Celebrating 125 years of dogdom with KUSA

Posted in KUSA News

The Kennel Union of Southern Africa (KUSA) is celebrating its 125th year of existence in 2016. Take a look at the timeline for the past 125 years.

One hundred and twenty five years ago, the South African Kennel Club, now the Kennel Union of Southern Africa, was founded through the combination of the Southern African Kennel Club of Port Elizabeth (founded 1883) and the South African Kennel Club of Cape Town (founded 1889). 

Overview of 125 years of dogdom

KUSA timeline


A brief history of dogs and organised dogdom in Southern Africa 

Written by Mike Darwin (late Manager, Research & Statistics of KUSA)

The origins of dogs in South Africa are somewhat obscure and it is uncertain if they were present before the arrival of the Khoi herder and the Ba-Ntu speaking farmers who brought their dogs with them. The descendants of the eraly dogs may still be found, especailly in the rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal. Although the dogs have specific names such as Sica and I-Tweni, they have recently been given the generic name 'Africanis'. Whether Africanis will ever become a recognised breed is a question that will only be answered in the future. 

The arrival of colonists from Europe with their dogs during the period from the middle seventeenth century onwards brought a new dimension to South African dogdom, but in common with the rest of the world, no formal national body to register dogs and provide regulations for their exhibition existed until the late nineteenth century. 

The first written record we know of dogdom in the subcontinent is in a newspaper report of mid-March 1883 of dogs being shown at the Albany Agricultural Show in the Eastern Cape. This was followed a week later by the first show of the South African Kennel Club of Port Elizabeth, the earliest dog show in the subcontinent. The first Cape Town dog show, that of the South African Kennel Club of Cape Town, was held six years later. In 1891, the two clubs combined to form the South African Kennel Club of Cape Town. The first dog, a wire-haired Fox Terrier bitch, 'Plume', being registered in June of that year. Clubs were formed in the Transvaal in 1894, in Natal in 1899, Free State 1905 and the first Rhodesian (Zimbabwean) club in 1908. At the time of the outbreak of the Frist World War, there were 28 clubs affiliated.

In 1920, the South African Kennel Club became the South African Kennel Union. Nine years later dogdom in another country fell under the jurisdiction of the SAKU with the formation of the Windhoek Dog Club in what was then South West Africa, now Namibia.

September 1924 saw the initial registration of the dog which is currently regarded as the South African National Breed – the Rhodesian Ridgeback. A dog that has its origins in Southern Africa but whose first Breed Standard was written by local enthusiasts in Bulawayo.

Up until 1932, the SAKU had been administered by an Executive Committee in Cape Town and through an Annual Conference of Clubs. In that year the decision was made to form a Federal Council the members of which, although resident in Cape Town, would have specific responsibility for a particular area of the country and would be elected by the Affiliated Clubs in their area. At the outbreak of the Second World War, 25 clubs were affiliated and by its conclusion, the number had increased to 33. In 1952, the first dog club in Zambia was affiliated and in 1964 logic dictated that the South African Kennel Union change its name to the Kennel Union of Southern Africa (KUSA).

In 1974, due to political pressure, the Zambian clubs broke away to form the Kennel Association of Zambia and in 1985 similar circumstances dictated the formation of the Zimbabwe Kennel Club. Currently viable National Canine Control Bodies cannot be established in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, and thus KUSA continues to register dogs from these countries.

In 1988 the Federal Council decided to abolish itself in the form created in 1932 (one of the early cases where a governing body let go the reins of power to reform on a different base). 

The present makeup consists of the Chairmen of the five Provincial Councils (Eastern Cape, Free State & Northern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape) and the Vice-Chairman from the Gauteng Council, who are elected by club representatives in their areas, (themselves being appointed by club members), plus the President, who is elected by the Provincial Chairmen and an Executive Committee, selected by the President, approved by the Provincial Council Chairmen (this group of people form the Federal Council of KUSA). 

