A New Zealand Huntaway
Other namesNew Zealand Huntaway
New Zealand Sheepdog
OriginNew Zealand
Height 56–66 centimetres (22–26 in)
Weight 25–40 kilograms (55–88 lb)
Coat smooth or rough (grizzled)
Color variable, commonly black and tan, tricolour
Kennel club standards
New Zealand Kennel Club standard
Dog (domestic dog)
A Huntaway competing in a Yard Dog Trial

The Huntaway (also known as the New Zealand Huntaway) is a large, strongly-built breed of dog used for general sheep-herding tasks in New Zealand, where they originate. They were bred to use their loud, deep bark to drive sheep.

The breed dates from the late-19th century, and is distinguished only on working ability. There is no prescribed appearance or lineage, but they are usually black-and-tan coloured. Only dogs that win at trials may be registered by the New Zealand Sheep Dog Trial Association in their studbook.[1]


Huntaway: a working huntaway of heavily built longhaired type

Huntaways are large, deep-chested dogs that generally weigh in the region of 25–45 kilograms (55–99 lb). Their coats can vary in colour; colours include black and tan (usually) with some white or brindle. Their coats can also come in different textures; they can be smooth, rough, or grizzly and they are generally floppy eared. A huntaway's height is usually in the range of 56–66 centimetres (22–26 in).

They are required to have great intelligence, agility and stamina for days of working on steep, rough country over large distances, driving very large mobs of sheep. Their bark is deep and repeating, usually with a short pause between barks, which allows the barking to be sustained for very long periods.[2]


8-month-old Huntaway

The huntaway was developed as a breed in response to farming conditions found in the New Zealand high country. The vast pastoral runs or "stations", such as those in the high country of the South Island, required teams of dogs who could work mustering for days on end, covering great distances on rough steep country. High country stations typically cover many thousands of hectares, and were often unfenced.[3][4] British sheepdogs used by early New Zealand farmers mostly worked sheep silently, but occasionally a dog would use its bark to herd sheep. This characteristic was liked by some farmers, especially for driving sheep on rough, steep hill country where a dog may disappear from view, making a dog that drives stock by sight less useful. Collies and other working sheepdogs with the barking trait would have been crossed with any other breed that had other desirable traits, including size, stamina and a steady barking ability, as these are the traits that differentiate the huntaway from the heading dog today, but the exact lineage is not known.[1]

The earliest references to huntaways are in the late 19th century. A sheepdog trial with a specific class for huntaways was advertised in the Upper Waitaki in 1870.[5] "Wanted" advertisements for "huntaway sheepdogs" were in the Otago Daily Times newspaper in 1884,[6] heading and huntaway collies were advertised for sale in 1885.[7] The huntaway was further developed as a separate breed from the heading dog during the 20th century.

Breed recognition

As of August 2013 the Huntaway breed was recognised by the New Zealand Kennel Club (NZKC).[8] This is the first recognition of a dog breed of New Zealand origin.[9][10] There is an NZKC standard for the Huntaway breed, but the standard notes:

It is the opinion of the New Zealand Sheepdog Trial Association that a Huntaway should never be shown, due to the large variance in colour, type and size and the inability to prove in a show ring their core (and only) task of working stock. It is the opinion of the New Zealand Sheepdog Trial Association that a New Zealand Huntaway should not be kept solely as a pet. No changes to the official breed standard of the New Zealand Huntaway will be made without consultation with the New Zealand Sheepdog Trial Association.[11]


A possible predisposition to dilated cardiomyopathy has been identified in the breed.[12]

Some hereditary diseases have been identified in Huntaways, these include: mucopolysaccharidosis, sub-aortic stenosis, black hair follicular dysplasia, and fetal anasarca.[13]

General information

They have been bred to muster in the hills and mountains of New Zealand where it is difficult to walk or ride, so worded commands and whistles are used to communicate commands to these dogs when they are at a distance. They are well known for being a noisy dog, especially when working.[2]

They are the second most common breed of dog in New Zealand, after Labrador Retrievers.[14] They are becoming increasingly popular in other countries with a New Zealand Huntaway Club started in Japan and huntaways being bred and used in Australia for work and yard dog trials.[citation needed]

Hunterville in the North Island of New Zealand is known for its statue of a Huntaway.[15]

See also


  1. ^ a b Clive Dalton. 'Farm dogs – Heading dogs, huntaways and all-purpose dogs', Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 1-Mar-09 Archived 2012-06-28 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved 4 August 2012
  2. ^ a b "A Dog's Show". NZ on Screen. Archived from the original on 2010-01-05. Retrieved 28 September 2023.
  3. ^ Robert Peden. 'Farm fencing – Early fencing methods', Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 1-Mar-09 Archived 2012-11-04 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 25 August 2012
  4. ^ Carl Walrond. 'Rural workers – Large sheep runs', Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 1-Mar-09 Archived 2012-11-09 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 25 August 2012
  5. ^ "MACKENZIE COUNTRY DOG TRIAL". Timaru Herald. 29 June 1870. Archived from the original on 2016-03-09. Retrieved 29 August 2012 – via Papers Past, National Library.
  6. ^ "Page 1 Advertisements Column 3". Otago Daily Times. 25 August 1884. Archived from the original on 2016-03-13. Retrieved 25 August 2012 – via Papers Past, National Library.
  7. ^ "Page 3 Advertisements Column 8". Evening Post. 7 October 1885. Archived from the original on 2016-03-08. Retrieved 25 August 2012 – via Papers Past, National Library.
  8. ^, Retrieved 16 March 2014
  9. ^ "AgriHQ". Archived from the original on 2014-03-16. Retrieved 2014-03-16.
  10. ^, Retrieved 16 March 2014
  11. ^, Retrieved 11 October 2017
  12. ^ Munday, JS; Dyer, CB; Hartman, AC; Orbell, GMB (2006). "A possible predisposition to dilated cardiomyopathy in Huntaway dogs". New Zealand Veterinary Journal. 54 (5). Informa UK Limited: 231–234. doi:10.1080/00480169.2006.36702. ISSN 0048-0169.
  13. ^ "Inherited diseases". Working Dog Centre, Massey University. Archived from the original on 2 December 2016. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  14. ^ Lawton, Nicole (22 October 2016). "Labrador once again named most popular dog breed across NZ". Stuff. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  15. ^ "Hunterville Huntaway Festival". Archived from the original on 8 May 2017. Retrieved 8 May 2018.