I wrote a post last year about the dog tags that were found on Baker’s Flat.
Since then, I’ve found out lots more about dog tags, mainly thanks to a 2005 book by Neil Ransom on the history of dog registration in South Australia. The various Dog Acts from 1852 to 1884 were driven by the need to manage and control the number of dogs at large. Especially the female ones – bitches on heat were reported as being followed by up to sixteen male dogs, which tended to cause consternation among the public, with women and children frequently having to seek refuge in shops. See? It’s always possible to find a justification for popping into an attractive shop.
The 1884 Dog Act increased the dog registration fee, which had been 5s, to 7s 6d for male dogs, but to 12s 6d for females – an inducement to reduce the number of female animals. Did it work? Well, possibly not in Kapunda. Of the 108 dog tags located on Baker’s Flat, 70% (n=76) are from females. You can tell this from the tag because tags for female dogs had a second hole at the bottom.
There was a widespread belief that females were better hunters, so this may have been why female dogs continued to be kept. When the 12s 6d fee was mooted, one man responded: ‘It must be remembered that raising fees would press hardly on poor people. A poor man has as much right to keep a slut [common term for female dogs] as a rich one. The sluts are better than male dogs for catching possums. I know poor people who have earned fifteen pounds in a season by catching possums. If you were to put a heavy registration fee on the dog of a family like that, the effect might be to drive the family into the destitute asylum’ (Ransom 2005:19).
And if the females were seen to be better hunters, maybe they were the dog of choice for coursing. The inaugural meeting of the Kapunda Coursing Club took place on 19 June 1889 in a paddock on the Anlaby estate. A speech by Mr Morris of Anlaby during the lunchtime break indicated that the ‘encouragement and proper conduct of legitimate sport would do away with the loss to sheep owners by roving mongrels’ (Kapunda Herald 1889).
Sadly, I may never be able to find out what types of dogs were registered in Kapunda, and if they might have been suitable for hunting. The dog registers appear to have been destroyed. Although the State Records Office holds some registers, none of them are for the Kapunda area. And they’re not languishing in the local library, the museum, or even the police station. So, if you’re clearing out an old house in Kapunda, and you fall over some nineteenth century dog registers, you know where to come!
Ransom, N. 2005 Collared: A History of Dog Registration in South Australia. Campbelltown: Neil Ransom.
Kapunda Herald 1889 Kapunda Coursing Club Inaugural Meeting. 21 June, p.3.