Typical Italian maremma sheepdog of the type needed for the gene pool of every country in the world

There is also some animosity seen between the show kennels and working dog kennels in Australia, each foolishly thinking they are somehow different to each other. It will only be when both recognise we should be working together to produce sound dogs capable of work, that adhere to the breed standards, that we will be able to move this breed forward unified. Surely there should be NO difference between a dog seen working with livestock to the dog seen in the show ring? Working dog owners should remember that their stock came from the show kennels in the UK. Show kennels should remember that these UK kennels produced dogs perfectly capable of working on huge sheep stations in VIC within the first generation. Surely this should be the aim of both parties! The working kennels should be proud to see a pup sold win in the show ring, and the show kennel should be proud to hear the story of their pup warding off some fierce predator.

The adaptablility of the maremma to many varied circumstances never ceases to amaze me. If we could put aside what is right or wrong for people to 'do' with their maremma, and just share information honestly, we could achieve far more.

Read the history of the maremma sheepdog in Italy

male maremma playing with his pups displaying the loving nature of these livestock guardian dogs

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