The term of office for the President (who cannot be a Provincial Chairman), together with his Executive Committee, is four years and that of the Provincial Chairmen, two years. The Constitution is so formed that the Federal Council members' terms of office do not expire simultaneously so as to provide for continuity. 

In the first registration year (1891/2) the Union registered 79 dogs, fifty percent of which came from the Terrier Group. In 1999, registrations averaged 20 000 annually and came from over 100 breeds. In common with most countries, half the registrations come from only ten breeds (the actual breeds varying from country ot country). 

In 1999, the Kennel Union had over 180 clubs affiliated, of which approximately forty are All Breeds Clubs, with the balance being Specialist Breed (which include training in Obedience and other Disciplines), Group, Training, Field Trial Clubs. In excess of 500 licences are issued annually for the holding of Championship or Non-Championship Shows.

Despite the fact that there has never been any rule or regulation in the KUSA Constitution discriminating against people due to race, religion, colour or sex, either as breeders, exhibitors or staff members, cultural background has played its part in the development of the Union and the breeds of dogs owned. 

Until 1939 most breeders and exhibitors came from an Anglophobic background with breeds registered mainly from the Sporting Group. This is not surprising as in the early days of dogdom, especially in England, the concept of a Show was to put one Sporting dog up against another to see which had the best quality. Whereas in the first years of South African dogdom the major segment of the exhibitors and breeders were men, by the time of the Second World War a significant number of ladies were active. 

After the end of the Second World War and the wave of immigrants from Europe, many of the Continental Breeds were imported, such as the Belgian Shepherd and the Bouvier des Flandres which were previously unknown here. Since 1980, we have added to the already existing breed (Conformation/Beauty), Obedience, Working Trials and Field Trials events, IPO Trials (based on the FCI Rules), Dog Jumping, Carting and Agility, with flyball being held on a demonstration basis. Additionally, breed assessments, breed aptitude (mental) tests, and a basic breed working test were being held on a non-competitive basis.

Worldwide since the 1980s, in order to counteract the activities of the Anti-Dog Lobby, it has become more necessary to concentrate on Responsible Dog Ownership and to codify the unwritten ethical principles by which all dog owners should live. To this end, in 1986 the Kennel Union introduced a Code of Ethics. Following the example of other countries a Good Citizenship Test, based on the American and British, has been introduced. 

In most countries, dogs form part of the social framework as hunters, herders, guards or companion animals. In the Western world, it is estimated that half of these dogs are purebred and half of mixed breeding. In South Africa purebred dogs formed approximately 6% of the dog population in 1999. 

A recent development has been the creation and opening of a Foundation Stock Register for Boerboelle, so that eventually the breed developing in South Africa will be able to be recognised as a new pure breed. 

As KUSA moved into its second century, it became a Full Member of the Federation Cynologique International (FCI) which represents all the European, South American and Asian countries and has become a member of the South African Sports Council. Future long term plans, in addition to maintaining and improving South Africa's place in world dogdom, include expanding education of non-dog owners about dogs, dog owners from every part of the community in responsible ownership and control of heredity and genetic conditions, to name a few. 

Dog shows, as has been noted previously, have been held in South Africa since 1883, but it was not until 1939 that the Kennel Union established its own show. As years passed, this premier show developed and culminated in the creation of the Kennel Union National Awards in 1989. These awards, which require certain minimum qualifications to enter and are now an annual event, establish the National Breed (Conformation/Beauty) Dog for that year and the National Dogs in the various Working Disciplines such as Obedience, Working Trials, Dog Jumping, Dog Carting, etc. 

In 1997 the Kennel Union Championship Show, which also included the National Awards, was extended to incorporate a Kennel Union Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) Championship Show, and so became the 'KUSA Classic Weekend'.

The National Dog for 2015 was a Shih Tzu, Ch Midnightdream Thril'F Victory (D), owned and bred by Mrs Erwee. See the rest of the results here:

KUSA National Conformation Show Results

KUSA National Working Disciplines Show Results