The Huntaway Dog Breed: All You Need to Know

Native to New Zealand, the Huntaway dog breed is a uniquely skilled canine that uses its high-pitched voice for # herding and driving livestock.

In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about the Huntaway dog breed, including its origins, physical traits, personality, and health.

Origins and History of the Huntaway Dog Breed

Developed in New Zealand during the 19th century, the Huntaway was created by breeding different breeds, including the Scottish Collie and the Border Collie. The original goal was to create a dog that would use voice for herding and driving sheep on farms.

The New Zealand Sheepdog

Before the Huntaway, farmers in New Zealand used British sheepdogs and Collies. However, in the vast and steep hills, these dogs could easily lose sheep from their view. 

For that reason, farmers realized they needed a dog that could bark and use its voice. They started crossing their current shepherding dogs with dogs that were capable of producing good barks. 

The result was the Huntaway dog. When working, breed members use their strong voices to bark and growl, creating a distinctive sound that helps move livestock. This trait is so essential to the breed that it is included in the breed standard. 

The Breed’s Roles in New Zealand 

Over time, the breed was further developed to suit the needs of New Zealand farmers. The huntaway’s trainability, work ethic, and physical stamina made it a popular choice for driving livestock in the hills and mountains.

The breed’s ability to move animals from one area to another is invaluable to farmers who raise livestock in large grazing areas. In addition to its work on farms, the huntaway has also been used in other settings. 

For example, the breed has been used in search and rescue operations, as well as in the military. The huntaway’s intelligence and trainability make it an ideal candidate for a variety of tasks.

Physical Characteristics and Appearance

Size and Weight

The Huntaway is a muscular and athletic breed that weighs between 55 and 88 pounds. They stand between 22 and 26 inches tall at the shoulder. Females are generally smaller and lighter than males.

Huntaway dogs are incredibly strong and agile. They are capable of running and jumping over long distances, making them ideal for herding and driving livestock over rough terrain.

Coat and Colors

Huntaway dogs have a double coat that comes in two versions – smooth and rough. The outer coat is straight and dense, while the undercoat is soft and thick, providing excellent protection against the harsh New Zealand climate.

The coat color is variable, but black & tan and tricolor patterns are the most common. Some breed members have a white-tipped tail and white markings on the chest and feet. These distinctive markings make the breed easily recognizable.

Distinctive Features

The Huntaway has powerful hindquarters and a deep chest, allowing it to traverse difficult terrain with ease. The breed’s nimble feet and agility make it a valuable asset in driving sheep over uneven ground.

Temperament and Personality Traits

Intelligence and Trainability

Huntaway dogs are highly intelligent and respond well to commands. They are natural problem solvers and do well in training programs that challenge their minds. That said, they can be strong-willed and require a firm and consistent hand when it comes to discipline.

Energy Levels and Exercise Needs

Huntaways have high energy levels and are best suited for active households. Daily exercise is a must, and they do well with long walks, hikes, and runs. Additionally, breed members thrive on mental stimulation, so providing puzzle toys and training activities helps keep them occupied and engaged.

Socialization and Interaction with Other Animals

Huntaways are social and do well with humans and other animals. However, early socialization is crucial to ensure that these dogs develop proper social skills and aren’t overly aggressive toward other animals and new people.

Health and Lifespan of Huntaway Dogs

Common Health Issues

Huntaway dogs are generally healthy, but as with all breeds, they are at risk of certain conditions, such as:

  • Hip Dysplasia: An orthopedic, hereditary condition in which the hip joint’s bones do not fit, causing early arthritis and severe pain 
  • Bone Cancer: Breed members are at higher-than-average risk of developing bone cancer (osteosarcoma) which is very aggressive 
  • Ear Infections: Because of the ear anatomy and outdoor lifestyle, the breed is prone to trapping dirt and moisture in the ear canals 

Preventative Care and Regular Checkups

To keep your Huntaway healthy, regular vet visits and preventative care are essential. Vaccinations, parasite treatments, dental care, daily exercise, and a balanced diet are all important for maintaining the dog’s health and well-being. 


The Huntaway is a fascinating breed with a rich history and a unique set of skills. This breed’s intelligence, energy, and trainability make it an excellent companion and workmate.

As with any breed, Huntaways require proper care and training. By providing them with everything they need, you can safely enjoy a long and rewarding relationship with your Huntaway dog.

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