Dante and Chloe – The Maremma Sheepdogs

Dog attacks on sheep are common in Australia – not only dingo attacks, but frequently domestic dogs or dogs that have become feral. The domestic packs of dogs seem to be more of a problem for farms within easy reach of a town. Unfortunately many dog owners either don’t realise, or don’t care that their unrestrained dogs frequently band together with others and go walkabout at night, creating problems for farmers, even if the dog is usually a gentle family pet by day.

Living only twelve kilometres from town, we endured many attacks on our sheep, with some attacks killing or maiming a good percentage of our flock. We tried electrifying the entire property, locking the sheep in a small floodlit paddock and doing random night checks. However, the attacks continued and so we decided to purchase a Maremma Sheepdog as we had heard very good reports about them.

The Maremma Sheepdog is a very old breed, indigenous to central Italy (Tuscany and Lazio regions) and used for centuries to guard sheep from wolves. Introduced to Australia in 1982, the breed was quickly recognised as a valuable asset to a sheep farmer as its good temperament fitted in with family and farm life while centuries of natural instincts provided a dedicated protector.

We purchased Dante as a nine week old puppy and learned very quickly that a Maremma was like no other dog we had ever had the pleasure to meet. A true “shift worker”, Dante visited the house each day, enjoying a play with the children and eating his breakfast. Then he would head off for a sleep on the dam bank or anywhere he fancied, only barking or showing any sign of life if an unknown vehicle, person or animal set foot on our property.
During the night however, he patrolled the boundaries, barking ferociously at intruders and constantly checking on every animal and bird. Unfortunately, we soon learned that the male Maremma (despite having been de-sexed), was capable of caring for a much bigger property than ours, and Dante began the habit of extending his patrol to the next door property where he closely monitored the cattle. His daily rounds involved crossing an increasingly busy road and sadly, his life ended early one morning when he and a fast moving vehicle collided. During Dante’s life with us however, we only ever experienced one dog attack, involving a large pack of town dogs. In that instance, we intervened as his frantic barking woke us and were able to save many sheep that otherwise would not have made it.

Following Dante, we decided to purchase a female Maremma and so Chloe came to live with us. She was a treasure and in her reign, we never even lost a lamb to foxes. She was content to stay within our boundaries and although naturally wary of strangers, would quietly place herself between the visitor and the family or any of our animals. During the day, she would often be seen lying outside the hayshed where the chooks roamed free, and have little chicks and bantams sitting on her back or head. She never harmed a single bird or animal and we laughed when chicks would walk down her nose—she would remain absolutely still but go cross-eyed as they got to the end of her nose and jumped off. One wintry night I arrived home late from a meeting in town, to see her lying next to a perfectly mustered flock of sheep in the middle of the paddock. When I got close, a layer of frost on her thick, double layered coat, glistened. We rarely heard her bark during the day but as soon as the sun began to set, she would head off on her rounds and bark at anything she wasn’t happy about. Pity help anything or anyone who entered our property!
Like all dogs, sadly their lives are shorter than ours and Chloe passed away suddenly, lying under her favourite tree on the farm.

1 Comment

  1. Craig says:

    Such a fitting tribute as a dog lover it resonated with me well done

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